The Case For Cannabis: The Criminal Justice System is Not A Treatment Pathway

Of all the terrible arguments made in favour of cannabis prohibition – and there are many – one of the worst is the argument that contends that cannabis prohibition is a good thing because some of the people that get involved in the criminal justice system are incentivised to stop using cannabis. This article will examine the flaws in this logic.

One of the saddest peasant attitudes remaining in our society is the idea that certain people just need a “good kick up the arse” to encourage them to function properly again. The idea seems to be that a “short, sharp shock” of physical abuse can be beneficial to drive dullness from a person’s mind. It’s an abusive attitude that is a remnant of a less enlightened time and, fortunately for the rest of us, it’s dying off.

This attitude finds expression in the idea that getting arrested on account of a cannabis offence could be a good thing, if that led to a person suddenly appreciating the consequences of cannabis use and changing their habits for the better.

There is an element of logic to this line of reasoning. After all, it’s common for young petty criminals to become afraid the first time they encounter some genuine heat from the Police, or the first time they do a custodial sentence and realise that prison isn’t a great deal of fun after all. This fear can, indeed, change behaviour.

But what this approach leaves out is two things.

The first is that many people simply don’t want to stop smoking cannabis, any more than they want to stop playing rugby or buying magazines with Harry and Meghan on the cover. You could instruct the Police to arrest people for playing rugby in the park, on the grounds that their behaviour was recklessly dangerous, but it wouldn’t make it the right thing to do or a good idea. Neither would it stop people from doing it.

Psychologically speaking, it’s hard to declare that you know how another adult should live their lives, and so much better than them, that you can fairly justify setting the Police on them if they don’t do what you say they should do. In another time and place, that degree of coercion would be recognised as slavery, and it’s no wonder that people naturally disobey the cannabis laws today.

So this means that deploying the Police to force people into getting medical treatment for using cannabis (as if that even made sense) will not be effective in the long term. People feel like they have the right to use cannabis, and they will continue to feel as if they have the right, because it’s natural to think it ridiculous that a medicinal plant could be illegal.

It’s possible that Police involvement in a person’s life might reduce their level of cannabis use, but so what? Punching someone in the face for eating a Big Mac might also inspire them to make healthier lifestyle decisions, but that doesn’t mean that the overall benefit of the action outweighs the overall harm.

The second is that there are cases of legitimate medicinal need, and encounters with the criminal justice system are not helpful in cases of medicinal need. Police officers are not qualified doctors and neither can they be. Having them as the first line of dealing with cannabis users makes as much sense as making the Army responsible for it.

The argument refuted in this article is usually made by people who are entirely unaware of the medicinal properties of cannabis. When they become aware of the medicinal properties of cannabis they tend to stop making it. Of course, if a substance really is medicinal then it ought to be something supplied by doctors and pharmacies; the Police should not be needed at any stage.

There may, indeed, be cases where there is a cannabis user who needs psychiatric intervention. After all, there are many instances in which certain strains of cannabis will not be helpful. A person who is acutely psychotic from sleep deprivation doesn’t need a honking high-THC strain that will wire them even tighter.

But even in cases like this, it’s not Police intervention that would be helpful, unless it comes as part of the Mental Health Act or similar and not as part of enforcing the law against the “crime” of cannabis. A person who has mentally disintegrated so far that they need psychiatric intervention is already in a kind of hell. The last thing they need is to encounter law enforcement.

The argument that cannabis users can be persuaded to get treatment for “cannabis abuse” by getting arrested, and then threatened with further attacks from the Justice system, is neither fair for rational. It would be better for cannabis to be made legal and destigmatised, so that people who did need treatment would be more likely to get it. Police involvement is unnecessary.

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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 Majority Now Want Reform

One of the strongest arguments for cannabis prohibition was that it was what the majority wanted. For better or for worse, we live in a democratic system, which means that the law ought to reflect the collective wisdom of the majority, and opinion polling in Western countries used to favour cannabis prohibition. As this article will examine, that is no longer the case.

It’s true that opinion polls used to favour prohibition. In 1969 only 13% of Americans believed that cannabis should be legal. Only 44% of Americans believed that cannabis should be legal as recently as 2009. By 2018, however, opinion polls now favour legalisation. 66% of Americans now support legal recreational cannabis along the lines of the Colorado model, and the trend line points sharply upwards.

If one goes back 100 years, most people thought that cannabis should be legal anyway, as its medicinal applications were obvious: cannabis prohibition is the experimental condition, and it has failed. So this sharp decrease in prohibitionist sentiment over recent years is really a return to the baseline condition of liberal cannabis sentiment.

The public did consent to the experiment with prohibition, this is true, but this was the result of a naive people believing the lies of politicians beholden to industries that saw cannabis as a competitor. Foremost among these were the timber, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Being the paid whores that they are, Western politicians happily told lies about how cannabis had no medicinal value and was a dangerous drug, because their sponsors profitted from it.

