Anti-drug laws are overt religious bigotry. Humanity has used teacher plants to explore altered states of consciousness since, well, since there have been human beings. Probably longer, if we include pre-human primates as part of humanity. But direct spiritual experiences independent of power hierarchies are a threat to Christianity and a threat to production, so they get attacked. Click here and here.
If drug laws were about protecting people, then the first question we would ask would be, "What is the potential of this substance to do harm?" and the illegality of a substance would be roughly proportionate to its potential to do harm. Is this the case? Not even close. Not even a little bit. Something like 500 people die in America every year from aspirin-if we include other NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid) that number goes up to 7,600. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana in all of recorded history. A fair general maxim would seem to be, "No substance should be illegal if its potential to do harm is less than that of substances whose legality we readily grant." Click here and here.
The second question we would ask would be, "Does making the substance illegal cause more harm than its legality would?" Heroin certainly causes harm, but does making heroin illegal result in less harm or more? Thomas Szasz argued that much of the harm resulting from heroin use was due to the fact that it was illegal. "If heroin were legal, the majority of people wouldn't do it, the majority of people that did it wouldn't become dysfunctional, and as for those that choose to destroy their lives, they have an absolute right to do so in a free society" (I'm paraphrasing from memory--my psych professor read from something Szasz had said in an interview by William Buckley on Firing Line).
But I'm not sure how serious we are when we say certain drugs are illegal because they are harmful. It would seem that the demarcation is drawn not along lines that are based on harm at all, but rather on how the substance relates to productivity. Does it turn a unique and interesting individual into a cog for the machine? Then it is considered good. Does it turn a cog for the machine into a unique and interesting individual? Then it is considered bad.
Thinking back to high school health class, I remember two definitions that they gave which, in retrospect, I think are piss poor. The first concerns what constitutes a drug in the first place: "Any substance, other than food, that affects the way the mind or body works." The problem here is that the phrase "other than food" allows whoever is deciding on policy to set the parameter wherever they like--since there's no clear demarcation between where something starts being a drug and stops being a food. The second definition concerns what constitutes substance abuse: "The use of a substance for some purpose other than its intended use." That assumes teleology, which is empty. Whose intended purpose? Who gets to decide? You, the churches, the government, the pharmaceutical companies? Things don't have set purposes. Things do what they do, and whatever you can make them do is what they do.Finally, I'd like to say something about the government's use of anti-drug commercials. They present themselves as defending such ideals as autonomy and responsibility, but they are themselves the same kind of peer-pressure to which they claim to be the opposition. They are the government endorsing a particular cultural perspective, and I find them disgusting on so many levels. The belief in Jesus has probably done more harm than psychedelic mushrooms ever have, so the next time you see an anti-drug commercial, I want you to imagine what it would be like if they were talking about Christianity instead of drug use. Would you find that acceptable? Now that's what I call being "above the influence."