What will American drug culture look like once prohibition is finally over and we can start to legally use more substances in more settings? No one is better situated to start that discussion than Hamilton Morris, the 32-year-old host of Hamilton's Pharmacopeia, a documentary series that has aired for two seasons on the Viceland cable channel. The show explores the variety of drugs that are available, how they work, and how we might best use them to fulfill our hopes and dreams.
In one early episode, Morris confounds the conventional wisdom by telling "a positive story about PCP," a drug about which even legalizers typically have nothing good to say. He visits with Timothy Wyllie, an artist and visionary who used the drug as part of his creative process. In another, Morris travels to the Brazilian Amazon, where locals get high on a substance taken from hallucinogenic frogs.
Morris also does laboratory work at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where he and his collaborators create new medicines for testing and research trials. In May, he sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about how the drug war has warped the conversation about intoxicants and what a post-prohibition landscape will look like.
Q: Why are you so Interested in drugs?
A: I need to think of a better answer to that question, because I get asked it a lot. They have an absolutely enormous influence on our culture. So much of our political landscape is dictated by drug policy and the prison-industrial complex. Philosophically, medically, scientifically, drugs are a huge subject. Once you start seeing the world through that lens, you realize it would be crazy not to be interested in drugs.
Q: People seem to be getting more interested in erasing the arbitrary distinction between legal and illegal. Why is that happening?
A: I think journalism is largely driven by this swinging pendulum of novelty. For a long time, it was novel and interesting and engaging to report on how dangerous and horrible and life-destroying drugs are. Somebody pulled their eyes out on PCP; somebody ate their best friend; somebody set themselves on fire.
But then the novelty of scare stories wears off and the pendulum swings in the opposite direction. It's more engaging to say, "Hey, those psilocybin-containing mushrooms that you thought were a drug? Well, it turns out that these guys at Johns Hopkins actually think they're a medicine. Isn't that a novel take on all of this?"
Q: What do...