This is the dissertation I wrote for my Philosophy undergraduate degree in 2012. Some of the statistics may be a bit out of date, but recent developments in drug liberalisation (such as in the US) and research on the illicit drug trade — as well as the therapeutic application of certain illicit drugs — are still consistent with the arguments presented here.
Drug use and abuse is a sensitive issue. For many cultures and religious groups, however, the use of drugs is uncontroversial. Shamans of the Amazon basin are known to drink the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca, Native Americans ingest peyote in a religious setting, and cannabis is supposed to be a sacramental herb to the Rastafarians. Arguably, humans have been seeking to alter their consciousness through the use of different plants and substances for thousands of years. Yet in Western society, ayahuasca, peyote and cannabis are illegal, whereas our drugs of choice — alcohol and tobacco — are legal.
Originally published at www.samwoolfe.com on June 17, 2018.