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The Drug Legalization Debate

Junior Goes to School

Thomas L. Wayburn, PhD, Executive Director
American Policy Institute, Inc.
2638 Yorktown Apt.294
Houston, TX 77056-4873


"No to Drug Legalization" by R. Emmett Tyrrell, Junior, is a short article that appeared in the American Spectator. It does not have much substance and, in addition, when it raises a point that needs to be proved, it refers generally to what someone else has said. This is the weakest form of argument. If a point is needed for the author's thesis, he might have the courtesy to prove it rather than send the reader off to yet another author, whose work may be troublesome to obtain. However, the contentions are readily disproved or shown to be irrelevant regardless of the arguments that appear elsewhere in their defense. It is my job, then, to show that this author has no case. On the other hand, my drug policy is presented elsewhere and, since I am not compelled to prove anything (merely disprove or discredit), a single literature citation should satisfy the reader that I really have a position on this subject that, by the way, fills the vacuum left by Mr. Tyrrell rather nicely. Thus, I am really a creator primarily and a destroyer only secondarily and then only in a very minor capacity, as Mr. Tyrrell has not provided much of an edifice for the wrecking ball.


Tyrrell's argument, which I must assume is a weak attempt at humor or, at least, jocularity, hinges on a handful of statements that are either patently false, equivocal, or irrelevant. I shall employ these statements as secondary titles.

Drugs kill and enthrall.

The impression that Mr. Tyrrell wishes to create is that drugs are lethal poison. Why, then, are they never used to kill rats, insects, or ill-tempered wives? If the State, itself, is doing the killing, the excessive cost due to illegality would not obtain; nevertheless, illegal drugs are not employed. If cocaine and heroin were lethal poisons, we would have no addicts since users would expire before they became addicted. While it is true that one can ingest enough of nearly anything, even if it recognized as an essential nutrient, e.g., vitamin , to cause death. The primary function of drugs is not to kill, but to enhance joy, relieve pain, alleviate discomfort, and to create altered states of consciousness, etc.. Death comes, in most cases, when the substance ingested is not the substance expected or when the dosage is drastically different from the dosage expected. These are accidents that do not occur with legal drugs except in a few cases where the legal drug is much more dangerous than the common favorite illegal drugs most of which have been part of our culture for thousands of years and with which we have vast experience. This is an important point, namely, that cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and even the relatively modern amphetamines are safer than many new legal pharmaceuticals in proportion to our greater experience with them, provided, of course, that we get what we expect to get, a circumstance that we demand along with legalization.

Mr. Tyrrell employs the term enthralls equivocally. Since we are enthralled by drugs as we would be by a great love, it is easy to agree that these wonderful, miraculous, divine drugs of antiquity have lost none of their charm with age. It is as though our beloved were snatched from our arms when the word is suddenly used to connote slavery, which we detest. We are no more enslaved by our favorite drugs than we are by our favorite foods - or, to bring home the sharp sword of truth, far less than the average employed American is enslaved by his job. The average drug user is free compared to the average corporate employee. This is the beauty of Jack Nicholson's speech in the pot smoking scene in the film Easy Rider when he tells the bikers that the townspeople fear them because they represent freedom. The druggies of the Beat Generation and subsequently have been symbolic of man's quest for freedom. From among us come the free spirits of the land. Only the oppressor's iron yoke can bow the heads of those who dare to tread the paths of the liberated criminal saints of the free-wheeling drug culture. The whole world knows this is true.

It is not as though a drug-free society takes the fun out of life. Druggies are about as amusing as cadavers.

To take the last first, people don't take drugs to amuse squares. As for the first, a drug-free America wouldn't be worth living in. Not only would it take the fun out of life for artists and other sensitive people, it would destroy nearly everything else worth living for including closeness to the transcendent - whether it's called God or nothing at all. Where do these prudes and puritanical control freaks get the idea that people take drugs exclusively, or even predominantly, for fun? Mr. Tyrrell, once and for all, don't knock it until you try it. And, by the way, stay out of my face. I am not bothering you or interfering with your pursuit of happiness; however insane, ridiculous, and misguided your recreational activities seem to be from where I sit? For all I care, you can dress up in baby clothes and have your maiden aunt push you around Central Park in a perambulator. I won't call the cops. You strike me as the sort of man who may have played golf. As much as I despise people for taking so much space that should be available to children and wildlife, I won't take it away from you until someone has no place at all, be it man or beast.

Drugs are indulged in solely to escape from reality.

