The Case For Cannabis: It Doesn’t Matter That Awful People Support Cannabis Law Reform

Some people – whether they’re honest about it or not – don’t support cannabis law reform because of the sort of person who does support it. Because many unpleasant and dangerous people think that cannabis prohibition is a bad idea, some others have gone as far as to conclude that it must really be a good idea. As this article will show, it doesn’t matter that awful people support cannabis law reform.

Indeed, demographic analysis shows that the sort of person who supports cannabis law reform isn’t the same sort of person who is doing the best. According to Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand, the correlation between voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017 and net personal income was -0.48, meaning that ALCP supporters were among the poorest in the nation, about as poor as National voters are wealthy.

Voting ALCP in 2017 had a correlation of 0.66 with being a solo parent, 0.68 with having no formal academic qualifications, 0.79 with being on the invalid’s benefit, 0.82 with being on the unemployment benefit and a whopping 0.89 with being a regular tobacco smoker. This suggests that being a cannabis supporter is correlated with just about every measure of low social standing.

Clearly, cannabis isn’t a drug for people who are doing well in life. Fundamentally, cannabis is a medicine, and therefore it appeals primarily to people who are sick in some way. This is obvious from the strong correlation between voting ALCP and being on the invalid’s benefit, because many of those people have discovered cannabis in their desperation. It’s not surprising, then, that its supporters are generally people who aren’t doing well.

None of that matters when it comes to determining the fairness of cannabis law reform.

Many people don’t like to use objective, intellectual reasoning when they make decisions. As was understood by Edward Bernays, people often rely on the consensus opinion of the herd when they choose what car to buy, or what political party to vote for. More specifically, they rely on the consensus opinion of their peer group.

People who are in this category, and whose peer group are prejudiced against cannabis users, tend to be prejudiced against cannabis as well. Their reasoning follows the logic that, because the sort of person who supports cannabis has a low social standing, they can’t have devoted any real honest thought to the issue. However, this entire argument is based on a kind of snobbery. It’s little more than looking down one’s nose at another person.

In fact, it’s a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy. Just because an argument for cannabis law reform comes from a person who isn’t a highly upstanding member of the community doesn’t mean that the argument is false in any way. The logical validity of the argument for cannabis law reform has no relation to the social standing of the people promoting it.

Variations of the ad hominem fallacy have been used to oppose most other kinds of reform. Women’s suffrage was opposed by those who characterised its supporters as spinsters and shrews. Homosexual law reform was opposed by those who characterised its supporters as AIDS-riddled degenerates. In more recent times, capital gains tax reform has been opposed by those who characterise it as expropriation and its supporters as communists.

It’s also a circular argument to say that cannabis should be prohibited because criminals use cannabis. If cannabis is illegal, then of course only criminals are going to use it. So a person cannot then turn around and argue that, because only criminals use it, this is justification for keeping it illegal.

People who use this argument tend to portray cannabis users, and cannabis law reform proponents, as brutally immoral degenerates. Dealing cannabis is viewed not as bravely supplying a medicine in the face of a tyrannical political system, but as maliciously destroying other people’s brains for life. Cannabis dealers are equated to child molesters in terms of the suffering they bring.

Even if this absurd caricature was true, it wouldn’t matter. In much the same way that neo-Nazis have a fair point when they talk about the effect of mass immigration on social cohesion, and in the same way that ecofascists have a fair point when they talk about the effect of vehicle exhaust pollution on the world’s ecosystems, all those members of society’s underclass who support cannabis law reform have a fair argument to make.

Although it’s true that the strongest support for cannabis law reform comes from society’s underclass, individuals within that underclass aren’t necessarily there because they are evil or immoral. Most of the people who use cannabis are doing badly because they are ill, either physically or mentally – cannabis is ultimately a medicine, before it is anything else.

So just because a person is poor, or a criminal, doesn’t mean that their arguments in favour of cannabis law reform can be dismissed. To the contrary – it is often people like this who are at the front lines of the War on Drugs, and understand and accounting for their experiences is crucial if we are to set the world to peace and order.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: It Doesn’t Matter That High-THC Strains Now Exist

A prohibitionist argument beloved of the Police is that cannabis should stay illegal because it now contains much more THC than it used to. This is commonly employed as a counterargument to imply that, even though the dangers of cannabis use have been massively exaggerated, it should still be illegal, because the warnings have become accurate over time. This article explains why this argument is false.

