Towards understanding the use of mind-altering products

In 1996, then-president Sampaio of Portugal convened a conference to have his newly installed socialist government informed on the drugs issues being debated at that moment around the world, and in particular on the European continent. In a workgroup on Drugs and Society the representatives of some thirty European nations explained the different policies to combat drugs currently being pursued by their respective governments. The last person to speak was a collaborator of our Institute, representing Civil Society: “As all present have in one way or another denounced mind-altering products and their consumers, we have the pleasure to take exception to this negative stance and defend the beneficial aspects of the use of cannabis, for individual consumers as well as for society at large.”
The consternation was palpable: after a moment of amazing silence all present felt an urgent need to voice their disagreement, some politely and others at the top of their lungs, raising such a ruckus that the meeting had to be suspended. In all fairness, it must be stated that during the ensuing break the UK representative, a colonel from Scotland Yard, came forward to congratulate our institution for clearly voicing its point of view, one which, according to this gentleman, was held by many on the force who regretfully were not able to express their diverging views publicly.

Times have changed, and over the last twenty years the various aspects of the drugs issue have become more visible, as has the muzzling of the voices articulating proposals for divergent policies or investigating the positive aspects of the use of the different substances. Consumer and cultivator representatives are no longer alone in decrying society’s biased attitude towards mind-altering products. The political and academic world is coming to grips with the fact that there is more to drugs than the official discourse from Washington and that it is in the public interest to allow for an open debate. It is heartening therefore that as august an institution as The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (US) published a report on January 12, 2017, asking the government to stop erecting regulatory barriers to cannabis research. That won’t happen overnight, but as long as innocent people are being persecuted for merely using marihuana for their spiritual well-being, we will keep defending the basic human right to freedom of thought, consciousness and religion, made possible through that use.