The US Drug War Ends in Texas

The Mexican-American war started in 1846 when the United States invaded a weaker and newer republic rather than pay Mexico’s asking price for what became the Texas Annexation. The war ended in 1848, but we have been in a drug war pharmastice ever since.

From 1850 to 1937, cannabis was used as the prime medicine for more than 100 separate illnesses or diseases in U.S. pharmacopoeia and was one of the top three prescribed drugs during this period.

Opium, another top three prescribed drug during this period, came to the forefront through warfare. The US Civil War (1861-1865) introduced the life saving properties of opium to victims of fighting who survived losing limbs and other major injuries that previously would have caused death from shock due to the pain.

This left the country with its first opium epidemic of soldiers who had been given opium for their injuries but not sufficient rehabilitation and integration support nor maintenance medicine like cannabis to allow them to enter back into society.

An issue of a journal published in the 1860s, The Good Samaritan and Domestic Physician, containing a full-page advertisement, for “Hasheesh Candy” and the ad contains endorsements from Union leader Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“Gen. Grant says it is of great value for the Wounded and Feeble and that it is harmless,” the ad claims. “Gen. Lee, the Confederate General, made use of these words: ‘I wish it was in my power to place a Dollar Box of Hasheesh Candy into the pocket of every soldier, because I am convinced that it speedily relieves debility, fatigue and suffering.’”

As opium use began to rise in the late 1800’s, its use was mostly associated with Chinese immigrants and in 1882 a law was passed limiting opium smoking to dens. A few decades later in 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was enacted in to federal law which regulated and taxed the production, importation, and distribution of opiates and coca products.

The National Women’s Christian Temperance movement was founded in 1874. The temperance movement desired to treat society alcohol-related problems such as domestic violence and alcoholism and was successful in maintaining the prohibition of alcohol in the US from 1919 to 1933.

Harry Anslinger was the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962 and was successful in drafting the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The purpose of the Act was to extinguish the hemp industry through taxation and was supported by Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the richest man in the country who was invested in the Du Pont family’s new invention, synthetic fiber nylon and Randolph Hearst the newspaper mogul who understood sustainable and renewable hemp threatened his tree pulp paper business.

President Nixon started the final incarnation of the War on Drugs 50 years ago on June 18, 1971 when he declared drugs “Public Enemy Number One” due to 15-20 percent of soldiers coming back from Vietnam addicted heroin and using marijuana, while civil rights protests were growing. In his speech launching the war on drugs he said, “We must rehabilitate the drug user if we are to eliminate drug abuse and all the antisocial activities that flow from drug abuse.”

Nixon’s domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman said, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The war on drugs continued to become harsher under the Reagan and Clinton administrations with mandatory minimums and greater punishment for drugs in minority communities like crack cocaine. Especially with the help of our current President Joe Biden who said about himself in 1993, “The truth is every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this Congress, every major crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the State of Delaware: Joe Biden.” He is the architect of three strikes and you’re out and disparate punishments for crack versus powder cocaine.

The US has lost the War on Drugs and we need to make the pharmastice permanent like Mexico has recently done declaring all personal drug use including cannabis constitutional. Ending the Drug War is the biggest social justice issue that exists today. We have the largest prison population on the planet and the war on drugs was lost because it is truly a war on people. We have spent trillions of dollars fighting this war with nothing to show for it.

75 percent of heroin addicts in the US started on a doctor’s prescription. 25 percent of Americans are on an SSRI anti-depressant. Veterans are returning from combat deployments with 25 percent experiencing PTSD and on pharmaceuticals that result in suicide and the national opiate and suicide epidemics are touching the entire country.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.”

Texas House Bill 1802 was enacted on September 1, 2021 and enables any of 18.8 million US veterans that also have PTSD to receive psilocybin through the research study. The statute does not require these veterans to be state residents nor does it provide the definition of PTSD or require that designation come from the Veterans Administration nor show that their PTSD comes from combat. The biggest correlating factor for experiencing this war trauma is unresolved childhood trauma. The bill also provides for a literature study on the efficacy of mdma and ketamine for PTSD. The results of the study are due December 1, 2024 and the Act expires September 1, 2025.

