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New Wave Science Fiction assumed that increasing liberalization of drugs would continue and that drugs currently banned would become not only legal but also as popular and commonplace as alcohol and tobacco are (or were, now that tobacco is becoming more stigmatized). Usually the drugs in question are "soft" drugs like marijuana and the hallucinogens (particularly LSD) rather than cocaine or heroin; often Fantastic Drugs are part of the mix as well. Some works decide to be ironic and legalize currently illegal drugs, but have alcohol and tobacco banned.

Unlike Government Drug Enforcement, there is no compulsion to take such drugs, and May Contain Evil doesn't necessarily come up (unless a new drug is luring people away from the popular stuff).

Real Life has wavered on this. On one hand, the '80s and '90s marked the height of The War on Drugs, which led to this trope being discredited and forgotten for a long time. During this time, Drugs Are Bad became the official line of the government, the Moral Guardians, and any non-underground writers who didn't want to face protest from both. Backlash against the War on Drugs in the '10s, which resulted in marijuana legalization becoming a subject of serious, mainstream political discussion, saw it make a comeback, though this has also gone hand-in-hand with a growing push against tobacco use (see above re: the ironic use of this trope). In the '20s, increased marijuana legalization is changing the trope in North America, but not to the point of being a Trope Breaker; since there are plenty of other drugs that it can be applied to.

It will always remain the occasional Author Appeal topic, of course, the most common argument being, "if drugs were legal, they'd be too cheap to commit crimes over."

Contrast with Eternal Prohibition. See also Free-Love Future.


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    Comic Books 
  • Paul Pope's 100% is set in the near future, where marijuana cigarettes are legal.
  • The Private Eye features an analog, privacy-obsessed future where Marijuana is a brand of commercially available cigarette.
  • Transmetropolitan, which leans heavily on New Wave Science Fiction for inspiration and setting, runs on this trope. It seems like everyone does drugs all the time. It helps that they can fix any potential health effect. They're still illegal; it's just that almost nobody cares. They're still not good for you either, if certain descriptions of Spider's really bad days are to be taken at face value.
  • You Look Like Death: Tales From The Umbrella Academy implies that drugs are legal in this universe, as Klaus buys his from a kiosk with a neon sign saying "Drugs".