How would you know? Drugs are "indulged in" to paint pictures, write books, poems, and, yes, essays. To play music, to have sex, to enjoy the company of one's friends without a bunch of puritanical, middle-class hang-ups. To get closer to God. And for more reasons than can be known in a philosophy so pitifully tiny that it can be wedged into so narrow a mind. Honestly, Emmett, you say the dumbest things.

How many have left in their trail happy, elegant works of art? (A rhetorical question asked without having observed an artist at work - presumably.)

Let me turn that around. Who has not used drugs and left behind anything worth doing? It's not that every drug user has created great works of art. Many, if not most, have tried, but few succeed. However, with very few exceptions, those lucky, blessèd ones who have left behind "elegant works of art" have used drugs. I'll give you one exception: George Bernard Shaw. At least he claims not to have used drugs, but I remain unconvinced. Of the known drug-using artists, the list is long. Is there any doubt? The arts belong to drug users. Not just jazz musicians. Consider all the writers, poets, painters who have spoken of their drug use: Coleridge, Poe, etc. Where does anyone get the temerity to challenge the contributions of drug users to art! Ah, if only drug users went on strike, art would cease and the souls of these Philistines who persecute us would dry up like the wings of insects caught in our divine flame.

But, scientists, too, have found inspiration in drugs. Consider William Rowan Hamilton, without whom quantum mechanics could not have arisen in quite the same way. Richard Feynman admitted using drugs. The list is long and records the names of some of the brightest stars. I will not "out" living scientists despite what I know. Many of us would be amazed.

Those who traffic in drugs are killers.

This is an absurd statement on the face of it. Not, that no one who trafficked in drugs has been a killer; but, generally, the killing has been incidental to the illegality. Who is worse (a) a drug dealer who delivers on request a substance to another man who wishes to ingest it or (b) a chief executive of a chemical company who forces everyone in the neighborhood of his plant to ingest poisonous chemical wastes whether they wish to or not!

The flight from responsibility of drug users endangers the free society.

This is a matter of calling the victim the culprit. The heads of the multi-national corporations are the true danger to society. And, if you will pardon me for speaking the truth, capitalism (American style) is the real danger as it reduces 90% or more of our population to third-world conditions in its insatiable greed, as it starves the third world to death and makes armed conflict inevitable. You, sir, are the danger to a far-from-free society.

In many areas drugs are so freely available they might as well be legal.

No sir, the quality is horrible; the expense is preposterous; and the danger from the police is terrifying. No, no, and no. You and other evil, wicked, vicious authoritarians are winning the war against drug users and dealers, but you will never stop the flow of drugs. All you can do is increase the misery of the wretched who fall into your clutches. This includes that middle-class stock-broker who does heroin on the weekend out on Long Island. He, too, knows that he hasn't much of a future to live for. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. But, at least, his white, middle-class crumbs from the table will buy him decent drugs. The worst quality drugs go to the ghetto. Of course. The white middle class enjoys a higher quality of despair. How gratifying. "But, it is a far, far better thing I do than - what I normally do during the week."

Our high prison population is composed of brutes who have committed heinous acts and are more likely to commit such acts on drugs.

The evidence shows otherwise. I'll go all the way: the people in prison are the only ones left who can manifest a little honor and refuse to bow to the ruling rich and their loathsome toadies. The rich steal, but they don't rob. That's because they are afraid of man but not afraid of God. The criminal may not - I said may not - be afraid of God , but he's not afraid of man either. The corporate bums are beneath the respect of reptiles. I won't prove this, but you haven't proved anything either. You had better get your philosophy together and tell us what makes a good society and what makes a bad society. I really don't believe you know. But, the next quote from Tyrrell gives us a hint of his abiding faith in the essential equality of all men (and women?).

...put inferior people on the shelf and out of society.

I suppose Poe, Coleridge, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, William Rowan Hamilton, Richard Feynman, and the millions of others who used drugs were inferior to you. You are an exemplary man - a man of lies, deception, of light-hearted and cruel intolerance, a trifler in matters of life and death, a would-be inquisitor, a man of no depth or parts. What kind of man could have written your little auto-da fé? In your last paragraph you have said precisely nothing. Is this your idea of humor? We are not amused.


Wayburn, Thomas L., "No One Has a Right To Impose an Arbitrary System of Morals on Others," in Drug Policy 1889-1990, A Reformer's Catalogue, Arnold S. Trebach and Kevin B. Zeese, Eds., The Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, D.C. (1989).

Houston, Texas

April 9, 1996

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