This BBC article is a good example of the ridiculous propaganda that people have been exposed to over the years. It claims that “high-potency cannabis or skunk” is a completely different form of cannabis to the herbal cannabis that people usually smoke. This is done in an effort to make people think that the threat posed by legalisation is categorically more extreme than it was in the past.

It’s true that some cannabis strains today are much, much stronger than what used to exist, despite the nostalgic recollections of old hippies. Breeders have had decades to experiment with these strains, and some of them have cultivated varieties that are much higher in THC than anything that could have existed previously.

Because a high-THC strain will offer more of a buzz per unit of volume, it naturally makes for a superior product from a criminal point of view. The greater the buzz per unit of volume, the easier it is to transport, to hide and to smuggle. Black market dealers can charge more if their product gets a reputation for being superpowered, and all of this has caused high-THC strains to dominate the market in many places.

Although it’s true that a high-THC strain of cannabis can create unwanted reactions, particularly by producing a more intense experience than desired, this is only a problem if cannabis is sold on the black market. Like many of the arguments for cannabis prohibition that appeal to the harms of cannabis, further investigation shows that the harm is caused by prohibition and not by cannabis itself.

A high-THC strain of cannabis can get a person stoned faster than a low-THC strain, and perhaps also more heavily, but this is not anything close to a legitimate argument in favour of cannabis prohibition. The safest way to protect people from getting a more intense buzz than they wanted is actually to legalise cannabis, for two reasons.

Legal, properly regulated cannabis means that whatever a person consumes must be clearly labelled with a cannabinoid profile. This means that the user will know what they’re getting. If a person is inexperienced with cannabis they might want specifically to avoid a high-THC strain or to use a high-CBD strain. Even if they are experienced, they might want to know they’re using a high-CBD strain.

As mentioned elsewhere, only legal cannabis can make this possible, because only cannabis produced by legitimate white market professionals will be tested and analysed to determine its precise cannabinoid profile. Therefore, only legal cannabis can ensure that the user knows what they’re getting and can take the appropriate measures.

This approach synergises with having honest education about cannabis use at high school level. In the same way the high schoolers are educated about sex, driving and alcohol, an honest approach would see them educated about cannabis as well. Part of this approach would involve being told that high-THC strains can provoke effects that are more powerful than intended.

The second reason is that regulating cannabis makes it possible to pass a law, as has been done in some American jurisdictions, so that the recreational cannabis being sold in shops must contain a minimum percentage of CBD. This is done with the intent of minimising psychotic responses, as there is evidence that the CBD in cannabis has an anti-psychotic effect that balances that psychotogenic effect of the THC.

Regulation means that the circumstances in which people use cannabis can be controlled with a view to preventing adverse outcomes such as overdoses on super high-THC skunk. Even if it was not deemed necessary to legislate for a minimum CBD level for all cannabis, it could be ensured that the cannabis consumed publicly in cafes had such a limitation.

Prohibiting cannabis because of the fear of high-THC strains is like prohibiting alcohol because absinthe exists. It’s a dumb move that just leads to more suffering in the end. It would be much better to legalise cannabis so that people both knew how to use cannabis properly and also the chemical makeup of any strain they may wish to use.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

You Will Never Be Allowed Any Alternative to Neoliberalism

Workers and labourers were disappointed on Wednesday by the news that the Sixth Labour Government had ruled out a capital gains tax. Many working Kiwis felt it unfair that their labour continues to be taxed at such a high rate while unearned income remains untaxed, and felt that the Labour Party had betrayed them. As this essay will argue, they better get used to it, because New Zealanders will never be allowed an alternative to neoliberalism.

Jacinda Ardern had come to power with a promise that “neoliberalism had failed“, and gave every impression that the Labour Party would offer a new approach. The 35-year experiment of putting money above people had only delivered misery, and Ardern and her Labour Party had caused many to believe that their ascent to power would mark a change in attitude.

Like most utterances from politicians, this was total shit.

The reality is that Ardern and her Labour Party are just as much puppets of globalist industrial and finance interests as their National predecessors, and this is obvious if one looks at their actions in the 18 months they have been in power.

One of the first things Labour did was to double the refugee quota, increasing the flow of cheap labour into the country at the expense of New Zealand wage earners. As this newspaper has mentioned elsewhere, neoliberals love refugees, because they work for cheap and because they destroy the solidarity of the native working classes, thereby weakening their negotiating position.

Labour has also ignored cannabis law reform their whole time in power. While Andrew Little enthusiastically fast-tracks all kinds of laws to take Kiwi freedoms away, he lacks the courage even to say that cannabis is a medicine. Neoliberals are almost always materialists, and they fear cannabis because they fear that it will turn people away from the acquisitive greed that our economies are propped up by.

