Editor’s Note: This piece is informed by the first-person experience and perspective of the writer. The views reflected herein do not necessarily represent the official stance of Dark Web News.
A wise man once said you can count on only two things in this life—taxes and death. Well, there are two more things that have stuck around since civilization began and those are laws and drugs.
The dynamics between each of these pillars of society has shaped and molded generation upon generation into numerous forms of puritanism and debauchery. The pendulum of time swings back and forth, favoring the relaxation of restriction one decade and then swinging over to the brutal government boot that stamps out anything in its path.
Beginnings of Austerity
While the United States as a self-contained federal body was founded after the revolution for independence, the settlers that were living there had roots stretching back to the start of colonization. Many fled Europe due to religious persecution supported by a local governing structure.
A major component of American history is the fact that the Protestant faith, and its derivatives, have made up the background culture of the nation which in turn influenced many things, including early judicial attitudes.
Western Law places significant weight on precedent, so it’s valuable to understand the context under which some of the earliest cases were judged.
It can be argued that not all the founding fathers were the strictest disciples of Protestantism, and that is true.
However, the vast majority of the people living in the colonies at the time were strong adherents of their faith, as were the judges and other functionaries of the state. Perhaps doubly so due to their ancestors fleeing prosecution in older lands.
One offshoot of Protestantism that held significant popularity long before the U.S. Constitution was drafted was known as Puritanism. Puritans believed in the reformation of the English church away from Roman Catholicism.
Many wanted to hold the church together rather than simply split apart into an entirely new branch, yet there was a sizable minority that saw the beginning an entirely new congregation as an option.
Puritan society was rigid, disciplined and strict. Women were expected to be chaste and dress modestly while men were to abstain from overly rowdy behavior and lead responsible, hard-working lives.
The Protestant church, while thought of as a church made up of individuals, in practice set conformity as one of its chief virtues. Idleness and unusual behavior were met with a suspicious loathing from the community and authority figures.
Repression was a way of life for most people during this time. Of course, not everyone followed what was taught in the church classrooms, and there were a number of people that spoke in favor of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Yet such voices would not reach full volume for a few generations.
In a twist of ironic tragedy so common to history, both puritan leadership and mob rule set their own policy of singling out and punishing faiths that differed from their own. The humble pilgrim fleeing intolerance one day is the cold gavel condemning another to banishment or death the next.
However, this is getting a bit out of the purview of this article and is only commented on in the hopes of broadening one’s understanding of the prohibition era that will be looked into next. I feel it is necessary to show just how strongly old religious doctrines affected lawmaking in the United States and the rest of the world.
What must be taken away from all this is that religious fervor is part of the DNA that western law and government are based upon. One need not look further than the U.S. Dollar, a prime representation of currency upon which almost all legal relationships are based, to see “In God We Trust” and the eye of providence staring back at you.
Prohibition Running Wild!
Section 1 of the 18th amendment prohibited the importing, exporting, manufacturing, sale and transporting of intoxicating liquor within the United States and its territories.
Notice that possession by itself is not made illegal here.
What followed was a nationwide increase in crime and smuggling operations, a large drop in entertainment sales and a huge section of lost alcohol-related jobs. Not to mention the enraging of the working class in general. Couple all that with the Great Depression and you have an imperiled country on your hands.
Now, one of the causes for prohibition had to do with legitimate grassroots movements made up of regular people that saw the problems inflicted by alcoholic overconsumption on a daily basis.
Such movements grew and were spearheaded by mostly protestant devotees.
Because of how democracy works, one of the reasons a particular drug is legal while another is not can be due to individual movements surrounding said drug.
When a large portion of the population went after alcohol, they got an entire amendment controlling its commercial use. One can compare this with the movement surrounding the legalization of marijuana around the country and draw some similarities at the organizational level.
Popular support for a cause matters and holds significant weight in how politics are carried out.
Regulations Today and What They Mean
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is a federal agency charged with ensuring food and drug laws are enforced and offenders caught. Drug policy is outlined mostly in the Controlled Substances Act.
Under this act, substances are classified as one of five types upon which litigation may or may not occur:
- Schedule I: Substances that do not have any currently accepted medical use, lack certain safety expectations for medical supervision and have a high propensity for abuse.
- Schedule II: Substances that possess a high propensity for abuse and severe psychological and physical dependence, i.e. addiction.
- Schedule III: Substances with less risks for addiction than those classified under Schedule I or II.
- Schedule IV: Substances with a low risk of abuse as compared to the aforementioned listings.
- Schedule V: Substances with an even lower risk of abuse than those classified under Schedule IV.
What one can gather as the most important function of the list is that the higher the chance for abuse, the more serious the regulation on the controlled substance.
In theory, this should mean that something like marijuana or psilocybin mushrooms would be Schedule IV or V drugs, yet marijuana has stayed a Schedule I drug for over 35 years since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act and has only recently gained mainstream acceptance as being useful for medicinal purposes.
The process of passing bills into laws is an arduous one and so is getting certain drugs changed between schedules. Numerous regulations and political opponents muck things up but progress is still made every day.
Land of the Free
This article was considered with a question a small child asked me at the orphanage. That question was “Why do some drugs get you in prison while others are given to you by a doctor?”
There are multiple reasons and I have only scratched the service here.
Commercial enterprises fund anti-drug lobbying groups in order to corner a market. Criminal elements of society push for strictness on drugs because it means bigger business. The judicial system gets bored and needs something to prosecute while appearing useful.
Law enforcement and jailers need more work. There are even theories of enslaving the population through the addictive drug process and incarceration.
I covered only a small slice of the historical religious perspective but there’s a lot more to this if you are willing to dig a little.