As a result of these decades of lies, the public has not been accurately informed. As a result of that, they could not make correct decisions. Because politicians have been lying to people for decades about cannabis, there has been a common perception about cannabis that has taken a lot of effort to correct. When the public are accurately informed, things are different.

If people are correctly informed about cannabis, with reference to science, evidence and reality, they almost always come down on the side of legalisation. There is simply no scientific evidence supporting any of the common arguments about cannabis causing violent murders, rapes and general madness. The mid-1990s repeal movement in California associated with Proposition 215 was possibly the first time that a proper public attempt to tell the truth about cannabis had ever been made, and in that instance they came down on the side of legalisation.

As mentioned above, a clear majority of Americans are now in favour of legal cannabis, and something similar can be observed in New Zealand. Although opinion polling about the upcoming cannabis referendum is rudimentary on account of that the actual referendum question is yet to be formulated, what little there is suggests that the pro-cannabis side is already ahead. Probably it will pull further ahead as more positive news comes in from American states that have legalised.

Other opinion polls, asking more specific questions, have returned similar results in New Zealand. A Drug Foundations survey conducted in July found that two-thirds of the country wanted some kind of change to the cannabis laws, although they were not given a clear distinction between legalisation and decriminalisation. It also found that the prohibitionist side was no longer winning the recreational cannabis debate.

The next generation of young people is heavily pro cannabis all over the West, as seen in Understanding New Zealand. McGlashan calculated that the correlation between being under 20 and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party was 0.41, whereas the correlation between being aged 65+ and voting for that party was -0.43. This means that the opponents to cannabis law reform are all dying off: after all, society advances one funeral at a time.

What this suggests is that the victory of cannabis law reform is inevitable. The fact is that the majority of anti-cannabis sentiment is held by brainwashed old people who are dying off. There is already a majority in favour of cannabis law reform everywhere, and this will only grow stronger as time progresses and old people who have been conditioned to hate cannabis users die.

Cannabis ought to be legal because a majority of people have now realised that the fears were grossly overblown and they want reform. Cannabis prohibition no longer has the support of the people, and support for it continues to fall. In a short number of years there will only be a remnant of cannabis prohibitionists left, and it might be better to put them out of their misery now.

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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: Cannabis Is An Established Crop

The War on Cannabis seems to be based on the idea that cannabis, if persecuted hard enough, could potentially be eradicated, so that no-one used it at all anymore. In reality, such a war is unwinnable, for a number of reasons. This essay will make the argument that cannabis ought to be legal on account of that it is an established crop.

One of the reasons why cannabis prohibition was doomed to failure was because cannabis has been used by people all around the world for thousands of years. Despite the best efforts of prohibitionists to eradicate all knowledge of cannabis cultivation and use, people remain aware of its medicinal properties. Cannabis has been illegal for almost a century, but its medical uses are reflections of the natural world, because the calming, soporific and therapeutic effects are universal to humans.

For this reason, demand will always exist for cannabis, no matter what the law says. Whether by underground chemists, criminals, shamans, botanical scientists, insomnia and nausea sufferers or simply by the curious, cannabis culture has been kept alive despite the massive efforts to eradicate it. It’s likely that it always will stay alive, on account of that there are so many people who think so positively of the drug.

Evidence that cannabis is an established crop can be seen from the vast number of popular cultural references to it. Films like Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and Pineapple Express base their entire plotlines around the audience understanding cannabis and how it works, and that’s without even mentioning Cheech and Chong. There are entire genres of music called things like “stoner rock” or “stoner metal”, and literary references to cannabis or its effects are legion.

This establishment is a physical fact as well as a cultural one. All around the country there is wild cannabis growing, and there are millions of seeds in possession of private growers, who are just waiting for the Government to get out of the way. In every town and city there are rings of people who share seeds, clones and buds. Hundreds of thousands of people have a medical condition that might be alleviated by cannabis, and tens of thousands of them are aware of the benefits of cannabis and are trying to inform the others.

This demand survived prohibition; it will always be there.

Perhaps the best way of measuring this demand is by measuring the size of the cannabis market. Most people in New Zealand don’t understand how big the cannabis market is. Last year, Colorado made $1,500 million worth of cannabis sales to a population roughly the same size as New Zealand, roughly $300 per person per year. Considering that this is after 90 years of adverse propaganda – in other words, 90 years of strong abnormalisation of cannabis use – $1.5 billion is a lot of money.

Even without sentiment, in the cold hard light of pure commerce, the argument exists for cannabis to be treated as a major industry simply on account of its size. If the industry is worth billions then it deserves a place at the table alongside other industries of similar size. There ought to be Members of Parliament willing to argue the corner of the cannabis industry, and the consumers served by that industry, like there are for the racing, alcohol, tobacco industries, among others.

Fighting cannabis, and trying to eradicate it from popular culture by means of prohibition, makes as much sense as fighting potatoes. All over the world it’s possible to find cannabis enthusiasts who are devoted to the promulgation of their chosen plant and the culture around it. None of these enthusiasts can understand cannabis prohibition – making a plant illegal is insane, however you look at it. They will keep cannabis culture going.

