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We Asked People at the War on Drugs About the Actual War on Drugs

Who's winning? The US government or the drugs? We consulted people at Governors Ball in New York to find out.
June 8, 2015, 1:00pm

Photos by the author

The War on Drugs is a popular band that makes pretty, hazy guitar rock that is supremely well suited for chilling extremely hard. They're the perfect band for a Sunday afternoon festival set, which is what they were playing at Governors Ball in New York City yesterday: Basically, one could really have a grand old time smoking weed and vibing out to them while sitting in a field. Which is what many people did—plenty without the weed part, I should hasten to add.

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Nonetheless, with a faint cloud of smoke in the air and the band's name on the tip of everyone's tongue, it seemed like an opportune time to discuss one of the preeminent political issues of the last 40 years, the actual War on Drugs, waged by the Drug Enforcement Administration and other arms of the government. I surveyed the crowd to see what they thought about the War on Drugs, what they thought about drugs, what they thought about music and drugs, and what they thought about the music of the War on Drugs. I also quizzed people to see how in tune they were with the DEA's enforcement priorities. The DEA lists six drugs as examples of Schedule I priorities on its website: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone (qualuudes), and peyote. These are drugs that the agency claims have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence."

Eager to see if people agreed with that assessment, I had to find out what the most well known drugs were. The true answer, of course, was music. But the rest of the results are as follows:

Fernando, 29, Brazil/East Village

Noisey: Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Fernando: Drugs.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Crack, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, Molly, weed.

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What is the scariest drug?
Crack.

What is the coolest drug?
Weed.

What is the best song about drugs?
“Cocaine” by Clapton

What is the best War on Drugs song?
I've never heard 'em!

Archie, 27, and James, 29, Brooklyn

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Archie: Drugs are definitely winning.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Both: Marijuana, mescaline, opiates, meth, cocaine, LSD.

Surprisingly, meth and cocaine are Schedule II.
James: Ah, because they have legitimate medical uses.

What is the scariest drug?
Archie: Crystal meth.
James: Bath salts.

What is the coolest drug?
Archie: Depends on what you're trying to do, I guess.

What is the best song about drugs?
Archie: It's got to be like a Weeknd song. “High for This”?
James: Any song by the Velvet Underground.

What is the best War on Drugs song?
Archie: I've never heard them play before.
Friend (not pictured): You can put down “Red Eyes” for them.

Cole, 18, and Yael, 17, Long Island

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Cole: Looking around, people are pretty high, so I'd say drugs are winning.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Both: Marijuana, heroin. I know cocaine isn't. LSD. Crystal meth probably should be. PCP, speed.

What is the scariest drug?
Cole: Heroin.
Yael: Definitely.
Cole: Mr. [redacted] has done every drug but heroin, so I'd say that's the scariest.

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Who?
Both: Our teacher.

What is the coolest drug?
Yael: Drugs aren't cool. Shrooms.
Cole: Acid's cool. Peyote's cool.

What is the best song about drugs?
Yael: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
Cole: Muddy Waters has a really cool song about weed called “Champagne and Reefer.”

What is the best War on Drugs song?
Both: I don't know!

PJ, 26, and David, 25, Brooklyn

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Both: Drugs

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Both: Psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines.

What is the scariest drug?
David: Heroin because of how much they scared me of it as a child.
PJ: There isn't a scariest. How scared you are is predicated on what people tell you.

What is the coolest drug?
PJ: The world cool itself is subjective. Whatever makes you happy.

What is the best song about drugs?
PJ: What's a Grateful Dead song?
David: I'm not choosing a Grateful Dead song.
PJ: “Casey Jones”

What is the best War on Drugs song?
David: “Under the Pressure”
PJ: I like 'em all.

Jocelyn, 22, Julian, 25, Bushwick

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Julian: Nobody's winning.
Jocelyn: Drugs.
Julian: Yeah, the drugs.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Both: Meth, weed, heroin, cocaine, mushrooms, LSD.

What is the scariest drug?
Both: Meth.

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What is the coolest drug?
Jocelyn: Being sober!
Julian: All around, probably weed.

What is the best song about drugs?
Jocelyn: Oh my God! [singing] I'm in love with the coco!
Julian: Is it Eric Clapton that sings “Cocaine”? That one.

What is the best War on Drugs song? Do you have a favorite?
Jocelyn: Unfortunately, no.

Michael, 26, Harlem

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Michael: Um… the drugs.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Methamphetamines, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, music.

What is the scariest drug?
It's all about perception. The human mind.

What is the coolest drug?
Again, the human mind. It's all about perception.

What is the best song about drugs?
All of them.

What is the best War on Drugs song?
I don't know their songs. Name some they just played. They know what they're doing with their instruments, for sure.

OJ, 33, and Stefan, 35, Canada

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Stefan: Nobody's winning it.
OJ: It's a never-ending war.
Stefan: The only people that get hurt are innocent people. Everyone who profits off it is corrupt.
OJ: The drugs are ahead of the US government.
Stefan: Cocaine's a hell of a drug!

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Both: Heroin, coke, meth, angeldust, E, prescription medications like oxycontin, aspirin.
OJ: You can overdose on aspirin.

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What is the scariest drug?
Stefan: Anything with a needle.
OJ: LSD.

What is the coolest drug?
Stefan: Weed is the best drug. Mushrooms might be the coolest, but you can't smoke too much weed, and you can eat too many mushrooms.

What is the best song about drugs?
Stefan: “Purple Haze,” man. That's what it was made for. Or anything by Rick Ross.
OJ: All Deadmau5.
Stefan: A last word: If you want to use drugs recreationally once or twice and see how they feel and then try to recreate that naturally you've never done anything wrong in my book.

Hannah, 23, and Viktoria, 22, Denmark and Australia/New York City

Who's winning the war on drugs, the drugs or the US government?
Viktoria: I'm going to say the drugs.

The DEA website lists six drugs as Schedule I controlled substances? What are they?
Hannah: Viktoria thought heroin and crack were the same thing, so I'll answer. Heroin, ketamine, Ecstasy, crack/cocaine, LSD, speed.

You missed a couple. Weirdly enough, one of them is qualuudes.
Hannah: Qualuudes don't even exist anymore!

What is the scariest drug?
Hannah: Heroin
Viktoria: What makes your skin eat itself? Krokodil? That's fucked up.

What is the coolest drug?
Hannah: [makes hang loose hand motion] Marijuana

What is the best song about drugs?
Hannah: “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed

What is the best War on Drugs song?
Viktoria: This one [makes air guitar motion and noise]. It has a really, really, really long start?

Kyle Kramer is Noisey's senior drug policy researcher. Follow him on Twitter.