Perhaps the worst slap in the face, though, was when Labour ruled out a capital gains tax. Their refusal to tax the unearned income of property speculators meant that the burden of funding the government had to come from wage earners instead. Effectively, Jacinda Ardern chose to subsidise the unearned income of the rich with the labour of the poor.

The reality for New Zealand voters, who had cast the Fifth National Government out of power after nine years of neglect, is stark. There is no alternative to neoliberalism. It doesn’t matter how much suffering the Kiwi people have to endure; it doesn’t matter if you can never own a house on the average wage. We will never be allowed, within our current political system, to put our own people above money.

A reader might object here that voters could vote for a third party if they didn’t want neoliberalism, but the system is rigged so that only Labour and National can hold power.

Not only is there an electoral threshold of 5%, which has the effect of preventing any alternative to neoliberalism from getting a foothold in Parliament, but funding for electoral broadcasts is apportioned according to party size. Labour and National together get over half of all allocated electoral broadcast funding, which entrenches both these parties and the neoliberalism they represent.

There is no alternative, within our existing system, to neoliberalism. Everything Labour and National do benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor, and especially the wealthy with no ties to the nation. Nothing they do will benefit the Kiwi worker whose hands build our roads, tend our crops and care for our sick.

Therefore, there is no alternative to skyrocketing rents, falling wages and the mass importation of cheap labour in the form of refugees. The only way that the Kiwi nation can ever get respite from this is revolution.

*

If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Does Not Make People Impotent

Everyone by now has seen the propaganda image on the back of the tobacco packet that depicts a droopy cigarette, imitating erectile dysfunction. Cannabis has undergone a similar propaganda attack, with many people coming to believe that cannabis can make people impotent. This article shows that the truth, once again, is very different to what we have been told.

Like many things that the authorities want to forbid, cannabis has variously been blamed for pretty much everything that could go wrong in a person’s life. Cannabis causes psychosis, it causes cancer, it causes crime, and we’re also told that it makes people impotent.

Now, it’s certainly true that smoking things is not healthy. Smoking anything, cannabis or tobacco, leads to unhealthy lungs and worse circulation. It also leads to heart disease. All of this makes it much harder for smokers to get healthy erections, as this is a function of the health of the circulatory system.

It’s also true that not all cannabis users are healthy. Part of the reason for this is because they smoke things (as mentioned above), but most of the reason is that cannabis is a medicine, and medicines are not typically used by healthy people. People who aren’t healthy also tend to be sexually dysfunctional, for obvious reasons, so there’s a clear reason to expect the presence of a link between the two.

However, the simple facts are that cannabis does not make people impotent. In fact, like so many of the things that people have come to believe about cannabis on account of the propaganda, the truth is closer to the opposite of what we have been told. In fact, cannabis is an aphrodisiac, and has been employed as such for a very long time.

Indeed, cannabis has been known to be an aphrodisiac for millennia. There are references to it in Ayurvedic folk medicine from 2,500 years ago, and its use as an aphrodisiac may be as much as 3,000 years old. The efficacy of cannabis for such purposes is well-known among young and free-thinking people today.

There are several reasons for this, as any hippie could tell you. Most of the reasons are psychological, the most obvious being one that cannabis shares with alcohol: it’s an anxiolytic. People are often too physically anxious and wound up to be able to make love, because their bodies are in fight mode, and so being touched releases cortisol instead of oxytocin.

Cannabis can change that by putting a person into a calmer, more relaxed mood. It can have the effect of stopping runaway, neurotic or aggressive thoughts and replacing them with more placid and appreciative feelings. Cannabis has the ability to get people into the right mood for sex, probably a combination of its anxiolytic effects and the increased physical sensitivity it offers.

Another psychological obstacle to enjoying the sexual experience is deep religious brainwashing in childhood. Many people have been deeply conditioned, since early childhood, to believe that sex was evil and that enjoying the sexual impulse was an act of evil. For some of these people, it’s no longer possible to enjoy having sex while in a normal state of mind.

Yet another common psychological obstacle is previous sexual trauma. Many women who have been sexually molested or raped have difficulty letting go of the trauma enough to trust a man in bed. Likewise, many men find it difficult to achieve the desired level of responsiveness on account of previous humiliations. These kinds of prior traumas often make it difficult for a person to properly enjoy having sex.

Cannabis can help overcome all of these obstacles, thanks to the deconditioning effect that it has on the mind. Because cannabis is good for breaking down old thought patterns, it can break down the conditioned emotional response that occurs when a person is exposed to a stimulus that reminds them of a previous trauma.

