Friday, March 9, 2018

Plants, Drugs and Freedom

The essays on this site are not only published here for the world to enjoy (including, as I have written in the past, an apparent odd viewing by a lot of Russians).  About two-thirds of them are also available on a platform called "Steemit", which is a site where people produce content and are paid for it, although it is paid in a cryptocurrency with very little value.

Because it is a separate site, and "pays" for content (I would do some kind of air quotes if I could, but the real ones will do), it draws a different set of readers from those who follow this column religiously.  I'm grateful to both, of course.

So ... one of the readers on Steemit replied to a recent column that mentioned President Trump.  Although the topic of the column was not actually about this, the reader replied with a lengthy critique of the president for, and I will characterize the point being made, wanting to ban certain plants.  The writer's point was that plants are creations of God, and that man did not have the authority to regulate their availability and use.

I do not want to mischaracterize what the person was saying (I'm going to use male pronouns here but I do not know the writer's sex).  First, I am not sure if English was his native language; although all his postings are in English, they're far from perfectly written, enough so that I assume it is either his second language, or his posts are typed on a texting device without spellcheck. Second, he clearly cares a lot about this issue, and I respect his (and others') opinions.

So I got to thinking about it, too.  Of course, the writer's point was that the FDA should not be regulating any plant derivatives, even when made into pharmacologics, because plants are not under man's purview.  Moreover, his equal point was that humans should have the right to decide to put any such derivatives in their bodies, without a government regulating that and abridging the right.  For President Trump to wage a campaign against opioid abuse was, effectively, to say that government had the right to regulate what we put inside of us.

I have definitely had varied thoughts in this regard. 

Tobacco, for example, kills over 400,000 Americans each year, with zero benefit to the smoker from its use.  If someone wants to smoke in his home, with no one else there, I suppose that's his or her funeral, but because the pernicious effects of its use are so massive -- and also affect those exposed to it -- I am fine with the FDA regulating its sale and use, which it only recently has been given the right to.

But I am a conservative, and we have to align (A) personal freedom and the notion of that freedom being transcendent, with the fact that (B) people harm themselves and others.  I struggle with that when I also write about the use of pot.  Marijuana is a recreational drug, and it is also a pain-killer in certain situations.

Again, I am fine with people in their own homes using the stuff where it is legal (and by Federal law, that means nowhere in the USA, but that's another thing).  Where I have the most issue, as I wrote about in detail here, is in its "medicinal" use.  If pot is indeed a valuable analgesic, and it can be prescribed, then it should not be provided through pot stores in Colorado and California; and not smoked but carefully dose-regulated through licensed pharmacists and prescribed, only by physicians.  No other analgesic except over-the-counter NSAIDs and acetaminophen are allowed to be dispensed that way, and they have been researched every-which way to Sunday for decades.

Ultimately, the issue is whether government -- the one here in the USA or anywhere -- has the right to regulate plant life and its use.  Is this truly an issue of what a free society should be allowed to regulate at all, or is an FDA an innate enemy of freedom for that reason?  Is the existence of life on earth its own defense against mankind's appropriation of it?  Is that the Libertarian view?

The balance between the need for a society to (A) protect itself and (to some limited extent) collectively support itself (communism being the classic example of the latter going way too far), against (B) the freedom of the individual to develop his own life and act accordingly, is actually a reason why there are governments in the first place.

I think that there is a scale of that freedom, with the nanny-state types at one end and the pure Libertarians on the other.  While I probably come down pretty much in the middle, with a 1% lean toward the nanny-staters for things like tobacco, I get and respect the views of those who find excessive government control to be repulsive.  Of course, freedom is on a scale as well and, while I want to be free, I want at least a measure of security as well.

Not that I would sacrifice too much of the former for the latter, lest I deserve neither.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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