Ultimately, the desire of the people to use cannabis for recreation and for medicine has proven itself stronger than the ability of the ruling class to successfully bullshit the rest of the population into accepting prohibition. Use of the plant is so deeply entrenched in culture worldwide that attempts to get rid of it are futile. Cannabis is here to stay, and the law ought to reflect this.

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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: People Have A Right to Freedom

All of us take for granted that we are a free people, that we are not slaves and so have the right to autonomy and self-determination. The problem with this line of thinking is that is doesn’t survive scrutiny, especially once one asks why we’re not allowed to grow or to use cannabis. This article argues that cannabis ought to be legal for the reason that we are supposed to be a free people.

History shows that the ruling class and the masses are always in conflict over what freedoms that masses are allowed to exercise. Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones satirised the cruelty of the medival ruling class by having a peasant sentenced to death for “whistling on a Tuesday”. Although facing the court system for whistling on the wrong day might sound arbitrary, the fact is that it’s no more so than cannabis prohibition.

A person does not have to be a libertarian to agree that it is the individual that ultimately has the right to decide what goes into their body. If that person’s body is their own private property, then it is that person who decides what goes into it and what doesn’t. If that person’s body is not their own private property, then whose property is it? If the answer is not their own, then they are a slave.

It doesn’t matter if the answer is “the nation” or “the community” because the individual has no way of knowing if the people who claim to be making decisions on behalf of these entities actually are. The vast majority of people can agree that conscription is immoral because it is effectively the Government stating that they own your body, even if you object. If the Government owning your body is immoral in that instance, it is so in other instances.

The argument for freedom is essentially an argument against slavery. What we now call chattel slavery is when the will of a person is entirely subjected to and subjugated by the will of another. If you are a slave, then that other person decides what goes into your body and what does not. This state of subjugation is considered so inhumanly cruel that it is now illegal anywhere that has pretensions to be civilised.

We are forced to ask ourselves, however: is not the prohibition of cannabis, such that if a person presumes to be free enough to grow a cannabis plant in a bucket of dirt then they go to prison for years, in the same category of brutal and unjustified control of another person as chattel slavery?

If we can all agree that freedom entails the right to grow and consume medicinal plants, particularly when neither activity causes harm to anyone, then on what grounds does the Government believe that it has the right to restrict this freedom?

Freedom means freedom. Freedom doesn’t mean “You’re free to do what you like except for things on this list of arbitrary and inhumane restrictions, because if you do anything on this list you go in a cage”.

From the perspective of a cannabis enthusiast, the law prohibiting cannabis is immensely frustrating. It is immensely frustrating to desire cannabis but to not be able to use it, because some idiots in Parliament decided that they had the right to decide what goes into your body and not you. This frustration leads to a deep sense of humiliation – sometimes it seems like the main reason for cannabis prohibition is just to rub our faces in it.

Without freedom, depression, low self-esteem and despair follow naturally. It’s only natural to lose the will to live when politicians are the ones that decide what goes into your body, because this is a form of authoritarianism, which doesn’t work for everyone. The natural place for authoritarian conduct is between master and slave, or between farmer and livestock – it’s not natural for humans to conduct relations between each other on such a level, and the more educated and sophisticated a people are, the less well it works.

There might have been a place for authoritarianism in drug policy a century ago, back when the vast majority of people were illiterate and incapable of rationally forming their own opinions. In such a primitive state, people could not have been expected to handle the complexity of the cannabis issue, and therefore could not have been expected to think rationally about it.

In 2018, people can simply go on the Internet to find as much information about cannabis as they like. We’re able to research the medicinal effects of cannabis, and we’re able to research the consequences of legalising cannabis in other places. Every one of us has access to a hundred times more information about cannabis than even Government ministers had as little as ten years ago. We all know that legal restrictions in this area are unreasonable.

Ultimately, cannabis should be legal for people to use because people have the right to be free. There is no higher authority than the individual when it comes to deciding what can and what cannot go into the body of that individual. This means that the law prohibiting this ought to be repealed on the grounds that it is immoral and an unreasonable restriction of our natural right to freedom.

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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.

One Year of Rule by the Left Wing of the Capitalist Party: A Retrospective

The Labour faction of the Capitalist Party came to power at the end of 2017, taking over from the National faction of the Capitalist Party after that year’s general election. Even though everyone knew that the Capitalist Party would still be in charge, many believed that the ascendancy of the Labour faction would mean a new deal for the beleaguered Kiwi population. As this essay will recount, they proceeded to piss in the faces of the New Zealand working class in at least four major ways.

Despite a promise to not sign the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Labour Government did so to much fanfare on the 9th March. Thousands of people marched against the TPPA in 2016, in New Zealand’s largest protests in recent years. Then Labour Leader Andrew Little was quoted at the time as saying that “Labour was opposed to the TPPA because compromises to New Zealand’s sovereignty were not justified by the ‘meagre economic gains’.”

