Most people in this country still support the Bill of Rights and believe that freedom of speech and religion are inalienable rights. Until Congress began passing anti-drug legislation in the early 1900s, most people also believed that the freedom to choose one’s own diet, medication or recreational drug was also a fundamental right in a democratic society. Today, however, there is almost universal agreement that the government has an inherent right to tell us what we can or can not put into our own bodies.
It is incredible that it took a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw alcohol but that Congress was later able to outlaw cannabis, opiates, hallucinogens, and cocaine without giving a single thought to the constitutionality of drug laws. The US Constitution may say nothing about the freedom to ingest the drugs of our choice, but that’s only because the Founding Fathers never in their worst nightmares would have foreseen the situation in which we find ourselves today—in which our government uses the criminal system to punish as felons people who choose to put certain herbs or chemicals into their bodies without a doctor’s prescription.
What has happened to our fundamental human right to put anything we want into our bodies? The answer to that question, as pointed out by the world-renowned scholar and author, Thomas Szasz, in a recent article in Reason magazine, is that we live in a “therapeutic” society, in much the same sense that the Spanish during the time of the Inquisition lived in a “theocratic” society. In Spain, the people be-lieved in a union between Church and State, and the priests were given the power to determine which ideas were acceptable and which ideas were “heresy.” Today, in our country, the incessant propaganda of the last fifty years about the alleged dangers of certain substances has convinced the people that there should be a union between Medicine and the State. The government has given doctors and medical researchers the power to determine which substances will be called “medicine” and which will be called “dangerous drugs.”
No one is denying that certain drugs are more dangerous than others and should be handled with extreme caution. But many things in our environment are dangerous without being illegal—things such as cars, shotguns, and electric sockets. The truth of the matter is that certain drugs are prohibited merely because a segment of the population wants to take them for recreational or other non-medical purposes, and have therefore become symbols for what our society considers to be sinful and depraved.
I heartily agree with thinkers such as Thomas Szasz, who feel that it is time the government stopped trampling upon our freedom and treating us either like children who need to be protected, or like slaves who have no right to self-de-termination over their own lives and bodies. The efforts now under way to “decriminalize” the personal possession of small amounts of pot, while at the same time leaving dealers and other drug users in jail to rot, don’t even begin to deal with the most serious threat to our liberties of this century. The government has declared an all-out “War On Drugs,” and we must respond with an all-out effort of our own to lobby for the elimination of present criminal penalties for the possession, use, distribution, or sale of any substance.
Charlotte Faye Greenberg
Editor & Publisher