Psycho-active substances’ legalization part 1

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The legalization of psycho-active substances is a very delicate problem because many different substances with different effects are involved (see the post : “Psychic healing, shamanism and other spiritual practices part 2”, point 5). We will try first to focus on cannabis which is considered to be the softer prohibited substance and after we will see what can be imagined to solve or reduce the problems linked to a full prohibition policy directed to other prohibited and commonly used psycho-active substances.

Let’s try first to find answers to this simple question : “Alcohol and tobacco are legal. Why cannabis is not legal ?”.

We already talked about tobacco (see the post “Ecological democracies part 2”, point 3), maybe one of the worst drug possible because it gives no obvious mental effects, is highly addictive and creates maximum physical damages.

On the contrary alcohol can give quick and strong physical and mental effects. When used too much during long periods, it can create mild or strong addictions, tremors and even in the worst cases what is called delirium tremens. But the problem of over-consumption is not specifically linked to alcohol, you can find it in nearly all psycho-active substances (the prohibition policies do not really solve that problem and add the issue of adulterated substances, see for example the prohibition of alcohol in the US at the beginning of the 20th century).

Generally speaking, in my opinion, all over-consumption is a problem, a symptom, and the underlying causes should be analysed in order to bring a more peaceful relation to the various substances used. There is of course the degree of addiction inherent in the substance (heroin being maybe the worst), but also a lot of psychological (stress, anxiety, social difficulties…), physical or even genetic reasons (for instance Japanese people are genetically much more sensitive to alcohol than, for example, western people. But you can also find different levels of receptivity/sensitivity/tolerance/acceptance concerning certain type of substances for each individual).

Therefore, the legalization of cannabis may cause some addiction problems and some physical/psychological problems (for example cases of psychotic phenomena resulting from an over-consumption mixed with a weak physical or psychological condition) but will, in my opinion, really not be socially and individually worst than the global dangers linked to thunder, violent car accidents or “smart drugs” (let’s remember that cannabis is used since long time by various people on Earth, so we know more or less all the possible effects of such substance. This is not the case for “smart drugs”).

Cannabis is mildly addictive, essentially psychologically but really not less than alcohol (and is nothing compared to the strong addiction linked to tobacco). Cannabis can be addictive when mixed with tobacco (it softens the depressive effects on the body and the mind linked to tobacco addiction. More than cannabis, tobacco often creates the first series of powerful negative blows on the body and the mind, which will ultimately lead to the use of more powerful, aggressive, violent prohibited drugs. These more powerful drugs are maybe sometimes used only to unconsciously “repair” the negative spiral of physical and psychological consequences linked to the use of tobacco).

So, fundamentally, why all the persons in power prohibit globally and internationally the use of cannabis since years ?

First we have to say that the opposition towards cannabis is very strong : persons in power, politically and socially, the biggest international organizations and the main religions (Islam, Christianity…) are all more or less against this substance.

Maybe one of the effects that the persons in power do not like about cannabis is that it allows the individual to take a little bit of distance from the sometimes heavy or useless social obligations (a kind of philosophical attitude and reflexion towards life which replace dissatisfaction by a more relaxed understanding and acceptance of the world). It tends to give less energy for action and work, and more energy towards inner life. It also reduces the will to go beyond one’s limits, because it gives a sense of satisfaction, contentment (and on this point is very different from tobacco). Generally speaking for the persons used to have easy access to good quality cannabis there is little will to look for other (stronger) psycho-active substances, or only maybe natural ones.

The fact that such a natural and easy to produce substance gives peaceful and contentment feelings may threaten the global plans for technological and addictive “smart drugs” (a little bit like the possibility of a healthy organic or natural farming contradicts the modern propaganda linked to the GMO program). It also contradicts the need (frequently advocated by the main religions) for arduous spiritual practices as the only path to reach states of peaceful religious consciousness.

Some other “spiritual” problems and questions could also be found :

1) For example in Buddhism, psycho-active substances are criticized mainly because they disrupt the natural clarity of the mind, give mental states devoid of lucidity and can make the user break other important moral rules.

Except when used at strong doses, cannabis gives, in my opinion, much clearer mental effects than alcohol. Alcohol can trigger violent comportment, cannabis very rarely. It is more a peaceful substance, inducing feelings of fraternity and interiority.

Despite these general spiritual remarks, socially Buddhism took a rather pragmatic stand about psycho-active substances. Contrary to Muslim religion which strongly forbids the use of psycho-active substances (in some Muslim countries, the simple possession of only very small amounts of cannabis can lead to several years in jail), Buddhist influenced countries for example never prohibited the sale of alcohol and moderate consumption of alcohol was really not considered as a crime for “normal” persons.

