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.

The Case For Cannabis: Cannabis Meets the Industrial Needs of This Century

For better or worse, humans will always use drugs to help them cope with the demands placed on them by the daily need to survive. Whether to help focus, relax, kill pain or to see beyond, people will always find reasons to want to change their perceptions so as to best meet the demands placed on them. This article will argue that cannabis law reform is superior to prohibition when it comes to meeting the industrial demands of our time.

During the Age of Exploration, the drug of choice was alcohol, usually rum in particular. Rum had a high alcohol volume and was easy to keep. For men spending months or years at sea in ships, rum offered the best bang for the buck. Wherever European sailors took harbour, the rum trade followed. Names like Port Royal and Kororareka became synonymous with drunken debauchery and destruction.

In the first half of the 20th century, we ran out of places to explore and started killing each other over what had been discovered. This required a combination of drugs, and these – because of the necessities of wartime – were indulged in without shame or sanction. Alcohol was still used to a great extent, particularly for its ability to give men the courage to face enemy gunfire, but use of opiates and tobacco were also widespread, the former on account of its use in physical medicine and the latter on account of its use in psychological medicine.

In the second half of the 20th century, the focus shifted from killing the enemies of liberal capitalism to making money. During this time, people were mostly tasked with social office work. This required more tobacco, but also more caffeine. It was here when the idea of becoming “caffeinated” to deal with the pressures of the day came from. The idea was that the buzz from caffeine would make the inherently safe and secure office jobs less boring.

So far this century, a lot of this work has become antisocial. This has necessitated the rise of caffeine, in order to concentrate for longer periods of time despite low levels of stimulation. This rise has been aided by the increasing unfashionability of tobacco smoking, so that caffeine has now become the go-to drug for anyone wanting more yang energy.

It’s not easy to forecast the precise details of the future, but if one understands the basics of a subject it’s possible to forecast general trends. What seems apparent, in the case of the Western World, is that cannabis has come to replace some of these other drugs as the one that best helps people meet the demands of the workplace, and will continue to do so.

Because of automation, it’s no longer as important for the workforce to be attentive, alert and focused. This is still important for certain roles, but those roles have become an ever-diminishing proportion of the workplace. The roles that have become an ever-increasing proportion of the workplace are those in the creative professions, and the demands of these roles are compatible with cannabis use.

It’s widely known and accepted that much of the world’s production of quality music is made by people on drugs, and this is true to a lesser extent of literature as well. Cannabis (especially cannabis sativa) helps with the process of creativity by breaking down old conditioned pathways of thought and replacing them with novel ideas. This has made it a favourite substance of people in many creative occupations – not just music and writing but also design, cuisine, hospitality and programming.

In order to meet these industrial needs, we will not only need to legalise cannabis, but to go further. At a minimum, cannabis will need to become legal so that people who need to use it for the sake of their work can do so. For the sake of creative occupations, it will need to be gently encouraged in the workplace in the same way that coffee is encouraged in offices, and tobacco is encouraged in factories, already now.

The world is changing faster and faster, and as a result of this people find themselves confronted with original situations ever more frequently. These original situations demand original ways of thinking. The desirable qualities for employees of the future will be flexibility, originality and breadth of thought, instead of the obsessive focus and repetition that has characterised the workplaces of the past. These qualities are well enhanced by cannabis, which makes it a good choice for the workplace of the future.

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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: Reform Doesn’t Mean Stoned Workers

One of the most hysterical arguments against cannabis law reform is that it will lead to a spate of workers coming to work stoned. This will be a disaster, we are breathlessly told, because some of these intoxicated workers are responsible for other people’s well-being. As this article will examine, such fears are not grounded in reality.

The reasoning seems to be that the nation’s workforce cannot handle the temptation of easy access to cannabis, and will inevitably come to start using it all day in the nature of severe drug addicts, such as before work. Images of surgeons giggling maniacally while slicing arteries open are thrown about by pants-pissing old conservatives, who seem to think of cannabis users akin to a horde of zombies.

This argument is false in at least three major ways.

In the first case, people already have access to plenty of legal recreational drugs and choose not to use them. There are a number of industrial jobs that people can’t safely do while drunk, and there are a number of customer services roles that can’t adequately be performed while stinking of tobacco smoke. In the vast majority of situations, employees in either of these roles don’t partake in alcohol or tobacco before work.

If one thinks rationally about the idea, there’s no reason to think that legal cannabis would be any different. The case of surgeon is especially ridiculous – surgeon is a professional occupation. The type of person who works in this profession is hardly the sort of person who would experiment with recreational drugs before they go to work anyway.

