3 Absurd Reasons for Banning Drugs
Did you know the war on drugs is founded on racist principles? Prof. Stephen Davies shows the historical thought process behind banning drugs. One of the main reasons drugs were banned initially is because people were concerned drug use would lead to interracial relationships. Can you imagine someone making that argument today? Yet it was a principle reason for some of the laws banning drugs that we still have. Other reasons for banning drugs included fear of conspiracies and the misguided notion that the government somehow has a right to the productivity of its citizens. All three of these reasons are truly absurd, but all three were historically used as arguments that contributed to the war on drugs. If these are the arguments on which the drug war is founded, can we be sure it’s a war worth fighting for?
Here are three of the most bizarre, strange, and, frankly, unbelievable kind of reasons that are being given for prohibiting the sale and use of drugs.
The war on drugs—contrary to what many people believe—has been going on for a long time. The very first international antidrugs conference was actually called by no less a person than the czar of Russia, Nicholas II. Maybe that’s why so many people involved in this campaign want to be called czars. Although, you’d think they would remember what happened to him—and maybe not be quite so keen to have that title.
Now, over the years a whole number of reasons have been given for sustaining the war on drugs, for extending drug prohibition, and the like. Many of these are so preposterous to any sane person’s ideas that you wonder how on earth they ever got credence.
One argument, which was made, for example, for banning opiates in the United States in the 1890s—and which was also made for banning the sale of cannabis in the 1930s—was that it would lead to miscegenation. The idea was that the drugs in question were going to be taken by respectable white girls and turn them into sex-crazed maniacs who would then want to have sex with Chinese people or Mexicans. Apparently, nothing could be worse.
Another constant theme or noted idea was that the drug business—the trade in drugs if you will—was part of an international conspiracy, run by all sorts of nefarious interests. These interests varied from one period to another. On some occasions it was the international Communist conspiracy; on other occasions it was the Yellow Peril. On yet other occasions it was a worldwide conspiracy of aliens and lizards, particularly the British royal family, who as we all know are in fact lizard-shaped aliens with a bad human disguise.
The third kind of popular reason which is often given is the idea that somehow drugs are going to make their users into idle unproductive layabouts who want to do nothing else in life except have a good time and, particularly, again of course, have lots of sex.
Now, the argument here, you might say, is a bit more plausible. Except that you do have to wonder what the assumptions are behind it. The basic notion is that your life belongs to the government, and that it’s your job to be productive. It’s your job to be basically the kind of person who never really wants or tries to have a good time—certainly not a good time involving mood-altering substances. And so, the notion here is that, in fact, what you should be doing is simply avoiding any kind of temptation at all possible. And you do wonder in this case why these arguments are not applied to other kind of areas of life. But let’s not give the people who make these arguments any more ideas.