Give Me Cognitive Liberty

A new breed of libertarians fight for freedom

| November 17, 2005


'Even in my current, sober state of consciousness, their arguments make a lot of sense,' writes In These Times' Salim Muwakkil of cognitive liberty advocates -- those who want to loosen the law's reins on expanding consciousness through, among other things, psychoactive drugs.

One of the movement's hubs is the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics, founded by Richard Glen Boire, who explained in the group's journal that 'The so-called war on drugs is not a war on pills, powder, plants and potions, it is a war on mental states -- a war on consciousness itself -- how much, what sort we are permitted to experience, and who gets to control it.' The ranks of folks who believe that the war on drugs is an effort to control consciousness include a few bohemian types and 'graying hippies' who may not be sober all the time. But a few straight-edge libertarians would agree with their basic argument: An individual should have the right to choose access to a variety of mental states, some of which can be achieved through the use of mind-altering drugs.

For thousands of years, humans have used 'entheogenic' (divine generating) substances to contribute to religious experience and bring them into communication with the divine. The war on drugs, according to some cognitive libertarians, is an extension of the colonial taboos against substances used by native peoples as a spiritual medium. Those fighting for cognitive liberty want to reclaim the right to commune with visionary plants and potions, something humans have been doing for millennia.
-- Rose Miller

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