In the second case, the availability of swab tests that can test for actual cannabis intoxication means that a blanket ban on cannabis is unnecessary. There may have once been a point in such a blanket ban, on account of that there was otherwise no way of telling if a person was dangerously affected by a cannabis high. But accurate swab tests mean that it is no longer necessary to take urine samples (if it ever was).

Most importantly, legal cannabis does not in any sense mean that employers will lose the right to send home workers who are dangerously high. Workers who are intoxicated on any substance, legal or otherwise, are first and foremost a safety risk to other workers and to themselves. So if an employee comes to work stoned, the employer has every right to send them home on the grounds that they are in no state to discharge their duties.

In the third case, the vast majority of cases of cannabis intoxication are immaterial to the job at hand. This is clearly true if one considers that a large number of people who work in roles where attentiveness is paramount are on sedatives, anti-histamines or psychiatric drugs of some kind, and that this is nonetheless acceptable to their employers, who do not drug test them for those substances.

Psychiatric drugs such as Olanzapine have been shown to increase the chance of fatal car accidents, and benzodiazepines are even worse. Many people drive while sleepy, and many elderly people are significantly more dangerous behind the wheel than the average driver. If all of these risks come within the bounds of acceptability, then a small amount of cannabis in the system is acceptable as well.

The idea that cannabis law reform would inevitably lead to masses of stoned workers is the kind of overblown hysteria that is typical of cannabis prohibitionists. There are at least three major reasons to think that reform would not impact the safety profile of the workforce. Repealing cannabis prohibition would bring protocol about workplace safety back to sanity and logic.

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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: Governments Shouldn’t Conduct Wars Against Their Own People

The War on Drugs is a war that governments of the world fight against their own people, supposedly to protect people from the harmful effects of these substances. In the vast majority of cases This essay will argue that cannabis prohibition is necessary because it is immoral for a government to conduct a war against their own people without their consent.

The War on Drugs was ramped up to full aggression by Richard Nixon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although the majority of recreational drugs were already illegal, the enforcement of them was not brutal until Nixon entered the scene. With the increase in aggressive drug law enforcement came an increase in the incarceration rate of Americans – now four times higher than it was in 1972, even when adjusted for the increase in population.

Nixon’s former domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, is quoted in a Harper magazine interview saying “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” This quote encapsulates the entire logic of the War on Drugs.

The truth about the War on Drugs is that governments don’t really fight this war against drugs, they fight them against their own people who use drugs. The War on Drugs is really a war against their own people.

In particular, the War on Drugs is a war against those the ruling classes want to destroy. As is clear from the Ehrlichman quote above, the ruling party is not representative of the people. They have their particular enemies, and in the case of the Military-Industrial Complex that profits immensely from defence contracts and from endless war, peaceniks are the enemy.

Likewise for blacks: the Prison-Industrial Complex demands a steady supply of slave workers to labour in prisons. This prison labour is immensely profitable for the prison owners, who occupy the same role as the slave plantation owners of the antebellum American South. So a draconian crackdown on drugs that were known to be used heavily by blacks had the calculated effect of drawing large numbers of them into the prison system.

The reason why the security services are divided into the Police and the Army is because the Army is for fighting wars, and the Police for keeping the peace. When the Government sets the Army onto the people, it’s usually a sign that the Government is rotten to the core and probably not far from collapse. So when the Police are also fighting a war against the people on behalf of the Government, it’s a very, very bad sign.

Everyone knows that the Government isn’t really a protective, benevolent force. Everyone knows that Western governments are not representatives of their people, but rather of whatever corporate interests have declared themselves to have a stake in the country. The point is, this should not be accepted, and governments should never act to the detriment of their own people for the sake of corporate profits.

Conducting a War on Drugs makes it possible for the ruling classes to divide and conquer the people, by way of subjecting some of them to harsh legal punishment and not others. This is a grossly anti-democratic phenomenon, and should not be allowed.

Cannabis prohibition should be repealed because the Government should not fight a war against its own people. The War on Drugs is a war that the Government fights against the same people that the Government is supposed to represent and protect. It’s time for a ceasefire.

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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 a Tool For Personal Growth

The cannabis high can teach a person a lot about themselves that they didn’t already know. It brings up a range of different emotions, and some of those emotions provide the sort of challenges that lead to healthy personal growth. This article discusses the idea that cannabis ought to be legal for its benefits as a tool for personal growth.

Personal growth can occur in a number of areas. For those who have suffered previous life trauma, it’s common that personal and emotional development stalls at the stage where the trauma occurred. Heavy physical, sexual or emotional abuse can lead to impulsive, neglectful, destructive behaviour, and getting past such conditioned behaviours is not easy.

