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Drugs, Freedom, and Responsibility at Burning Man

Editor's note: This is a repost of the piece I wrote about Burning Man last year. I couldn't top it, so I'm sharing it again. Enjoy.

Having just emerged from one of the most epic experiences of my life, I'd like to share a few thoughts before returning to my usual news-skewering routine. Don't worry, it's about drug policy, although I'm proud to say I did manage to go an entire week without thinking about the drug war much at all.

I just spent seven days in the desert with 50,000 very enthusiastic adventurers, more than a few of whom engaged in the recreational use of mind-altering substances other than alcohol. Now, Burning Man is about much more than drugs, and even among those choosing to consume, beer seemed to be the most popular choice. But there was also a robust and visible psychedelic culture to be found there, making the event a rather vivid depiction of what happens when you release thousands of rabid psychonauts in harsh desert conditions and let them do whatever the hell they want.

Let's just say the outcome is substantially more graceful and orderly than even my own wide-open mind could have anticipated. I've seen far more sloppiness and idiocy at any football game I've ever attended than I did at Burning Man, even after dark when the serious weirdos really get down to business. Not even an abundance of liquid acid can unravel the inherent civility that takes hold when an intentional community of caring and curious people unites to celebrate free-expression on its own terms.

No major festival is entirely immune to the disruptive influence of individual trouble-makers, but Burning Man has established an impressive track record of general safety and cohesion going back many years now. It's a brilliant exhibit in the viability of expanding the boundaries of acceptable human behavior, particularly insofar as anyone who doesn't want to see naked people driving around in fire-breathing dragon-cars can simply choose not to attend.

The whole experience for me became yet another reminder of the profound stupidity of attempting to purge the psychedelic experience from our culture. If the paranoid fulminations of the anti-drug demagogues even approached the truth, an event such as this could never exist, for the playa would be soaked in blood and tears before the first sunrise. Once it's understood that the post-legalization drug apocalypse we've been taught to fear for so long is nothing more than a mindless fantasy, the justification for war evaporates faster than sweat under the desert sun.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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the memory hole

"Once it's understood that the post-legalization drug apocalypse we've been taught to fear for so long is nothing more than a mindless fantasy, the justification for war evaporates faster than sweat under the desert sun."

 

The so-called "drug apocalypse" existed for tens of thousands of years before the 20th century Inquisition yet civilization managed to flourish.  It's really just about racism and the greed of Corporate America drug dealers and both these ugly creatures hide behind the Drug-Free America "Save the Children" propaganda campaign created by the same ad agencies who work for big pharma and alcohol. 

The original Inquisition went after heads too

Please excuse if I ramble.

Yep, those were some charming Christians back then, tied people they didn't like to crosses and burned them alive, they did. Burned 'witches' for using cannabis instead of Christianity approved alcohol. Makes today's prohib dictatorial thugs look almost civilized, but only by comparison.

Racism and greed (including the greed of all beneficiaries of the police/prison/courts/rehab/drug testing industrial complex) absolutely, but I think other factors are hysteria where children are concerned, a desire to control others, a desire to make others suffer, and guilty projection of the sins of alcohol users onto cannabis users.

And very unfortunately it ain't just corporate drug dealers who are opposing us, a lot of the growers in places like Mendocino County showed their true colors at the 2010 California legalization initiative vote. And Infighting is likely to plague us in 2012 as well. Yuck.

Maybe Mendo opposed Prop 19

Maybe Mendo opposed Prop 19 because it was bad legislation. The county's results were pretty close, though -- 47% Yes to 53% No.  Many tried to put the blame on Humboldt County, too.  However, "...a closer look at election results and exit polling data points to a different reason for why Prop. 19 went down: Democratic voters. Specifically, blacks and Latinos, and to a lesser extent, Asian Americans." I urge you to read the following link.

http://www.northcoastjournal.com/news/2010/11/11/dont-blame-humboldt/

 I hope for better legislation proposals in the future. 19 was not the right path in my opinion.

Some growers just like making big $ off the backs of users

They like things the way they are just fine. They should be boycotted if possible. Some other don't want to be froze out of the legal grow business, which is understandable but still a bitter pill to swallow, that supporters of weed would vote against the best shot we ever had.

I do understand that we had bigger demographic problems than grower interests voting against us, but none as disheartening to me. Feels like we got stabbed in the back. Just like what this supposedly freedom loving country does to us.

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