One reason why cannabis has become associated with psychosis is because it makes people more open and more willing to explore. This is also one of the reasons why cannabis does the opposite of making people impotent. Sometimes a person is closed off to the idea of intimacy, and not because of trauma or any of the above reasons, but from sheer natural boringness. Cannabis can be what’s needed to open such a person up.

Of course, all this is part of the reason why cannabis was banned in the first place. It’s the basis for the “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” comment that led to the prohibition of cannabis. The deconditioning effect of cannabis is a danger to those who benefit from the initial conditioning. Those brainwashers have a profound influence on our lawmakers.

Again, the correct approach must be one that maximises freedom while minimising new danger and risk. The apparent paradox that daily cannabis use can decrease sexual function, while occasional cannabis use can increase it, needs to be recognised. This can only become possible if our current dishonest approach to cannabis is replaced with an honest one.

From there, it will be possible to both get medical treatment for those who use too much cannabis, and to get medical treatment for those who have problems with impotency and who could benefit from cannabis. The humane thing to do would be to legalise it so that people can get the help they need, when they need it, without interference from the law.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: One Person Who Smoked Cannabis And Went Crazy Is Not A Pattern

If one talks to many prohibitionists, one argument that comes up over and over again is the argument from personal experience. They will tell a story about how they knew a person who was doing great, until one day they smoked cannabis and just went crazy. This article explain why this is not a legitimate reason to keep cannabis illegal.

It’s a familiar story by now. The straight-A student, the hard-working businessman or the devoted mother, all living amazing lives until they had a smoke of cannabis and then – boom, total mental collapse. It’s a story familiar to anyone who has seen the film Trainspotting, only it doesn’t really happen that way with cannabis.

It’s true that the use of cannabis often occurs at the same time that a person becomes a psychiatric casualty. Inevitably, however, further examination of the lives of these people show that things aren’t as simple as use cannabis, go crazy.

Psychosis isn’t normally something that just breaks out from nowhere. Usually it’s something that develops, quickly or slowly, over a period of time, during which the person becomes more and more agitated. In most cases when psychosis is preceded by cannabis use, there are multiple factors at play, in particular lack of sleep, anxiety, adrenaline and job, health or relationship stresses.

When a person hears about someone they know using cannabis and then having a psychiatric event, what they don’t also hear about is the surrounding life circumstances. Almost always, the supposedly “healthy” person was either starting to feel overwhelmed with the pressure and stress in their lives (which is what turned them to cannabis) or there was a pre-existing psychiatric condition that wasn’t known about and which was exacerbated by cannabis use.

More academically, it is said that the plural of anecdote is not data. Knowing that one person who had a psychotic break happened to have used cannabis at some point leading up to it is one thing. It is not, however, evidence that a wider pattern exists of perfectly healthy people using cannabis and then becoming psychotic.

Even more academically, arguing that cannabis should be illegal because you knew one person who smoked it and went crazy is an example of the fallacy of composition. This is a logical fallacy that states that something that is true of one member of a group (such as one cannabis user) is true of the entire group (all cannabis users).

In other words, even if was true that there was one person who did become psychotic purely on account of cannabis use and no other factor, it wouldn’t make it possible to generalise this experience onto all people who use cannabis. One example is just one example, and it requires many further such examples before one can conclude that using cannabis inevitably leads to psychosis.

However, it’s entirely possible that using cannabis can contribute to psychosis under certain circumstances.

The first common way is that it can bring up traumatic memories. A large number of people, perhaps even a majority, have some kind of suppressed memory. Usually this relates to an early childhood trauma, with violence and sexual assault being the most common. The percolating effect of cannabis on the thoughts can cause such repressed traumas to bubble to the surface, and often in contexts where the user is not prepared for them.

Many people have been forced to suppress these memories in order to have a chance at an ordinary life. So when they suddenly face them again, the stress of this can lead to an episode of mental disturbance. This is particularly true if the memory cannot easily be suppressed again.

The second common way is that it can bring the user into spiritual realms of thought that they may not be prepared for. As discussed at length elsewhere in this book, cannabis is a spiritual sacrament. The dangerous side of this is when people use it expecting a high, and instead find themselves confronted with deep existential or spiritual questions.

It’s normal for people to avoid thinking about the fact that they’re going to die one day. One of the most common ways to break this habit is to have a smoke of cannabis and find one’s mind drifting to unusual places. The deconditioning effect of cannabis can have a greatly beneficial effect on creativity, but push it too far and you can lose touch with the bonds tethering you to collective reality.