The main use of cannabis for psychotherapy might lie in its ability to induce a state of relaxation and fearlessness. In that state, it’s possible to revisit earlier traumas and to reinterpret them. Traumatic events tend to leave the impression that they were more important than they really were, which can lead to them making a change to behaviour that outweighs any learning value the experience may have had.

A person may have become conditioned to react angrily or violently when confronted with a certain emotion or stimulus, when they really shouldn’t. In order to correct this, psychotherapy seeks to revisit the traumatic event and recondition the patient to not react with anxiety when they recall it. This has the effect of settling the psychological tension that had existed ever since the trauma.

Cannabis is useful for its deconditioning effects – although this is also one of the reasons behind why it has been illegal. One man’s psychological damage is another man’s asset, and the brutal learned helplessness that people come to suffer as a result of early schooling tends to make them more amenable to instruction from their overlords in the workplace. Those overlords, therefore, do not want people to decondition themselves, especially if it also makes them free.

Probably the most effective use of cannabis, however, lies in its ability to cause the user to have original thoughts that could not have been generated by any other method. Cannabis has long been associated with creative industries and endeavours, especially music and writing. It does this by preventing repetitive thoughts from occurring, leaving mental space for ideas inspired by the environment.

There are several people whose minds are limited on account of the low range of stimuli they have encountered over the course of their lives. Many of these people, particularly, have been dumped in front of a screen by a parent early in their lives and know little of the outside world or of other people. They have essentially been programmed to accept Disneyland as their reality.

People like this can bring themselves a new lease on life by using cannabis, and allowing themselves to explore vistas of the mind that were previously shut off. As users will attest, entire realms of new thought can open up when one is under the influence of cannabis: all sorts of strange, wonderful and unsettling ideas seem to arise as if from a parallel dimension that one could not perceive until just now.

Related to this, and as mentioned in a previous section, cannabis is a religious and spiritual sacrament. This entails that many people have used it as a tool for spiritual growth.

There is a reason why hippies are associated with terrifying insights into the nature of death, consciousness and reality as well as cannabis – they have seen beyond. Cannabis use can lead to spiritual growth in the same way that meditation does. By way of breaking one’s usual patterns of paying mental attention to petty things, one frees up mental space for new and original thoughts to arise, perhaps from long-suppressed places.

On a darker level, the unpleasant and paranoid aspects of the cannabis experience can lead to personal growth in a grim, meathook sense. Many people have avoided ever really thinking about the fact that they’re going to die, thanks to all the conditioned patterns that come with living an everyday life. So when a person does, perhaps for the first time ever, it’s common for them to feel extremely challenged by it.

Cannabis law reform ought to happen so that cannabis can be used as a tool for personal growth. There are both therapeutic, recreational and spiritual benefits that cannot be explored under prohibition.

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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 A Religious And Spiritual Sacrament

We are supposed to have freedom of religion in the West, but in practice this only applies to certain favoured religions, in particular Abrahamism and its derivatives. Other religious traditions, particularly those that employ psychoactives as part of their rituals, are effectively discriminated against by the War on Drugs. This article will discuss the established tradition of cannabis use as a religious and spiritual sacrament.

The Indo-European peoples have been using cannabis as a religious and spiritual sacrament for thousands of years.

Cannabis is mentioned in Indian texts going back to 1,000 B.C., primarily for its use as a medicine, but also for its purported ability to facilitate contact with the divine. There is an age-old tradition in India of weed-smoking holy men known as sadhus. These are ascetics who have renounced worldly wealth and pleasure, and who use cannabis to get into touch with Shiva. Among sadhus, use of cannabis is especially popular when meditating, for the moments of tranquillity and serenity that it is capable of bringing.

The Nepalese smoke it publicly and ceremonially during the festival of Maha Shivaratri. The enlightenment brought about from the cannabis high is said to represent the coming-to-awareness of the first guru in the world. It is said that it was at this moment that the consciousness of the first guru transcended the material and the illusion of space and time, and the cannabis high is intended to replicate this.

In ancient China, cannabis was used by holy men in healing and early magical rituals. Early Taoist shamans systematically experimented with the ritual use of cannabis, with some declaring that smoking it was as good as climbing into the mountains for those who were physically unable. Their traditions began with burning cannabis as incense for the sake of smoking out demons and evil spirits, and soon evolved into inhaling cannabis for the sake of drawing in good energy from God.