Most people in the New Zealand working class oppose such trade agreements because neoliberalism makes it easier for capital to bid down their wages. The Capitalist Party, on the other hand, represents major moneyed interests, and they welcome such trade agreements because they shift the power equation even further away from labour and even further towards capital. Therefore, the Labour wing of the Capitalist Party is happy to see the wages of New Zealand workers fall, and they happily pissed in the faces of Kiwi workers by signing the TPPA.

Related to this betrayal was a second face-pissing, when the Labour Government raised the refugee quota to 1,500. It’s well known that these people won’t be dumped in neighbourhoods where the rich live. The sex, violence and property crimes that they bring in their wake will not affect the wealthy, who live far away from the ghettos. It is the working-class suburbs that will be forced to absorb these human crime waves, not the rich suburbs in which Labour and Green Party MPs live.

Those wealthy will, however, benefit from the downward pressure that refugees have on wages. The greater the national pool of cheap labour, the lower wages will fall, therefore the more profitable local capitalist enterprises become. If the Labour Party represented the working class, they would not have raised the refugee quota – this would have had the effect of restricting the inflow of cheap labour and thereby creating upward pressure on wages.

The lying about legalising medicinal cannabis comprises the third major display of disrespect on the part of the Labour Party towards the New Zealand working class over the past year. Poor people in New Zealand are desperate for a substance that can help ease the pain of living in this failed society, but which doesn’t have the terrible side-effects of alcohol or opiates. The Labour Party have refused to budge so much as an inch on this issue, acceding only to allowing people who are dying an extra defence in court against a cannabis possession charge.

Although a clear majority of New Zealanders want some kind of cannabis law reform, and although outlets like VJM Publishing have been arguing in favour of cannabis law reform for years (most seriously from 2012, with the publication of our Cannabis Activist’s Handbook), the Labour Party had eight MPs that voted against Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill, which would have allowed sick Kiwis to grow a medicine at home.

A fourth face-pissing, delivered today, was Labour’s plan to ban vaping. Predictably, the person pushing it – Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa – was one of the eight backstabbing scum in the Labour caucus who voted against Swarbrick’s bill. It seems that authoritarianism against working class practices are entirely acceptable for the Labour Party.

The reason for the vaping ban is not because of health reasons – vaping has led to many people, particularly working-class people, quitting tobacco smoking. The reason for it is that there is no national vape juice producers’ or vape manufacturers’ association to bribe the Capitalist Party, therefore the interests of the tobacco manufacturers come foremost. Unless you are in control of a large amount of money, the New Zealand Capitalist Party will not pass laws in your favour, and will be more than happy to pass laws to your disfavour if a large moneyed interest tells them to.

All this amounts to a lot of disrespect shown by the Labour Party towards New Zealand’s working class. The way that one can tell that the Labour Party is nothing more than the major left-wing faction of the Capitalist Party is because they have not acted in the favour of the New Zealand working class over their one year in charge. New Zealand’s capitalist class, on the other hand, have benefit greatly from the TPPA, from the cheap labour of “refugees”, and from retarding cannabis law reform and prohibiting vaping for the sake of of their investments in alcohol producers and pharmaceutical companies.

In summary, the past year of rule by the left wing of the Capitalist Party has gone much like the preceding nine years of rule by the right wing of the Capitalist Party. The Labour Party has, in the vast bulk of instances, taken measures that benefit wealthy capitalist interests at the expense of the New Zealand population, in particular the local working class.

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

The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Does Not Cause Schizophrenia

One of the most common pieces of folk wisdom regarding cannabis is that it causes schizophrenia. For some reason, the one thing that every muggle seems to know about cannabis is that, if you smoke too much of it, you go crazy. Like almost everything else that muggles think they know about cannabis, this factoid is bollocks, as this examination will show.

The reason why it is commonly believed that cannabis causes schizophrenia is because of the large number of schizophrenics who smoke cannabis. It is believed that up to 25% of schizophrenics have a “cannabis use disorder”, and there is certainly a strong association between the two, but it isn’t because cannabis causes psychosis.

Most schizophrenics could have told you many years ago (as we did in the Cannabis Activist’s Handbook) that cannabis is medicinal for people with mental illnesses. There is currently much interest in the use of CBD (cannabidiol) medicine in the treatment of psychosis. This is also mentioned here. A Schizophrenia Bulletin article stated that “Interest in the therapeutic potential of CBD stemmed from evidence that it has broadly opposite effects to that of THC.”

The most recent evidence suggests that cannabidiol has the opposite effect of THC in many ways. CBD appears to reduce positive symptoms (e.g. hallucinations) in schizophrenics, which again testifies to its medicinal qualities. It doesn’t cause them – indeed, “even high doses of oral CBD do not cause psychological, psychomotor, cognitive, or physical effects that are characteristic for THC.”

