The end of the drug war is just one manifestation of an innovation that will take some time to make itself felt in all its consequences.
A bad idea brewed from racism, calculation, and good intentions, the "War on Drugs" came straight outta Nixon's White House in 1970, '71, and eventually touched, invaded, and destroyed many more lives than it saved over the next fifty years.
In 1984 Nancy Reagan's proleptic "Just Say No" slogan was the establishment's answer to any fact, be it ever so established by scientific consensus, whose acceptance would entail softening its punitive, demonizing stance on drugs and drug-users. State actors became fanatical, invading homes with military gear funded by self-serving property forfeitures.
The propaganda's force fields of lies kept getting pinged from three different directions: contrary facts and education; experience, either direct or by empathy; and growing maturity, or self-acceptance.
Funded by the U.S. and Israel, Raphael Mechoulam in Jerusalem was the first to characterize and name the "bliss" neurotransmitter in your body that THC mimics to get you high. Turns out if this was "demon weed", the demon was us, since the endocannabinoid system is interwoven into pretty much every system in our bodies.
Brian Kraskey's anonymous state trouper, whose anti-drug prejudice melted as his symptomatic cancer relief after taking cannabis was undeniable, is everyman, changing his attitude, and overcoming the propaganda's distoring force field, because of experience, either direct or witnessed in others.
Our typical attitudes towards drugs may differ just as they do towards other attachment objects. An increasing number of individuals, for example, have reported finding pain relief from Kratom. This pain relief, based on an unapproved drug, has given rise to intense, sometimes overpowering feelings typical of a love-avoidant or a love-addict. A Secure Attachment style would be able to face reality without flinching, propose a sensible path forward, and speak the truth without shame.
Dr. Ronald K. Siegel seemed to have a secure attachment style to drugs or "new experiences". Michael Lee Nirenberg, who had struggled with opiate addiction in the past, asked Siegel in an interview,
—Do you think our psyche so unbalanced and fragile that it is so easily undone by chemicals?
—RKS: Nope. It’s not dope! It’s only life at the human top of the phylogenetic stage, doing natural animal behavior. It can be used without abuse, like any trip to new experiences.
Siegel believed that the desire for intoxication was an ineradicable part of human nature, and so safe intoxication ought to be a societal goal, not the suppression of all intoxicants save caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Siegel also believed cocaine to be the most seductive, and thus dangerous, of all intoxicants. He had never touched it, but had chewed coca leaves, which though pleasant is because of its pharmacokinetics and the whole user experience (e.g. tongue and inner cheeks swelling and burning from prolonged contact with the basifying substance like baking soda that has to be taken with the coca leaves) far less addictive. Some people might be able to handle cocaine on occasion without problem. Probably because of his empathy in listening to other people's stories of drug use, Siegel decided it wasn't for him. He didn't judge, though.
If we all have an urge to be intoxicated in us, if we learn self-acceptance, we can better manage it, which would include not projecting our own urges onto others to persecute them.
During the early years of the drug war, reasonable people could agree that hard drugs shouldn't be flooding the streets; but when Los Angeles Police Chief Daley called for casual pot smokers to be summarily executed, it was polarizing, and some began asking whether this government program was really as wise and beneficent as the Athena it pretended to be. Just as Athena does not allow the mere mortals she favors to actually act wisely on their own account, so judges found they had no choice under the United States Code but to sentence many harmless or actually morally blameless people to decades or a life of imprisonment.
It would be so easy to engage in counter-splitting; to accuse The Man, the federal government, of all evil. But who made the laws? We the People. It's not just The Man. It's us: humans. It’s not a bug but a feature of human nature that some people will be more extremist in risk-taking than others. Some of us don’t want to read the manual, we'd rather dive right in and get stoned off our tits. This produces better headlines and stories and so that’s all we hear about. Salvia’s rep is based on trip reports from smoking the leaves, which is not the traditional method of consumption. If you want to redefine weird, smoke it.
If you're rather in the mood for mild, healing, comforting, meditative peace, put a quid of about a gram of leaves under your tongue and lie quiet in a dark quiet room for thirty minutes. (This has become my new favorite way to meditate. It's a bit like a nap, a lucid dream, and peaceful, self-accepting mindfulness meditation all-in-one, all in about 30 minutes. You get up refreshed and cleansed somehow. Highly recommended.) Once you get this, the hedonic choice becomes moderation.
The point is that moderation deserves better marketing.
In Quebec, they've got the slogan La modération a bien meilleur goût, with the double meaning, "moderation tastes better" and "moderation is in better taste."
Just as a man doesn't stop watching porn, he becomes the type of man who doesn't watch porn, most of us grow up and find ourselves not wanting to be off our tits so much—and we might develop more moderation for those who do enjoy a bender now and again. Moderation, for drugs, is just more fun. Moderation in attitudes towards drugs and health is also more fun. Moderation can also be annoying, as you are experiencing now after a third sentence beginning with the word. The Québecois journalist François Cardinal has justly highlighted the line where the state’s preaching about moderation crosses a boundary: it’s where propaganda and “nudges” in support of the commonweal becomes nanny-state interference with one’s right to have that second or third glass of wine, so long as one is not planning on driving while drunk.
Education and "nudges" meant to gently manipulate people towards the "correct" or "healthier" choices can certainly help, if they actually work, and if they are honest. If they are in the form of a work of art, then it really sinks in. Art can inspire to become a better version of oneself, if only by avoiding deadly peril just off the path. I have the Kojak episode Sweeter Than Life to thank for my “Just Say No” attitude to recreational opiates.
.Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, was inspired by that same episode:
"That episode taught me that if you get hooked on smack, a bald, Greek NYPD detective uncle will slap you around and drag you to his scary-lookin USMC buddy who runs the discount rehab where there will be NO FUN WHATSOEVER!"
Another emerging technology is “holistic” thinking. Today Mechoulam is still at it, honing in on cannabinoids’ key health benefits, and he's been looking for better ways to get the fruit of his work translated into real-world benefits to people. Here the outsider Robert Heaney might offer us a a way to be more creative in designing research, by borrowing from approaches used in nutrition research, where traditional uses point the way to benefits that science must carefully follow afterwards with laboriously generated evidence; just what cannabis and health need now.
The once rigid barrier between expert or authority and "lay person" is also becoming more permeability, with a healthy exchange. It’s a blessing that so many physicians and highly trained professionals of every stripe are open, interested, and educated about ways to combine modern health care with these emerging therapeutic effects of psycho- or quasi-psychoactive drugs (as with microdosing).
Today the best budtenders in California are not experts, they're all top-drawer generalists. What they have is the ability to be aware of and take into account factors on either side of them. The superstar coffee producer Aida Batlle's secret superpower is just that: she is "a producer who speaks fluent consumer", because she has empathy for both. Listen to the best budtenders recommend particular products; with the good ones, it’s not snake oil salesmanship; t's reasonable, it's a combination of using what little hard facts and science is available, with intuition, word of mouth, experience, and empathy.
If we practice self-acceptance of our own urges towards intoxication in any form, we will be able to better accept reasonable difference of informed opinion about the trade-offs involved in a society’s attitude towards all drugs and their role in health and pleasure. The withdrawal of negative projections onto drugs and drug users, and between experts and non-experts, will have many consequences we have just begun to understand.