Cannabis was also used by the Scythians in a ritualistic form that amounting to the hot-boxing of small smoke tents. The participants would gather inside these tents as part of funerary rites and cast buds onto superheated rocks, causing them to burn and to fill the tent with cannabis smoke. The change in consciousness brought about by these rituals were considered to bring the participant into contact with the spirits of the dead.

From there, it spread to Germany, and from there to Britain and Scandinavia. The Vikings came to associate its aphrodisiac effects with the fertility goddess Freya, and spring festivals sometimes involved the ritual consumption of cannabis. Viking herbalists were also aware of the pain-killing properties of cannabis, and they appear to have cultivated it in Southern Norway since 650 A.D. Evidence suggests that at least some of this cannabis was cultivated for ritualistic and shamanic purposes.

Therefore, cannabis use has been part of our natural spiritual traditions for thousands of years. The state of cannabis prohibition brought about by Abrahamism is an obscenity, the kind that comes from such false doctrines. It is not right for us Westerners to live in a state of cannabis prohibition, because it separates us from our natural connection to the divine, replacing it with a doctrine of women-hatred, gay-hatred, genital mutilation and ignorance.

Many modern people could tell you that cannabis use is still part of our natural spiritual traditions. It is the Western subcultures that smoke cannabis who are most likely to reject the obsession with materialism that has captured our culture. After all, the spiritual effect of cannabis comes from its ability to separate the user from the material. By inducing a state of physical and emotional calm, consciousness focuses instead on the spiritual. By pacifying the user’s base physical desires, they can concentrate on a form of living that pays homage to God.

Rastafarians say of cannabis that “The herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness”. Many Westerners who do not follow an organised religious tradition can likewise tell you that smoking cannabis gets you closer to God. There are millions of us who could tell you that we have had profound spiritual epiphanies from sacramental cannabis use, and that these epiphanies are worth gold.

Cannabis being illegal therefore amounts to religious discrimination. It’s essentially no different to a law that makes the Bible or the Koran illegal. If cannabis use is a means by which some people get closer with God, how can it possibly be anyone else’s right to say otherwise? The people who support cannabis prohibition would be appalled at the thought of Government agents going into someone’s house to take their Bible away, but they do much the same thing with cannabis without a second thought.

There is a need for cannabis law reform so that religious and spiritual alternatives to Abrahamism can be explored. There is no valid reason for people to be forced to follow an Abrahamic tradition, and therefore no valid reason for the law to prohibit the spiritual sacraments of non-Abrahamic traditions. True spiritual and religious freedom requires that none of the established methods for coming closer to God are made illegal – this includes cannabis use.

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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 Exit Drug

Many people erroneously believe that cannabis is a “gateway drug” that leads to users moving on to harder and harder drugs. The reality, like many myths relating to cannabis, is closer to the opposite of this. As this article will examine, cannabis can serve as an ‘exit drug’ to help people overcome addictions to actually harmful substances, in particular alcohol, synthetics and opioids.

In New Zealand, there is a “synthetic cannabis” epidemic underway. A couple of recent deaths in Christchurch were believed to have been caused by the substances, and the total number of deaths in New Zealand this year attributed to them is approaching 50. This is rightly a public health crisis, and is increasingly being understood as such.

The substances being sold as synthetic cannabis generally have nothing to do with cannabis – they are mostly unknown psychoactives that generate some kind of buzz when smoked. No-one’s really sure where they come from or what’s in them, they’re just sold through shady contacts – often at tinny houses when someone was looking for natural cannabis – and end up killing people in the streets.

It doesn’t matter that these substances aren’t really much like cannabis, because they fill a market niche that would otherwise be filled by cannabis. If a person doesn’t like to drink alcohol, for whatever reason, the major alternative is some form of cannabis. If cannabis is not available, because prohibition has made it impossible to supply, then “synthetic cannabis” might have to do, because it will frequently be available through the same channels that a person would try to access natural cannabis.

For the many thousands of Kiwis believed to be addicted to synthetic cannabinoids, and for the hundreds of thousands who are at risk of encountering some synnies from one of the infamous “bad batches” that kill people from time to time, legal cannabis could serve as an exit drug. With legal cannabis in place, even if only at the medicinal level, a synthetic cannabinoid addict could be weaned off the synnies with a replacement medicinal cannabis regimen.

In America, there is an opioid epidemic underway. Opioid overdoses were believed to comprise 49,000 of the 72,000 drug overdose deaths in America in 2017. This contrasts with about 10,000 such deaths at the turn of the century. This represents several times more deaths than even the infamous American homicide rate – clearly a crisis of such proportions that extraordinary actions must now be considered.