Examples by author:
  • Several Philip K. Dick stories have the characters smoking brand-name marijuana cigarettes.
Examples by work:
  • Played with in Gabrielle Zevin's All The Things Ive Done. Teens can drink all the alcohol they want — it's chocolate and other caffeine products that are banned.
  • Blindsight: Characters use a lot of recreational and lifestyle drugs, ranging from currently-commonplace (nicotine) to extremely unusual. In a flashback; Siri and Chelsea's first date is at a lounge specializing in unique narcotics. The business is apparently unremarkable apart for the quality of the products.
  • Bug Jack Barron: Jack's talk show is sponsored primarily by Acapulco Golds, "America's Premium Marijuana Cigarettes". Tobacco is illegal.
  • A Clockwork Orange: Mescaline (or a synthesized form) is apparently legal since you can get it added to your yummy glass of moloko.
  • The titular Culture of The Culture novels. "Drug glands" are in-built in most Culture biological citizens, and other ways of shooting for the rainbow exist, and are completely legal.
  • Humorously played with in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Alien Bodies: Sam Jones, in the near future and surrounded by aliens, focuses on a cigarette packet as a "normal" thing. Then she notices it says "CLOUD NINE — The original cannabis cigarette", as smoked by UNISYC troopers. When she mentions the one time she got stoned, the future soldier the cigarettes belong to replies, "One time? Are you sure you're human?"
  • In The Forever War, when Mandela first comes back to Earth, marijuana cigarettes are openly sold and heroin is available to shoot up at bars.
  • Inverted in the Gaea Trilogy, in which a member of a NASA expedition to Saturn grumbles when he's cut off from his pipe tobacco. If the notion of NASA letting an astronaut contaminate a space vessel's limited air supply with secondhand smoke doesn't make this seem ridiculous, consider that the same spaceship's captain gripes about losing her own recreational supply of cocaine.
  • In the 20 Minutes into the Future alternate reality of Jennifer Government where the United States has become a global corporate empire but its government is kept purposely underfunded, all drugs are legal and you can get them at the supermarkets.
  • It's implied that drugs have been legalized during the Tribulation period in the Left Behind series due to the One World Government allowing such vices to be legalized — Albie's hometown of Al Basrah has been given over entirely to drugs by the time he visits it to seek out the service of a Middle Eastern black market dealer for an undercover job. The status of drugs is unclear during the Millennial Kingdom period, although the hills of Jerusalem are dripping with wine, and there's mention of hashish parties held by the La RĂ©sistance group The Other Light in order to sway new members to join the group.
  • In the MarĂ®d Audran series, it's never made clear whether the drugs are actually legal, or if the cops simply don't care what people do to themselves in the Budayeen. Nevertheless, drugs flow like water in the series. Audran is constantly taking speed ("tri-phets") or opiates ("sunnies"), which don't always mix well with his heavy alcohol consumption. At one point, when he's given a ride in a police car back from the station, he buys some pills off the cop who is driving.
  • In Parable of the Sower, widespread drug use is presented as part of the social breakdown of the United States. This ranges from marijuana being widely grown and sold, considered not a problem, to the fictional drugs "pyro" (which makes people really enjoy burning things) and "parateco" (which people are socially pressured to take in school despite adverse effects). The last two read as commentary on cocaine use in the United States at the time Octavia Butler was writing.
  • On Nulapeiron, the setting for John Meaney's books Paradox, Context and Resolution, there doesn't seem to be any substance controls, and many different recreational chemicals are commercially available including many sophisticated materials that act upon the mind to induce dream states and the like. Marijuana and alcohol seem to be the most common, and no-one appears to smoke tobacco.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat pops whatever pill he needs to get the job done, and although he's a criminal there's no mention of any of them being illegal.
  • In Variable Star, marijuana is openly grown on the Sheffield's farm deck as well as some genetically engineered drugs. Opium is still illegal though.
  • The War Against the Chtorr goes to some trouble to portray a society that's changed both technology-wise and socially. Legal marijuana farms and over-the-counter recreational drugs are mentioned. Notably, entire industries have sprung up around drug use, to the point that medicine cabinets contain drugs which rapidly neutralize the effects of other drugs right between the painkillers and the antibiotic ointment.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has "stims", an unspecified stimulant drug, in fairly wide use despite their legal status being unclear. Addiction is a social problem, mostly seen in the series among medical personnel.
  • Caprica mentions a recent passing revelation that drugs have been legalized so as to quash any criminal market that may exist for them. Presumably that was a hook for a future plotline about the Ha'la'tha losing income and getting desperate (or going legitimate, leaving Sam Adama out of a job), but obviously we'll never know because the show was unceremoniously cancelled.
  • In the pilot of Minority Report (2015); the world of 2065 shows that not only will marijuana be legal, it will be advertised on the subway in a similar manner to alcohol or tobacco. Specifically, the ad is for a brand of "Totally Baked Goods" edibles.
  • The Orville: Marijuana is openly accepted in the 25th century, to the point that people freely order pot brownies from the food replicator. Additionally, it is implied that Kelly is a frequent user of particularly strong marijuana, and yet she is still a ranking Commander and first officer of the titular spaceship.
  • In the second season of War of the Worlds (1988), set 20 Minutes into the Future: narcotics have been recently legalized, but this is presented as a symptom of the societal collapse that is in progress.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Legality varies greatly by habitat but drugs are very much a part of life in Eclipse Phase. The only "modern" drug featured is orbital hash, but post-singularity narcotics range from bananas that decrease radiation damage to nanite-laced flowers that put you in a very trippy virtual reality.
  • Over the Edge: Not only are drugs legal in Al Amarja, but there are some gloriously weird examples of Fantastic Drugs too.
  • Shadowrun:
    • Modern drugs have fallen out of favor due to the development of cheap, clean "simsense" programs. Why shoot or snort thousands of dollars in imported plant extracts which can be detected by testing urine or hair when you can experience exponentially more just by slotting a memory stick into your Unusual User Interface?
    • The Aztlan sourcebook mentions that Aztlan still makes a profit from cocaine and other coca-plant derivatives, to which many runners express surprise for the above reason. Justified by its target market; dirt-poor people.
      MesaStim: Yeah, sure. You got five bucks In your pocket from a trick or mugging some wretch poorer than you are in the slums and you just about got enough for a quick crack fix. You don't even think about chips — how do you play 'em? Rent the chipreader from the library? Coke may not be the drug of choice for the overaffluent, neurologically compromised American middle classes anymore, but down on the streets it's the same killer it always was. And Aztechnology makes money off of it, whatever they say in public.
    • And even then, conventional drugs are relatively legal. You can get cocaine and mescaline (well, novacoke and red mesc, the drug trade has seen a few twists and turns) with the right prescription, and cops carry around inhalers of combat drugs that give them the speed to deal with wired-up criminals. The only drugs that are truly illegal are the incredibly potent combat drugs, the ones that might give you brain damage after making you a hacking god for 5 minutes, and date-rape drugs.
  • Common throughout the Warhammer 40,000 setting. The game itself occasionally has units that can take drugs to gain some effects, although obviously general usage and legality aren't entirely relevant in a battle situation. The literature contains a huge variety of drugs of all stages of legality though.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect, drugs are mentioned regularly.
    • Red Sand and Hallex are both illegal narcotics of some kind (the former sounds like cocaine and the latter like ecstasy), and there's a substance called Minagen X3 encountered in a mission that makes your biotics unstable if you come in contact with it. Red Sand is related to minagen since they are both biotic inducing agents; red sand also melts your brain like minagen. Hallex isn't really illegal... what with it being Omega and all. You can also legally purchase Red Sand on Illium from a licensed provider.
    • Stims are mentioned several times as legal, and are common among military types. One mission has you getting some kind of stimulant for a human trade negotiator (who seems addicted). The product is legal, but he already used his monthly dose and isn't allowed any more. You can get him the stim or trick him by switching it for a tranquilizer.
  • Rimworld has a variety of drugs that you can manufacture. Most of them are clearly Bland-Name Product versions of real-world narcotics, with the exception of "Go-Juice", a futuristic combat drug that increases pain tolerance, boosts awareness and increases mobility. The drawback is that it's extremely addictive, with ugly withdrawal symptoms, and overuse will eventually cause brain damage.