In Buddhism therefore the use of such substances is socially accepted but the general advice given to the Buddhist followers is either not to use these substances, or to use them in accordance with the Middle Path logic, that is to say with moderation and discrimination.

2) Another problem frequently found is the idea that if psycho-active substances are legalized or nationalized, many persons, who normally would not have access to these substances, might be tempted to use them, creating social problems. Well, it is indeed a risk. Especially at the beginning, if such psycho-active substances are authorized, we will maybe see a (normal) increase in consumption compared to a prohibition system. But maybe this increase in (for example) cannabis consumption will reduce the use of anti-depressant or other artificial molecules, and even of tobacco and alcohol. It is also possible that after an initial normal increase, the situation will tend to better itself, to be socially more integrated.

In the rare experiences on Earth where cannabis was allowed (for example in Holland), a big increase in the consumption or a social frenzy were not noticed. France for example, with strong prohibition laws, has the worst cannabis consumption in Europe, much higher than Holland. The majority of Dutch people will only consider cannabis legalization and coffee-shops as a social possibility and freedom available to all citizens, but will not at all necessarily go everyday in a coffee-shop, far from it (precisely maybe because it is always available, so there is no tension about this).

Anyway cannabis is a little bit strange and complex substance that may not please all persons. Furthermore you have usually to try this substance several times before getting the first “positive” effects. It is not like alcohol, cocaine or heroin, something highly addictive and that goes quickly and directly towards mental effects. In a way you need practice to reach positive effects with cannabis. You can also (contrary to tobacco) relatively easily stop, temporarily or permanently, cannabis consumption if you want to, especially at the beginning, but also even after several years of consumption.

Therefore persons who by birth or education (for example in some religious communities) are very pure and “naturally” not inclined to use this kind of substance will be most of the time disappointed by the effects of cannabis and not attracted (except special cases) towards a frequent use of such substance (and it is better, in a fundamental point of view, not to use these substances if one can easily do without it, the spiritual development will be (maybe) eased. Nevertheless we have to remember that spirituality without psycho-active substances can also be painful and even dangerous, see the numerous accounts of mystics across the ages and the religions about depressions, feelings to be abandoned, loss of spiritual direction, blockages in the spiritual development, attacks from evil forces, social de-connexions… happening during the spiritual quest).

Therefore, I totally accept the idea that within a religion or a spiritual path some rules prohibit the use of certain psycho-active substances, and each one should have the right to follow the path that he thinks is the best according to his own needs. Nevertheless we have to remember that since ages many religious practices and spiritual paths use or tolerate psycho-active substances (shamanism, animism, some secret initiation schools, humanism…), and that can give a relative freedom of choice.

Moreover a lot of persons on Earth will really feel no attraction towards religion or spiritual paths and will prefer materialism, atheism, artistic, social or intellectual paths and don’t want for a reason or the other to obey religious rules. This does not make of these persons some bad persons (provided they respect the basic commonly accepted moral and social rules).

Therefore, I personally think that freedom of choice is a fundamental value and that is why I profoundly respect the religious freedom found in democratic systems. Religions should be a possibility, a precious choice, and not something forced or obliged from the outside. Democratic powers and persons engaged in religious path without psycho-active substances should understand that these substances can be used as leisure or pastime (like many other things) and also as a mean for spiritual evolution. Therefore we have to find ways to socially authorize persons willing for a reason or the other to use such substances to do it in a peaceful manner, avoiding violent black markets, adulterated substances, jails… It should be left to the judgement/appreciation/responsibility of all adult citizens and obviously supervised by strong fundamental moral values to avoid possible social problems.

Finally we should acknowledge the fact that psycho-active substances can bring interesting physical, mental and spiritual effects, if correctly used (education on these subjects is important). Nevertheless the effects of such external substances is not stable, it is most of the time temporary and therefore the user who wants to develop the spiritual side will very often feel limited by the substances in themselves.

A natural way to go out of addictions will be maybe to connect with spiritual or artistic researches and find ways to reach the states of happiness or spiritual experiences found in psycho-active substances without them. Many different techniques, in yoga, meditation and relaxation, but not only (hypnosis…) can be found to easily reach these kind of states with a little bit of practice. However my general opinion on this subject is that it will take time (maybe centuries under normal social conditions) for the majority of human beings to reach collectively sufficient states of spiritual stability, clarity and happiness in order to make all the psycho-active substances socially useless.

In conclusion, my opinion is that in modern-day conditions psycho-active substances should be legalized and/or nationalized according to each particular effect triggered by such substances.

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About buddhananda
independent spiritual researcher, I find inspiration mainly into the buddhist, hindu and new age fields. I try to find connections between religions, philosophy, economy and technology. My aim is to contribute to the emergence of a better world. I also practice reiki.

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