This recent research suggests that some of the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, particularly CBD, have a calming and soothing effect. This effect is not necessarily limited to people with mental illnesses, but for people with mental illnesses this calming and soothing effect is certainly medicinal. Once the medicinal benefits of CBD are understood, it becomes obvious that much of the reason for the association between psychosis and cannabis is because psychotics find that ingesting the CBD in cannabis alleviates some of the suffering that comes with psychosis.

This study found that it was much more likely that predictors of schizophrenia led to cannabis use than that cannabis use led to schizophrenia; in other words, underlying factors that tended to cause schizophrenia also tended to cause cannabis use. Of some interest is that schizophrenia itself is a predictor of future cannabis use, which supports the idea that the nature of the suffering caused by the condition happens to be alleviated by cannabis. Indeed, cannabis use itself is a heritable trait.

Supporting this was a study that found that “cannabis use was genetically correlated with a wide range of behaviors and personality traits, such as alcohol use and dependence, increased risk taking, and decreased conscientiousness, as well as a variety of mental health disorders.”

So there is mounting evidence that underlying psychological factors explain much of the cannabis-psychosis connection. It’s known that genes heavily influence many personality traits, such as openness and degree of neophilia/neophobia, and it’s likely that such qualities lead naturally to both schizophrenia and to cannabis use. Personality characteristics that correlate with developing schizophrenia also correlate with future cannabis use.

Yet another study found that executive function in schizophrenics was superior if they were cannabis users. Examples of executive function are problem solving, working memory and cognitive flexibility. This ties in with the argument, made at length elsewhere (such as here), that the use of cannabis keeps the mind young and plastic. This may be especially true in the case of schizophrenics because of possible neurodegenerative effects of schizophrenia.

Many schizophrenics are able to tell you that cannabis grants the ability to set aside certain recurring thought patterns, particularly those of the brooding or obsessive variety. It is often possible to get stuck in thought loops and ruminate if one does not have a substance that facilitates novel and original thought patterns. Something about the nature of schizophrenia makes brooding and obsessive thoughts more likely, and so it’s apparent that a substance with the effects mentioned in the studies above will be of benefit to schizophrenics, and that this will cause them to use it more.

So the reality is that cannabis does not cause schizophrenia, but that factors associated with schizophrenia are also associated with cannabis use, and these underlying reasons are why schizophrenics use so much cannabis. In particular, a certain kind of mind has qualities that make then prone to both developing a cannabis habit and developing schizophrenia. We can guess at what some of these qualities are: no doubt openness and creativity are at the forefront, as is an early childhood marked by abuse and neglect.

Most crucially, it’s now more apparent than ever that cannabidiol is highly medicinal for people with schizophrenia. This is the main reason for the association between schizophrenia and cannabis use – using cannabis brings relief from the suffering that comes with conditions like schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia have long known this, which is why they continue to use it at high rates despite intense discouragement from doctors and politicians.

Not only is the argument that cannabis causes schizophrenia false, but the opposite is true. Elements of the cannabis plant act as anti-psychotics that alleviate the symptoms of psychotic disorders. Cannabis should be made legal so that those who benefit from the anxiolytic and antipsychotic properties of, e.g., cannabidiol, can get access to it for the sake of alleviating the suffering associated with their condition. This is especially true for schizophrenics, who seem to benefit greatly from CBD medicine.

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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.

Bob McCoskrie Is An Absolute Fuckwit

Giving Bob McCoskrie a national platform to rant about “dope” and “Big Marijuana” is like giving your granddad a national platform to rant about Islanders after he’s had a few sherries on Boxing Day. Stuff did it anyway. This column will have a look at McCoskrie’s screed of fuckwittery, with the intent of responding to his shamelessly dishonest rhetoric with some facts.

One can guess from the title of the article (“Legalised dope is a licence for Big Marijuana to exploit young people”) that it is going to be crudely dismissive of the wishes of the New Zealand cannabis community. To have an article with the word “dope” in the headline is like publishing an anti-immigration opinion piece that had the word “niggers” in the headline. He has blatantly chosen the most inflammatory possible term to describe cannabis, one that associates cannabis use with brain damage.

In this piece, McCoskrie recounts his observations from a recent trip to Colorado, one that he undertook to “see first-hand the effects of legalising marijuana”.

His second paragraph mentions “a money-making industry of lobbyists and special interest groups putting profits over evidence-based policy protecting public health and safety, and ready to flout and challenge any regulations,” with the implication that this describes the industrial cannabis lobby, but this description more aptly fits the alcohol and timber industry lobbyists who agitated to make cannabis illegal in the first place.

McCoskrie gets hysterical about the high THC content of the cannabis products he spies in the Colorado “dope shops”, but the facts are that a high THC product actually makes the product safer. Like the fuckwit he is, McCoskrie is thinking about THC as if it was alcohol, so that a high-THC cannabis edible is somehow functionally equivalent to an absinthe or similar.