    Web Original 
  • Mortasheen, due to the titular city not really having any laws. There's even a monster, Jitter, specifically made for dispensing narcotics.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Narm-tastic PSA The Drug Avengers, the main reason why humans are kept out of The Federation is because people still use drugs on Earth.
  • Futurama swings back and forth on the issue of drug legality in its future setting, depending on which is funnier.
    • Bender smokes and drinks constantly. The alcohol is justified in that robots use it as fuel, and Bender will act "drunk" if he hasn't had a drink in a while. As for the cigars, "they make me look cool", and don't seem to do anything health-wise.
    • There are multiple references to cocaine being sold legally. In "My Three Suns", a junkie tries to buy crack from a vending machine that sells "Refreshing Crack" (but the bottle catches on the spring). "Three Hundred Big Boys" has the same junkie say "No more cheap crack-houses for me!", and head for a huge building with a large sign reading "CRACK MANSION".
    • Bizarrely given the last point, marijuana seems to be still illegal, as Hermes makes frequent references to "flushing things", and "that's not a cigar... and it's not mine"; in "A Head in the Polls", there's also a lobby for the legalization of hemp.
    • "The Farnsworth Parabox" shows that there exists an Alternate Universe called "Universe 420". It is only glimpsed for a few seconds, but from the glimpsed imagery (stoners dressed like it's The '70s), the universe's name, and the context of the rest of the episode, we can infer that this universe is a Planet of Hats where everyone is The Stoner; and that it is just as real as the "Universe A" where the primary characters live, and has a similar history to the primary universe, containing stoner equivalents of Farnsworth, Amy, and presumably all of the characters from Universe A.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Bart to the Future", President Lisa asks Bart how she can repay him for saving America from foreign debt collectors. He asks her to legalize "it" and she says to consider it done.