Neither of these common ways can be helped by making cannabis illegal. Pushing cannabis underground has only had the effect of making people unaware of the real psychological effects of the substance, and this lack of proper awareness has caused more damage than cannabis itself.

In any case, given the large numbers of people who do use cannabis in New Zealand, and the large numbers of mentally ill people in New Zealand, it’s not surprising for someone to know a person who is in both of these categories. If someone did know a person who used cannabis and later became mentally ill, that’s not indicative of a wider pattern.

Furthermore, this argument ignores all the people who use cannabis and don’t go crazy. If 11% of the population has used cannabis within the past 12 months, that’s a huge number of people. It means that the average person probably knows a couple of dozen cannabis users. If this is the case, then it’s notable that they only knew one person who seemed to have a psychotic episode linked with cannabis use.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: A Criminal Record is A Disproportionate Punishment

Cannabis possession or cultivation are currently crimes, which means that a criminal record is a common result from being arrested for a cannabis offence. Our justice system, however, is supposed to operate on the principle that “the punishment fits the crime”. This article will argue that getting a criminal record for anything to do with cannabis is grossly disproportionate, considering the severity of the crime.

Having a criminal record makes a person’s life a lot harder. Many employers will filter out applicants with criminal records before they even seriously consider them. This is true of almost every job that requires any real responsibility. This means that a future of poverty, or at least severely limited economic opportunities, is a common consequence of getting a criminal conviction.

Of course, having a criminal record is supposed to make people’s lives harder. A criminal is a person who has declared that they are unable or unwilling to abide by the rules of decent society, and it’s fair that they’re marked as such for the safety of other people. We’re not allowed to chop people’s hands off anymore, so there’s no other way to clearly mark a person as a member of the criminal class other than to give them a record.

The problem is that cannabis use isn’t a crime like a real crime is. Real crimes have victims. It’s fair that a criminal record marks a person who has acted with gross disregard or malice towards life and towards suffering. But a person who grew some medicinal cannabis plants has not shown any callousness or ill will. If anything, they should be rewarded for taking actions to alleviate suffering in the face of discouragement from the law.

Becoming unemployable because of a criminal record is one thing if you are a murderer, rapist or fraudster. In cases like these, it’s probably fair for the vast majority of employers to rule such people out from the beginning. But a person who used cannabis, even if they grew it, has not done anything to warrant being placed in the same class as those who have callously brought harm to others.

In any case, that’s not where the punishment ends. Most fair people can agree that it’s unnecessarily brutal for a person with a cannabis conviction to have trouble finding work for the rest of their lives, but it’s also extremely hard to travel with a criminal conviction. Many countries – Canada and America among the most notorious – regularly refuse to let people in if they have a criminal record, reasoning that they have failed to demonstrate sufficient good character.

These two punishments tie in with each other. Many jobs nowadays involve international travel, and this pattern looks set to continue as the world continues to globalise and integrate. This means that, in order to be able to perform an increasing number of jobs, one needs to be free to travel internationally. A person with a criminal conviction preventing them from travel is effectively disqualified from all of these jobs.

Forty years ago, when the War on Drugs was just ramping up, the sort of person who got a cannabis conviction probably wasn’t likely to travel overseas anyway. But in 2019, being restricted from overseas travel for life is a heavy punishment indeed.

It’s worth noting here that a criminal record also affects the wider family. An adult whose employment and travel opportunities are restricted will have trouble providing not only for themselves, but also for their families. So the children of people who grow up with cannabis convictions are also punished.

All of this constitutes obscene cruelty, especially when it is considered that cannabis is a medicine, and that most people who grow it do so to alleviate suffering.

It was once – falsely – believed that cannabis caused a lot of harm. When it was thought that cannabis was a dangerously addictive drug that destroyed peoples minds, then giving someone a criminal record for cannabis may have made some vague kind of sense. Now that we know that cannabis prohibition was built on false premises, it is apparent that giving someone a criminal record for dealing with it is unfair.

In this case, the correct thing to do is to formalise this state of affairs, and as soon as possible, by repealing cannabis prohibition. We can no longer, in good faith, argue that giving someone a criminal conviction is a punishment that fits the suffering caused by the supposed crime.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: Law Reform Would Bring Sense to Workplace Drug Testing

One of the worst things about cannabis prohibition is not that it gives people to opportunity to mistreat each other, but that it coerces them into doing so. The fact that cannabis is illegal means that people are essentially forced into taking particular measures when they come into contact with it. These measures often unfairly impact a number of people, which is another reason why the cannabis laws ought to be changed, as this article will examine.