No-one has ever died of a THC overdose, so comparing it to high-proof alcohol is nonsense. Unlike alcohol, which kills people in New Zealand every weekend, cannabis doesn’t kill anyone. The most dangerous thing about cannabis is probably the long-term effects of regularly smoking it – and these are completely avoided by the edibles and vaporises that McCoskrie rants about. In other words, what he is railing against are the signs of people using cannabis more safely and responsibly to minimise harm.

Some of the paragraphs in this article are “Old man yells at cloud” level, and the reader can’t help but to wonder if McCoskrie has some kind of senile dementia that has caused him to see things that aren’t there. He decries people in Colorado “popping a handful of Gummi Bears containing 10 times the legal limit of THC per serving,” but there is no legal limit of THC per serving, any more than there is a legal limit of caffeine per serving. The sentence is simply nonsense.

McCoskrie is so hysterical that at some points in his screed he becomes completely detached from reality. The worst example is when he cites the existence of cannabis suppositories as proof that cannabis producers are deliberately targeting their product at the young. In fact, the vast majority of people who use cannabis suppositories are elderly ones who cannot use other route of administration because of the complications of old age. Perhaps McCoskrie should have tried a few while he was over there?

It’s noteworthy that at no point in his travels through Colorado did McCoskrie see anything untoward happen on account of cannabis legalisation. He talks about the terrible panoply of cannabis-related products as if it were Weimar Republic pimps selling children on a Berlin street, but can’t recall seeing any notable level of crime in Colorado or any homelessness in the streets, or any sign of social decay. This is striking, considering that the state legalised cannabis four years ago, which is easily enough time for anything of that nature to have occurred. McCoskrie is just a wowser.

No anti-cannabis rant would be complete without employing the slippery slope fallacy, and McCoskrie duly gives us the line “they will want legalisation not just of this drug but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P”. By this he somehow draws a connection between people who want access to medicinal cannabis and people who go on methamphetamine benders, when the two people could hardly be more different.

It’s exactly this kind of rhetoric conflating people who need medicinal cannabis with reckless criminals that fuels the War on Drugs, which means that McCoskrie must share some blame for the suffering caused by cannabis prohibition. It’s because of people like him that people like Helen Kelly have to suffer needlessly as they die.

Predictably, McCoskrie gets savaged in the comments below the article. What he is writing might have been considered mainstream conservatism 40 years ago, but now it goes down about as well as other conservative ideas from 40 years ago, like whipping up hysteria about white people and Maoris sleeping with each other. It’s apparent from reading this article that McCoskrie doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about, and is panicking for no good reason.

The only thing this piece can be compared to is a sermon by a Third World religious fundamentalist, who has travelled to the West and seen dancing and intermingling between unmarried youths and shit their pants. McCoskrie is a religious fundamentalist – his Family First lobby group want to recriminalise prostitution and further restrict alcohol. Essentially, they are theocrats, and McCoskrie wants to prohibit cannabis for the same reason that the rulers of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia do.

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

The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Is Not A Gateway Drug

A common argument for cannabis prohibition asserts that cannabis is a gateway drug, in that using it inevitably leads people to using harder and harder drugs. The idea is that we need to keep cannabis illegal so as to keep people off the pathway that leads people onto truly destructive substances. As this article will examine, there is a modicum of truth to the gateway effect, but not in the way it’s usually presented.

The usual way that the gateway drug theory is portrayed is as follows. An individual tries cannabis for the first time, and experiences a cannabis high. This is a pleasurable sense of peace and euphoria that the user decides they want to have again. So they try cannabis again, and have a good time again. So they use it some more, and soon find that they need more and more of it to get the same level of hit.

Eventually the user is addicted to cannabis. After a while, cannabis is no longer able to do the job. At this point the drug user naturally comes to seek out harder drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, in the hope of getting a chance to relive the original amazing high that cannabis gave them. For some reason, the idea that cannabis use leads to heroin use is particularly prevalent in some circles, especially among the elderly (which reveals that the genesis of the gateway drug theory is in old-fashioned superstition).

The logic is that cannabis prohibition should prevent people from getting exposed to that initial cannabis high, by way of making the substance harder to get hold of. The harder it is to get hold of, the fewer people get addicted, and so the fewer people who seek out really hard and destructive drugs. Therefore, cannabis prohibition protects people from the harmful effects of, for example, methamphetamine or heroin addiction.

The reality is that the gateway effect is a phenomenon that is caused entirely by cannabis prohibition, and which would mostly disappear if there was cannabis law reform, except for in the case of people who have a deathwish.

Many drugs are illegal. Of those, cannabis is particularly badly suited to serving as a contraband substance. It has a strong smell, is bulky and doesn’t generate much raw profit if one considers how much time and expense goes into cultivating, transporting and storing it. Most other contraband substances are much easier to deal with and more profitable, especially those of the powdery kind.

For this reason, many unscrupulous cannabis dealers use cannabis as a kind of lure, by which customers can be induced to buy more profitable (and/or addictive) substances. It’s common in New Zealand for cannabis dealers to suddenly “run out” of cannabis when a particular customer comes around, only to offer a hit of methamphetamine by way of compensation. If the customer decides that they do like it (and this is very common), the dealer is right there to sell them a point bag.

