From the founding of the American Colonies until the Civil War, marijuana was an important cash crop, yielding the raw materials needed for the production of canvas, clothing, and rope. The colonists, including George Washington, grew marijuana. Of course that is not what they called it. They called it "hemp," just as they called their Negro slaves "three-fifths of a persons." How many people understand how hemp. coca, and opium poppy became transformed from ordinary plants into dreaded "dangerous drugs" and realize that in losing our right to use them we have surrendered one of our most basic rights to property? Every one of us -- regardless of age, education, or competence -- has been deprived of his right to substances the government decides to call "dangerous drugs." Most Americans labor under the mistaken belief that they now enjoy many rights previously available only to a few (partially true only for blacks and women), and remain utterly unaware of the rights they have lost. Mesmerized by the mortal dangers of fictitious new diseases such as "chemical dependency" and "substance abuse," we have become diverted from the political perils of our totalitarian-therapeutic efforts at collective self-protection. The complex set of personal behaviors and social transactions we call "the drug problem" does not, in the literal sense, constitute a problem susceptible to a solution. Math problems have solutions. Social problems do not. (The solution of a math problem does not, ipso facto, create another math problem, but the solution of every social problem inexorably creates a new set of social problems.) It is a grievous mistake to conceptualize certain drugs as a "dangerous enemy" we must attack and eliminate, instead of accepting them as potentially helpful as well as harmful substances, and learning to cope with them competently. Why do we want drugs? Basically, for the same reasons we want other goods. We want drugs to relieve our pains, cure our diseases, enhance our endurance, change our moods, put us to sleep, or simply make us feel better -- just as we want bicycles and cars, trucks and tractors, ladders and chainsaws, skis and hang gliders, to make our lives more productive and more pleasant. Each year, tens of thousands of people are injured and killed as a result of accidents associated with the use of such artifacts. Why do we not speak of "ski abuse" or a "chainsaw problem"? Because we expect people who use such equipment to familiarize themselves with their use, and avoid injuring themselves or others. If they hurt themselves, we assume they did so accidentally and we try to heal their injuries. If they hurt others negligently, we punish them by both civil and criminal sanctions. Instead of trying to solve the "ski problem" or the "chain saw problem" we adapt to these dangerous devices in our environment. How our government treats drugs is no different from how a communist government treats consumer goods. The right to use a plant that grows wild in nature, such as hemp, coca, or opium is more basic than the fight to vote. A limited government, such as that of the United States, lacks the political legitimacy to deprive competent adults of the right to use whatever substances they choose.
"The world is just fine the way it is. You're the problem. Not us."