About 10 years ago, the media couldn’t stop talking about then mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. After a video of him smoking from a crack pipe surfaced, Ford admitted that he had used cocaine, yet he refused to resign as mayor. Pundits mocked him for disgracing the nation. Back then, the “Rob Ford saga” seemed like a big joke. The idea of somebody in public office promoting drug use was still seen as shameful, undermining one’s competency to lead and set a good example.
A decade later, we live in a different world. Leaders like Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Prince Harry openly talk about drug use in their memoirs without hoo-ha. Hunter Biden, the son of United States President Joe Biden, gets caught using drugs and is still hailed as a celebrity while his father says nothing.
Meanwhile, the governments of the Western world—municipal, state, provincial and federal—are openly embracing and encouraging the citizenry to dive into drug use. Somehow, none of this is controversial.
Why is this happening?
The Push for Legalization
A new policy in the Canadian province of British Columbia demonstrates this. In January, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and ecstasy were all decriminalized. Police are now legally permitted to “look the other way” if somebody possesses up to 2.5 grams of these strong drugs.
The province declared a public health emergency in 2016 due to rising overdose deaths. Since then, over 11,000 of the 5.3 million British Columbians have died from overdoses. The vast majority of these involved fentanyl.
The theory behind this sort of drug policy is that addicts don’t go to the authorities looking for help due to fear of legal consequences. Decriminalizing drugs supposedly removes the stigma of being caught and gives people greater motivation to seek help. But allowing people to obtain drugs with impunity will not lead to a reduction of drug users. To the contrary, in case after case such policies have been followed by increased drug use. At least one entrepreneur has opened a store selling illegal substances like heroin and cocaine. Canadian drug policy analyst Karen Ward told Vice News that stores selling hard drugs are an “inevitable result of the government doing nothing.”
Such ugly results never seem to deter those who promote these policies, however. “We’ve already heard cities like Toronto and Edmonton interested in taking this on as well,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year. “We’re going to work with them and try to make sure every step of the way that as, and if, we move forward, it is not just a single solution, that it is a full wrap-around approach like we’re trying to create in [British Columbia].”
For years now, some local governments have allowed and encouraged so-called safe injection sites. These are designated “safe zones” where people can obtain clean needles and use drugs with medical assistance nearby. Canada has 38 safe zones in operation. These sites and other measures including non-enforcement of drug laws have effectively decriminalized drugs for years. But now the law is putting dangerous drug use on the books officially.
These more toxic substances are only the latest victory for the drugging of minds. In 2018, Canada became the second country to make recreational cannabis (marijuana) legal nationwide. In 2021, government statistics suggest an astounding 50 percent of Canadians between ages 20 and 24 used cannabis, along with 37 percent of those ages 16 to 19, and 25 percent of those 25 and older.
Mexico legalized recreational use in 2021. In the United States, 23 states have legalized cannabis: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, plus the District of Columbia and the territory of Guam. The only states where cannabis is fully illegal both for recreational and medical use are Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina and Wyoming. This means it is perfectly legal for over 300 million North Americans to smoke recreational marijuana.
Legalizing or decriminalizing “harder drugs” doesn’t have as strong an advocacy in the U.S. as it does in Canada. But it is growing—especially on the West Coast. In 2020, Oregon decriminalized possession of hard drugs, similar to British Columbia’s policy. And residents of San Francisco can visit a “smart shop,” a store where hallucinogenic plants are sold legally for consumption.
All of this is only taking into account legal and decriminalized drugs. The casualties of the illegal drug trade are far worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 932,000 Americans have died from a drug overdose since 1999. Tens of thousands more have died in Mexico from the various drug cartels’ turf wars. The Council on Foreign Relations estimates as many as 360,000 people have been murdered in Mexico since 2006.
The Cost of Losing the War
“For many years we have declared a war on drugs in America. What has been the result? Look at the facts and we must concede that we have lost that war! America is overcome by its drug problem,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in No Freedom Without Law. He then refers to 2 Peter 2:19: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man [or a nation], to that he is enslaved” (Revised Standard Version).
No Freedom Without Law was first published in 2001. Circumstances were bad enough then, but they are now far worse. Instead of winning or even fighting this war, our societies have waved the white flag. We have accepted that the drug culture is here to stay and to grow. Our governments are worse than defeated: They are now collaborationist regimes.
People are dying. Those who don’t die have their lives ruined, spending all they have on brain-frying substances while living on street corners and descending into dissipation, abuse, illness and misery.
Not everybody who supports drug normalization is a junkie. Many reason that giving addicts a small supply gives them enough to avoid withdrawal but not enough to overdose. It stops them from killing themselves. Supporters of legal cannabis meanwhile think it isn’t worth giving thousands of people criminal records for using a drug they consider relatively harmless. (Never mind a plethora of evidence to the contrary.)
But letting people keep their cocaine won’t give them their lives back. Allowing high schoolers to smoke mind-stunting marijuana isn’t setting them up for a successful future.
We have surrendered to a body-destroying, mind-destroying vice. We have surrendered to sin.
The principle in Scripture is clear. The Bible condemns abuse of alcohol (e.g. Proverbs 20:1; Ephesians 5:18). Alcoholism ruins people’s minds. It leads them into bankruptcy. It enslaves them to a substance. Drug use accomplishes all of this to much greater effect, and far more easily.
The Key to Victory
Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of our predecessor magazine the Plain Truth, wrote in 1961 (in the context of the Bay of Pigs fiasco) that unless the U.S. repented of its embrace of lawlessness against God, “America has won its last war!” Since then, the U.S. has been unable to win the Vietnam War, the war on terror and every other major conflict it has gotten involved in.
Most of these wars were far-off conflicts involving professional soldiers. The war on drugs has claimed more American lives than any of these other wars. And most of those impacted are not soldiers. They are university students, lawyers, government workers and others of respectable employment. They could be your next-door neighbors. If there was any war America couldn’t afford to lose, it would be the war on drugs. Yet we have lost it.
That doesn’t mean there is no cause for hope, however. America’s enslavement to drugs has a solution.
“It is very difficult to keep God’s law,” Mr. Flurry writes. “But the problem isn’t with the law, it is with us. We need to change and conform ourselves to that law. We need to replace the wickedness of our hearts with the righteousness of God by writing God’s law in our hearts!” (op. cit.).
Jesus Christ said it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32). And He also said that God’s Word—His law as codified in the Holy Bible—is truth (John 17:17). True freedom does not come from accommodating sin. That only leads to greater slavery. True freedom means changing our nature so we do keep the law—living, as Christ said, by every word of God (Luke 4:4). Christ said those words as He was overcoming the devil. And God wants everybody to overcome their personal demons—whether drug addiction or something else. That is why He gave His law: so that we may be free.
Truly, there is no freedom without law.