When the would-be cannabis user is then hooked on methamphetamine, they are much more profitable than they would have been if the only other option was to sell them an ounce of weed every two weeks or so. A person who is into methamphetamine is able to burn through thousands of dollars in a week. A dealer can potentially make twenty times as much money selling methamphetamine to a person than they could selling cannabis.

So the idea that cannabis is a gateway drug is untrue. There is such a thing as the gateway effect, but this only exists because of prohibition, in particular because of the opportunity that prohibition creates for drug dealers to get naive cannabis-seeking customers hooked on harder drugs. Far from being a gateway drug which leads to people recklessly doing coke, crack, meth, smack and anything else they can find in search of a buzz, cannabis has shown promise as an exit drug for conditions like heroin addiction and even alcoholism.

If cannabis was legal, people who want to use it could simply go to a cannabis cafe or cannabis store, buy their sativa or indica as desired, and then go home without being exposed to methamphetamine or heroin or anything else. A clerk at a cannabis store is no more likely to offer the customers methamphetamine than a bartender would. After all, they already have a steady and secure income through selling a legal drug to a set market, so why would they want to screw that up?

The truth is that cannabis prohibition forces people into the arms of criminals. This is the true causal origin of the gateway effect. Repealing cannabis prohibition would mean that the people who want to buy cannabis don’t need to encounter criminals in order to so, and consequently never get exposed to a dealer offering to sell them a truly destructive drug.

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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 Raises Prices But Also Raises Incentive to Supply

One of the most common arguments for cannabis prohibition is a microeconomic one. The idea is that making cannabis illegal makes it more expensive, which means less people can afford to use it, which means the harmful effects of cannabis use are minimised. The logic is that people won’t be able to afford to harm themselves. As this article will show, this argument, common though it is, is mistaken.

If one assumes that cannabis use is inherently harmful, then one appears to have a clear-cut case for reducing the amount of suffering in the world by making it illegal (that cannabis is not inherently harmful is another argument, and will not be considered here). Making it illegal means that only the black market is able to supply it, which means that the end user has to pay a risk premium that takes into account the cost of Police harassment of the cannabis grower, and the inefficiencies that this harassment introduces into the growing process.

This risk premium makes cannabis more expensive, because the end user has to pay for all of the product confiscated by Police, or stolen by other criminal actors, or which was never grown because the size of the grow room was limited by the need to keep it clandestine. All of these factors serve to drive the price of cannabis up, which – according to the law of supply and demand – serves to reduce cannabis use.

The mathematics checks out. However, the core economic argument that cannabis prohibition reduces harm by disincentivising people from buying cannabis falls down, for a number of reasons.

It is true that prices fall sharply when cannabis becomes legal. The average price of an ounce in Colorado is NZD259, which means that it has fallen almost by half since legalisation took place. Websites that track the price of cannabis across various American states show that the price has fallen as low as NZD100 an ounce in places like Washington, where it is both legal and where the ability to supply is relatively unconstrained.

It isn’t true that this fall in prices leads to more use. Surveys in Washington have found that teen rates of cannabis use remained the same after cannabis legalisation. It is also noteworthy that teen rates of cannabis use in Holland are unremarkable in any sense. These surveys reveal that cannabis prohibition does not deter use.

In any case, the most important question to be asked about the high prices of cannabis caused by prohibition is this: who is getting all the money? In the same way that alcohol prohibition made Al Capone and his fellow Chicago gangsters rich, so too does cannabis prohibition funnel consumer wealth into the hands of the black market. This inevitably means criminal gangs, most of whom are deeply unpleasant people who are using the money to fund enterprises that genuinely do cause mass human suffering.

Once criminal gangs start getting involved in the cannabis trade, it means that there is going to be a lot more violence than if they weren’t involved. The black market means fighting for drug turf, which means intimidating other members of the black market away from certain territories through violence and the threat of violence. It means murders, kidnappings, gun violence, and all manner of other low-rent behaviours that lower everyone’s quality of life.

High cannabis prices incentivise all of this. The higher the cannabis prices are, the stronger the pull of the black market for cannabis on the various shady operators out there. Not only that, but the higher the stakes, the more ruthlessly people are willing to behave in order to secure a share of the profits. No-one is going to kill anyone else over the right to sell cannabis for $75 an ounce.

So the fact is that, in the final analysis, the economic equation balances out. The higher the price of cannabis, the lower the demand, true – but the higher the price, the higher the incentive to get into the black market opportunities for cannabis. If you are a criminal, and you don’t want to work, then growing some cannabis to sell to 15-year olds at $400 an ounce seems like an attractive proposition. If those 15-year olds are happy to wait until they’re 18 to buy it legally at $150 an ounce, well then you’re shit out of luck.