Right now, in many places across the West, there is a common but extremely cruel phenomenon taking place. It is that of all of the people losing their jobs because of being forced to take a urine sample at work, and having it turn out positive for cannabis.

The logic goes like this. Many jobs, in particular those involving the operation of heavy machinery, cannot be performed safely by those under the influence of drugs. This goes for not only alcohol and cannabis but for many other substances. These jobs require a sober mind, because anyone not sober could easily kill themselves, someone else, or do millions of dollars worth of damage.

Fair enough. But because it’s not always possible to rely on a person to come to work sober, some insurance companies, as a condition of granting insurance, make it necessary for the company seeking insurance to perform drug tests on their employees so that they can remove the ones who are working under the influence of some drug, thereby making the workplace safer.

This is fair-ish, but where it truly crosses the line into unfairness is the fact that instead of testing for cannabis impairment, the urine tests test for the presence of certain metabolites that are present in the urine if the person has used cannabis at some point in the recent past, perhaps even 30 days (or more). So the urine test can only determine if you have used cannabis recently, not whether you’re impaired at the time of the test.

This means that “failing a drug test” has got little to do with whether or not your ability to do your job safely was impaired. Many people who get fired for failing a drug test are not even impaired at the time the test was taken. So a lot of people are getting discriminated against, unfairly, on account of cannabis use that probably isn’t even affecting their ability to perform their work duties safely.

In many cases, the employer is perfectly fine with this arrangement. Any employee who uses cannabis is more likely to be a freethinker and therefore disobedient, or more likely to demand a higher wage. A urine test that reveals both a tendency towards freethinking and evidence of having committed a crime is a perfect excuse to fire someone, but the option shouldn’t be available.

If cannabis became legal, some things would change with regards to this arrangement. Of course, cannabis law reform wouldn’t suddenly make it legal to go to work stoned. Every workplace would still be obliged to meet the same health and safety standards as before. The most likely difference is that it could become possible that any employer drug testing their staff was legally mandated to use swab tests to test for impairment, and not urine tests to test for the presence of metabolites indicating use within the past 30 days.

Generally employers prefer to do a urine sample because it’s cheaper, but if cannabis were legal, an employee might be able to bring a case for unfair dismissal to court if they were fired for the presence of metabolites in the urine. Such a case might well rule that, if cannabis is legal, such an action constitutes unfair dismissal, and therefore the employer is obliged to use a swab test to test for impairment instead.

It could be argued that employers would actually benefit from this policy as well. In the modern workplace, finding staff is harder than before on account of the increased need for training and education. If a person wants to work, there’s no reason why the fact that they smoked a bong two weeks ago should prevent them. The reality is that they’re probably safer than someone who is hungover.

It would be better for everyone for the law to change so that some sanity could be restored to the issue. If cannabis were legal, than the workplace standard would be a swab test for intoxication, not a urine test for the presence of metabolites. This would mean that it was possible to make a distinction between stoned people, who shouldn’t be in certain workplaces, and people who have used cannabis recently, who are no less safe than anyone else.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation Would Not Increase Rates of Cannabis Use

A common prohibitionist double-whammy is to argue that cannabis should remain illegal because, if it were made legal, people would use it more, and because its use is harmful, legalisation would therefore lead to more harm. This article will not argue whether cannabis is harmful (this is done elsewhere), but will simply summarise what the evidence suggests: that legalisation will not increase rates of cannabis use.

It seems intuitively obvious that making cannabis illegal lowers the rate of cannabis use. After all, the whole point of making it illegal was to make it harder to get, and if it were legal people would be able to buy it from shops.

Fair enough, but the statistics show a different story.

The truth is that cannabis cultivation is so common (believed to account for 1% of electricity consumption) that pretty much anyone who wants to get hold of it can, except for times of unusually high demand. This means that the cannabis market is already saturated – and this can be demonstrated with reference to real-world examples.

The most obvious counterpoint to the argument that legalising cannabis will increase rates of use is the fact that rates of cannabis use are not higher in places where it is legal.

In the Netherlands, 8% of the adult population has used cannabis at some point in the last 12 months. This rate is lower than in Australia (10.6%), where cannabis is illegal, and much lower than in New Zealand (14.6%), where cannabis is also illegal. In countries such as Israel and Ghana, the rate of cannabis use is higher still. Cannabis might not be technically legal in the Netherlands, but in practice anyone who wants to buy it from a shop can do so.