“I am honored by the Senate’s approval of this important bill and look forward to seeing the results of this study,” said Rep. Dominguez who authored the bill.  “Psychedelic medicine has the potential to completely change society’s approach to mental health treatment, and research is the first step to realizing that transformation. It’s said that ‘as goes Texas, so goes the nation.’ While states across the country consider how best to address the mental health crisis facing our nation, I hope they once again look to Texas for leadership.”

Veterans are best positioned to be exemplars to the country for ending the drug war and reintegrating natural medicines back in to our culture. Currently the mdma used by MAPS for the Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials is synthesized from petrochemicals. Soldiers are sent on combat deployments to protect oil, opium and lithium and when they come back from war with PTSD they are put on opiates made from opium from Afghanistan (90% of world supply) and if they are lucky enough to get in to the MAPS Phase 3 clinical trials due to take place here in Austin, Texas they will be eating crude oil derivatives.

The drug war began in Texas and now it is coming home for the final chapter. For the next four years Texas will have thousands of veterans flocking to our state seeking relief from the drug war and all of its collateral damage. Will they stop taking Schedule 1 mushrooms once they receive the liberation from suffering that they are seeking? Will they not look for community of others who are also on the same medicine path? Will they not become more activated to change the ridiculous laws that make 4-oh-dmt (psilocin) and dmt and 5-meo-dmt (neurotransmitters in our own bodies) Schedule 1?

Remember the Alamo? This is the new and final Alamo and when we ultimately realize in launching a drug war against ourselves, now is the moment to retreat and surrender at the same time. Americans have always confused letting go with giving up. Knowing that it is time to stop fighting everything with war as the metaphor, we can finally give peace a chance and let the natural medicines take their rightful place in our lives as gifts from the Creator who in Genesis gave us every seed bearing green plant to help every single one of us on our journey through this process.

Ian Benouis is a West Point graduate, former Army officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot who participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama.

He is patient number one, the General Counsel and Chief Evangelist at the Mission Within spearheading the veteran treatment program, where over 350 Navy SEALS and other special operators have been successfully treated with iboga and toad (5-meo-dmt) for PTSD, addiction and TBI.

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About Ian Benouis

Ian Benouis is a West Point graduate, former Blackhawk helicopter pilot, former US Army officer and combat veteran who participated in Operation Just Cause in the Republic of Panama.  This operation was the largest combat operation in US history focused directly on the War on Drugs and was the largest special operations deployment ever conducted. He was a pilot-in-command and his aviation brigade flew more night vision goggle hours than any unit in the military except for the Task Force 160 Special Operations which his unit was ultimately rolled up into when the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California military base was shut down. Ian grew up in Hawaii in the 1970’s where cannabis was decriminalized and fully integrated in to the culture.  He has been healing himself for over 25 years with sacred plants, a spiritual practice, and being a student and practitioner of ethnobotany.  Ian was a pharmaceutical representative for Pfizer after he got out of the Army witnessing firsthand the meteoric rise of the SSRI’s and synthetic opioids in the early 1990's. He is a casualty of the drug war having been arrested for cannabis while in law school.  Ian is an intellectual property attorney who has been working in the corporate world for over 20 years in the primary roles of VP of Sales and Marketing and General Counsel.  He is a political activist in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space nationally and locally in Texas.  Ian was previously the Chairman of the Board for a public policy foundation in Texas for over seven years. Ian was featured in the Spike Jonze produced episode Stoned Vets on Weediquette the cannabis focused series on Viceland on HBO with a number of other veterans protesting the VA’s policy on medical cannabis and trying to end the veteran suicide epidemic. In 2016 Ian organized a trip for six veterans with PTSD to Peru in May for a 10-day plant diet including ayahuasca and other plant medicines with three Shipibo trained shaman brothers that are third generation plant medicine healers.  Ian also took some of the same veterans to Mexico for treatment with iboga and 5-Meo-DMT.  This experience was captured on video and was released as a documentary in March 2017 entitled Soldiers of the Vine. He is member of the team supporting the movie From Shock to Awe a feature-length documentary that chronicles the journeys of military veterans as they seek relief from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with the help of ayahuasca, MDMA and cannabis.  This movie premiered at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, AZ on June 2, 2018 where it captured the inaugural Mangurama Award for Conscious Documentary Storytelling.