Cannabis has shown immense promise as an exit drug from opioid addiction. Science Daily links a report from the University of British Colombia that found significant evidence to suggest that cannabis can help in the case of alcoholism and opiate addiction. There are already clinics in operation in Los Angeles where cannabis is in a clinical program of rehabilitation from heroin and alcohol misuse.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that rates of opioid use are lower in American states that have legalised medicinal cannabis, which suggests that individuals who use opiates are themselves happy to wean themselves off by using cannabis, if only there are given the opportunity. The JAMA study found that “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

A report by Time Magazine found that rates of death by opioid overdose had quadrupled from the turn of the century, and that states which had legalised medicinal cannabis had saved hundreds of millions of dollars from alleviating some amount of opioid abuse. Even if a patient does not stop taking opiates completely, it is possible that a synergistic effect from the cannabis can potentiate the opiates they do take, meaning that they can take less for the same painkiller effect.

All this means that cannabis prohibition is effectively killing people, by preventing those addicted to alcohol and opiates from accessing a potential exit drug, and thereby forcing them to remain addicted to the substance. Despite the apparent moralistic intent behind cannabis prohibition, we can safely suggest that the spirit of the law was not that it should kill alcoholics and opioid addicts.

Cannabis law reform is necessary so that medicinal cannabis can be applied as an exit drug to people who are addicted to, or dependent on, more harmful substances. This will have the effect of substituting a substance that heals for substances that harm, and thereby preventing suffering.

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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.

VJMP Reads: David Seymour’s Own Your Future X

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth chapter in Own Your Future is ‘Personal Responsibility’. Seymour opens here with a stark claim that ACT doesn’t believe in the nanny state or in a paternalistic government. Many of our laws are holdouts from an age of Victorian values, he states, and they are enforced by politicians who transparently do not have a deeper grasp on morality than anyone else.

Breaking rank with the other Parliamentarians, Seymour is willing to admit here that cannabis does less harm than alcohol and tobacco (although he points out that cannabis is not without its own harms). He also echoes a point often made by Kiwi cannabis law reform activists (such as here), that the burden of Police enforcement of cannabis prohibition falls mostly on Maori.

Seymour cites a Treasury study that estimated that cannabis prohibition costs the country $300,000,000 annually, as well as tying up 600,000 hours of Police time. Worst of all, the supposed criminal deterrence doesn’t even work – the overwhelming majority of people convicted for cannabis offences go on to use it. Moreover, the law is applied in a haphazard manner, as can be seen by the 26-month sentence initially handed down to Kelly van Gaalen.

In a distinct break from the right-wing that ACT is usually associated with, Seymour repudiates the moralising that is chiefly responsible for cannabis prohibition, pointing out that not only is there a heavy majority in favour of cannabis law reform, but that majority is steadily growing. This contrasts with the proportion of people who oppose actual crimes, such as murder – this proportion remains constant.

True to the libertarian image that Seymour is trying to stake out, he argues for legal recreational cannabis as well. However, true to the conservative streak that binds his party to National, he is torn, claiming that 80% of the New Zealand public opposes recreational cannabis. He does not cite a source here, and neither does he note that such opposition would be unusual in the context of places like Colorado and California voting by referendum to legalise medicinal cannabis.

Seymour takes pains to seat himself as immovably as possible, right in the middle of the fence. He is open to the possibility that countries that legalise cannabis might “lose their morality” and “become cesspits of unmotivated human squalor” (as if alcohol was not well capable of achieving both), and wants to have a Royal Commission that takes five years before he will consider that we have satisfactory evidence to make a decision.

He rightly pillories the Government for its sharp increase in the tobacco tax, pointing out that the people most sharply affected by this are those who can least afford it. Worst of all, it seems that raising the tax further will not help persuade people to give up smoking. Those who are still addicted are so addicted that they will do almost anything to get hold of tobacco. Sensibly, Seymour would legalise vaping and e-cigarettes.

Euthanasia is another thing that Seymour would legalise, promising an end to “morality-based harassment”. His reason for promoting this is to avoid the indignity of the last weeks of life. Having nursed elderly grandparents to the end of a terminal illness, I can commiserate with him in this regard. He is also in favour of abortion, which makes him less hypocritical than the old right. Seymour doesn’t want to pay for your kid either, but he’s happy to help you get it aborted.

It’s hard to find fault with any of Seymour’s proposals in this chapter. Even if the only right he champions with conviction is the right to die, it’s an excellent thing that these libertarian proposals are even being suggested. It is interesting to note how similar ACT is with the Greens on issues such as cannabis, especially if it is considered that being young is highly correlated with both voting ACT and Green.

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