Cheap, legal cannabis would take a large slice of the black market, and render all criminal action in that slice uneconomic. This has several advantages, the foremost of which is that criminals can’t make as much money out of cannabis as before and therefore do not dominate the market. Another advantage is that people will be consuming a much higher grade of cannabis once it’s grown by professional horticulturalists and not gang members, and they will be able to do so more safely.

Cannabis ought to be made legal in order to disincentivise criminal actors from moving into the black market for it. Cheap, mass-produced, high-quality cannabis will take away the profit from what is currently a black market enterprise, which will have the effect of removing most of the criminal element from the cannabis trade. This will have the overall effect of reducing crime and suffering, because the criminal element causes more suffering than is prevented by cannabis being too expensive for some people to harm themselves with.

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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: Cannabis Does Not Lead to Crime

One of the reasons offered by prohibitionists for keeping cannabis illegal is that that cannabis leads to crime, by way of some quality inherent to itself. This is a favourite reason trotted out by people whose livelihoods are dependent on government funding for cannabis prohibition, people who are often pigs at the trough in more than one sense. The truth is not only that cannabis is not criminogenic by itself, but that cannabis prohibition is what has caused criminal behaviour to become related to the substance.

One common line of horseshit that people often hear with regard to cannabis use is that it warps people’s brains and makes them impulsive, and thereby criminal. By means of some nebulous kind of brain damage, people who use cannabis lose their ability to control their own inner malice and naturally come to start abusing themselves and other people, both mentally and physically. They come to commit crimes of opportunity when they would normally have resisted the impulse to do so.

Another stupidity is that cannabis addiction leads to stealing to service the cost of the addiction. Confusing cannabis users with the worst kind of crack or heroin user, this stereotype has it that legal cannabis would lead to a large number of people becoming addicted to it and then stealing from other people to get the money to buy more cannabis. Ignoring the fact that finding a dealer who has a proper supply is many times harder than getting enough money to buy the weed in the first place, this idea suggests that prohibition is good because it leads to fewer burglaries and muggings.

The fact is that neither of these glib just-so stories is true.

There is indeed, a link between cannabis and crime, and it comes from the criminal associations that have to be made in order to maintain a cannabis supply. Because cannabis is illegal, the only people that can supply it regularly are professional criminals. So a person who has a need for medicinal cannabis has to deal with professional criminals on account of that they are forbidden by law to deal with a pharmacist.

It is true that, when a person who needs a regular supply of medicinal cannabis comes into contact with a professional criminal, this can lead to crime. What is also true is that this criminogenic effect is a consequence of cannabis prohibition, and has nothing to do with the nature of cannabis itself. The professional criminal might expose the cannabis user to other drugs, or to illegal firearms, or to stolen goods, or even to blackmail. This is a result of the fact that only criminals deal in cannabis when it’s illegal.

Cannabis doesn’t make people stab and rob other people by itself. Going without cannabis, much like going without other psychiatric medicines, mostly just puts people in shitty moods and carries a risk of psychosis. But if you’re the sort of person that does stab and rob people, then its almost a certainty that either you are involved with cannabis or that you move in the same circles as someone who does.

So it’s true that there is an association between cannabis and crime. But this association can be explained by the fact that both are illegal, rather than that involvement with cannabis inherently causes criminal conduct. In places where cannabis is legal, as it (sort of) has been in the Netherlands for some decades now, people who want small amounts of cannabis – even if they want it regularly – can get it without coming into contact with the criminal underworld.

As a result, cannabis does not lead to exposure to harmful criminal activity in places where cannabis is legal at the same rate as it does in places where it is illegal.

Because of all this, we can state that the truth is really close to the opposite of what’s commonly said. A Forbes article from earlier this year showed that crime had fallen in Mexican states that border America, on account of that cannabis law reform had taken the cannabis trade away from the black market. Homicides related to the drug trade were believed to have fallen 41% because of cannabis law reform, as incidents of turf wars over illegal cannabis sales essentially vanished.

These statistics reveal a couple of things. Not only does cannabis not inherently lead to crime, but cannabis prohibition itself inherently leads to crime. Prohibiting cannabis is to move it onto the black market, which is to ensure that organised crime will fight over territory and distribution profits. Once there are large, black market profits to be made in the trade of an illicit substance, ensuing violence is all but guaranteed.

The laws against cannabis prohibition can only be supported if a person understands nothing of the crime wave that followed in the wake of alcohol prohibition. Cannabis prohibition takes all the legitimate demand for the substance – and the demand for it is legitimate, not “drug addiction” – then gifts all of that demand to the black market, who are the only people willing to supply it. This means that it’s prohibition itself that causes the crime that is associated with cannabis, and not the cannabis itself.

Cannabis law reform is necessary so that people who want to engage in the cannabis trade are not exposed to the criminal underworld. This will reduce crime rates by keeping citizens who would otherwise be law-abiding away from the sort of professional criminal who might take advantage of them, or who might bring their criminal influence into other areas of the cannabis user’s life.

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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.