If legalising cannabis will inevitably cause rates of use to increase, how can it be possible that rates of use are lower in a place where it is legal, where getting supplied is as simple as walking into a shop? If the link between cannabis being legal and higher rates of cannabis use is so certain, we could expect to see higher usage rates in all the places where it is legal, and lower usage rates in all the places where it is illegal. In reality, any such correlation is hard to discern.

The truth is already known to anyone who has ever been to the Netherlands. Cannabis is easy to get hold of, yes, and the Police won’t harass you for it, that’s true, but the bulk of the population would rather drink alcohol anyway. Cannabis law reform didn’t turn a large number of non-drug users into cannabis users – a small number of alcohol users became cannabis users, and the rest stayed the same.

The absence of a correlation between the legal status of cannabis and the rate of use within a jurisdiction is not the only place that statistics disprove the idea that legalisation will lead to more cannabis use.

A poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health found that cannabis use rates declined among teenagers after legalisation, with rates of teenage use in Colorado lower than the American national average. Another study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, supports the idea that teenage cannabis use rates actually declined after it was made legal.

In fact, the latter study suggests that teen cannabis use rates declined in the majority of states that recently made cannabis legal. It may be, as some have suggested for decades, that the Government lying about the effects of cannabis and exaggerating its dangers was what led to many young people becoming attracted to it. Had there never been an unjust law prohibiting cannabis, it’s possible that the rebellious section of society would never have felt obliged to defy it.

At this point it could be countered that, even if teenage usage rates of cannabis go down, and even if this was the most important thing, adult rates of cannabis use might still increase if cannabis were legalised, and that this might lead to more harm. Leaving aside the fact that this argument has already been countered in the first part of this article, it doesn’t even apply here.

There is little doubt that some people will replace recreational alcohol use with recreational cannabis use if it were legal to do so. Technically, this would mean that the rate of cannabis use would increase, but the rate of recreational drug use would remain the same. Moreover, the rate of harm caused by recreational drug use would decrease if some people replaced boozing with cannabis, on account of that alcohol is more harmful.

Ultimately, the argument that cannabis legalisation would lead to more suffering through increased rates of cannabis use is in error, for multiple reasons. A review of the statistical data shows that cannabis use is not higher in places where it is legal, and also that rates of teen use have declined in American states that have made it legal.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: Prohibition Makes the Police Less Effective

Of all of the side-effects of cannabis prohibition, one of the most insidious is the suffering caused to the population by decreased bureaucratic and institutional effectiveness. This occurs across a range of Government agencies, but none as severely as the criminal justice system. As this article will examine, cannabis prohibition makes the Police less effective and less able to do their jobs properly.

A lot of successful Police work depends on input from the community, because the Police frequently rely on tips from people who know about crimes. Criminals aren’t always tight-lipped, and sometimes they talk about their crimes when they shouldn’t (especially to women). Many more crimes get solved as a result of someone who knew the perpetrator ratting them out than as a result of detectives finding clues with magnifying glasses.

This is why reports of crimes in the media frequently come with an appeal from Police to witnesses or anyone who knows the perpetrator to come forward. Realistically, this is the best that the Police can do in many cases. It’s easy to see, then, that policing depends on having good relations with the community, and a sense of mutual trust.

If cannabis is illegal, then any individual cannabis user is going to be very wary of the Police, and for good reason. They will be highly averse to having officers come to their house, and will be highly averse to making contact with the Police. After all, they are criminals themselves.

It’s easy to imagine this from the perspective of a cannabis user. Why would a cannabis user who has just witnessed a crime call the Police, when doing so greatly increases the risk that said cannabis user gets arrested themselves? If the Police want to talk to them, then the cannabis user is going to have to present themselves with no sign that they use cannabis, or risk getting arrested.

This makes the Police less effective because they can no longer rely on the voluntary co-operation of cannabis users. Prohibition shifts people who use cannabis from the set of potential Police allies to the set of Police opponents.

This also isn’t the only way that cannabis makes the Police less effective.

A British study showed that one million manhours of Police time was spent every year on enforcing cannabis prohibition. This accounts for all the arrests, all the time spent booking and processing people and the following up of tips. Adjusting for the size of the country, that suggests that somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 manhours are wasted in this manner every year in New Zealand.

The fact of the matter is that the general Police budget is limited, and the manhours used to enforce cannabis prohibition come out of that general Police budget. So 70,000 hours spent harassing people for cannabis is 70,000 hours not spent following up burglaries, assaults, thefts and the other petty crimes whose enforcement depends on general funding.

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, it emerged that shooter Branton Tarrant had never had his firearms licence checked by the Police. He had come to New Zealand with an Australian firearms licence and used that to purchase weaponry, and at no point was it ensured that he had his firearms safely locked away, or even that he was in a sound mind to own them.

This is not to argue that the Christchurch mosque shootings would have been prevented if cannabis was legal. The point is that Police effectiveness is a matter of correctly apportioning their limited manhours to enforcing the laws of New Zealand. Should they decide that a certain amount of spending is necessary to enforce cannabis prohibition, then they cannot escape the opportunity cost of not having the funding to fully enforce certain other areas.

Cannabis prohibition should be repealed for the sake of making the Police force more effective. Not only would this allow for a decrease in the mistrust held by sections of the population towards the Police, but it would also allow the Police to expend their resources more efficiently, by freeing up at least 70,000 manhours currently wasted on enforcing cannabis prohibition.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation Will Not Lead to A Black Market

One of the fears of those who are against cannabis law reform is that a legal system would lead to the growth of the black market in cannabis production. Therefore, it would be better to keep cannabis illegal. As this article will examine, this reasoning is based on at least two major errors.

The logic goes like this: it costs X amount of dollars to buy an ounce of cannabis – let’s say 300. Cannabis is likely to be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol, and alcohol taxes are reasonably hefty, so let’s assume at least a 20% sin tax on cannabis, plus 15% GST – this is already over $400 an ounce.

This could mean that legal cannabis will cause so much tax to be added to the cost of an ounce that black market operators will be able to undercut it. Since cannabis growing will not be cracked down on because of its new legal status, large numbers of people will be able to grow and to enter the black market at no risk.

This reasoning is false in two major ways.

The first is that is doesn’t account for economies of scale. On the black market – which is currently where all cannabis is sold – producing cannabis isn’t cheap. As mentioned elsewhere, home cannabis grows suck up as much as 1% of the electricity production of nations such as America and New Zealand. These are incredibly inefficient compared to warehouse grows.

Moreover, cannabis sold in a legal market, from dispensaries, would not carry the risk premium associated with a product sold on the black market. The risk premium is very high in the case of cannabis, because a lot of product gets intercepted by Police action before it ever gets sold, and the losses from this have to be balanced against finalised sales.

Taking both of these things into account, we can see that the production cost of legal cannabis, manufactured by the ton and distributed to pharmacies without interruption, is going to be a fraction of what it is currently. This means that it will be possible to put GST on it and a sin tax on top of that, and still sell cannabis for $200 an ounce, or less.

No black market producer could compete with this and still make enough of a profit for it to be worthwhile. So, if anything, legal cannabis would sooner wipe the black market out completely by undercutting it. This was a principle understood in Uruguay when they made cannabis legal in 2013 – they set the price of cannabis at $1 a gram.

The second major reason why we need not be concerned about a black market is because we have the capacity ourselves to more-or-less set the final cannabis price through taxation.

There are really two kinds of prohibition: hard prohibition and soft prohibition. What we have right now is hard prohibition, where the Police will physically smash anyone in possession of cannabis, or cultivating it. This is hard because it uses the full power of the state, and will go as far as killing you to enforce it, or putting you in a cage for several years. We are simply not allowed it and no correspondence will be entered into.

But making something legal, and then taxing it to the point where it’s almost impossible to afford, is a kind of prohibition. The New Zealand Government is currently employing soft prohibition of tobacco, in that it has been raising the tobacco taxes every year, with the stated intent of forcing tobacco cessation through making it unaffordable. This it believes is in the greater good.

Soft prohibition shares many of the drawbacks of hard prohibition. In the case of cannabis in New Zealand, we can see that black market tobacco has made a comeback, to the point where trade in it is believed to cost the New Zealand Government tens of millions is lost taxes every year. So we can see that high taxes on legal cannabis is a bad idea, if the black market is to be discouraged.

If cannabis legalisation was done intelligently – which is to say that it was done with an entirely different mindset to how prohibition has been done so far – we would set the level of taxation such that the transition to a legal cannabis market was a soft transition. In other words, we could calculate what the expected average production cost of an ounce of cannabis should be, account for profits, account for GST, and tax that total at a rate that would still allow it to beat the black market. This would achieve all major objectives at once.

Not only would cannabis law reform not lead to more cannabis being sold on the black market, but it would be the best thing to fight the black market. Cannabis law reform would allow legal sellers to undercut the black market through economies of scale and the removal of the risk premium, driving criminal gangs out of business.

*

This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.