The Case For Cannabis: Prohibition Makes the Police Less Effective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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: Legalisation Will Not Lead to A Black Market

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

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

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

This reasoning is false in two major ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Why Vaccination Should Never Be Made Compulsory

25 people have been infected by a measles outbreak in Canterbury, and one could predict from the degree of anti-anti-vaccination hysteria that there will soon be a social movement to make vaccination compulsory. Many people are calling for it, and the rhetoric demonising the anti-vaxxers is growing. This essay discusses why compulsory vaccination is the wrong approach.

The joke goes that under totalitarianism, everything is either banned or made compulsory. The panic-based hysteria that fuels the various moral outrages that lead to totalitarianism can be seen in places like this thread on Reddit. Many New Zealanders are apparently happy to force compulsory medical treatment on others, despite it being a violation of Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Compulsory vaccination would be a grossly draconian abuse of state power. But that isn’t why we should avoid it.

Let’s lay it out: vaccination is a good idea. Vaccination is a great idea, especially if the extremely minor side-effects are weighed up against the costs of being infected with measles, rubella, polio, whooping cough or the like. Some of these diseases are capable of crippling people for the remainder of their lives, leaving them in ghastly pain, or just killing them outright. Their presence as part of the human experience was a curse, and eradicating them would be excellent.

Vaccination is such a good idea that a parent ought to listen to their doctors when those doctors recommend vaccination. So if the necessary trust isn’t present in that relationship, something is wrong, and we ought to determine why.

The usual response is to call anti-vaxxers “nutters”, “loonies”, “schizos” and the like, and to attribute their lack of trust to an aggressive paranoia that can only be present on account of moral failure. But the responsibility isn’t on them to become more trusting. The responsibility lies on the Government and on the medical community to earn the trust of the population. It’s not merely an ideal that the population ought to trust that what their doctors is telling them is true – it’s a necessity.

The anti-vaccination movement is particularly strong in Nelson, which has been attributed to our unusually high proportion of nutters, loonies etc. The reality is that Nelson has a high number of anti-vaxxers for the same reason that California does: we were one of the first to understand the medicinal value of cannabis, and thereby one of the first to understand that the medicinal community was lying to us about it.

People know that they’ve been lied to about cannabis. We know that doctors have not been fully honest about the medicinal benefits of this substance for decades. Those who have done the research know that these lies are mostly the result of pressure from Government, disinformation from pharmaceutical companies pushing their product and the usual Kiwi slackness when it comes to doing your job properly.

So how do we know that we’re not being lied to about vaccines? Given the experience with cannabis, it’s entirely possible to suspect that Governments are putting pressure on doctors to ignore the risks of vaccination, or that the manufacturers of the vaccines aren’t honest about their side-effects, or that doctors simply haven’t bothered to research any side-effects.

Given that doctors have been lying about these things when it came to cannabis, it’s only natural that the trust that people had in them has sharply declined among some demographics. This is the error that needs to be corrected, and compulsory vaccination is a ham-fisted solution to something that can be achieved more elegantly.

Introducing compulsory vaccination is a foolish and short-sighted approach that will not only spur more suspicion and paranoia, but which will also help to justify future Governmental abuses. A much braver and wiser move would be for the Government and the medical community to earn back the trust that they have lost.

The best way to achieve this would be for politicians to make a frank and full apology for their parts in misleading the country about cannabis. They would have to not only admit that cannabis was medicinal, but that it was known to be medicinal and previous governments lied about it for whatever reason.

If the politicians would admit that many doctors only withheld the truth from their patients for fear of punishment from the Government, they would help to restore the faith in those doctors necessary for the more sceptical to get their children vaccinated. This is what needs to happen, not compulsory vaccination.

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

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation is Better For the Environment

Recent studies suggest that the future prospects for Earth’s environment are poor. The situation is dire enough that, finally, an awareness is growing that certain measures will have to be taken if the human species is to survive – and soon. This article explains how cannabis law reform is one of those measures (if a minor one).

Many people labour under the idea that cannabis prohibition stops people from using cannabis. Therefore, they assume, cannabis prohibition prevents it from being grown and used. The truth, of course, is that evil laws don’t prevent actions, because human nature is to defy evil laws, and so people grow cannabis everywhere anyway. In any case, cannabis is a medicine, and people will not simply go without a medicine because of the law.

Because of things like Police helicopters that go searching the hills and forests for outdoor grows, a majority of people who grow cannabis do so indoors, and most of these grows are simple setups under a 400 or 600 Watt bulb. These generally cost somewhere between $70 and $100 a month to run, and can produce several ounces of weed over a eight- or ten-week cycle.

This is a great outcome for an individual cannabis user who doesn’t want to deal with the black market, but it’s not the best outcome for the environment.

A study by American scientist Evan Mills found that indoor cannabis grows use up to 1% of America’s entire energy supply. If a similar proportion holds true in New Zealand, it would mean that indoor cannabis grows in New Zealand suck up electricity equivalent to that used by a city the size of Nelson every year. This represents some $60 million worth of electricity, every year.

Another way to put this is that a four-plant grows uses as much electricity as running 29 fridges. It’s a lot of energy being used for something that doesn’t really need to happen. After all, these grows are only done indoors for the sake of evading detection.

Legal cannabis would mean that cannabis growers could simply put a plant outside and let it grow in the Sun, without fear of being spotted by Police helicopters. There would be no energy requirements at all, and the cost of grow nutrients and the like would be minimal on account of that the plant would just be allowed to grow as large as possible.

Not all indoor cannabis growing could immediately be switched to outdoors. Many people simply don’t have the appropriate facilities. However, the vast majority of it could be, on account of that people would rather buy cannabis from a shop or get it from a pharmacy than grow it themselves, for a greater cost, and have to worry about watering, spider mites, replacement bulbs, buying potting mix, getting ripped off etc.

So legal cannabis would mean that companies would be able to build entire outdoor cannabis farms, and these farms would be much better for the environment than the current arrangement, in which everyone has a home grow operation because they can’t buy it legally and they need to avoid getting arrested. All of those highly inefficient home grows can be wound down in favour of commercial operations that achieve economies of scale.

The tricky thing about this argument is that the sort of person who cares about the environment already knows that cannabis should be legal. In much the same way that anyone who has bothered to look at the climate science knows that changes need to be made, anyone who has bothered to look at the science behind cannabis knew that cannabis prohibition should have been repealed 20 years ago.

The sort of person who genuinely believes that it’s a good idea to put people in cages for growing or using cannabis are, almost inevitably, the same kind of people who don’t care at all about the environment or what the state of it might be after we are gone. The characteristic feature of such people is an absence of empathy for others, and an inability to consider their suffering to be real. So the environmental argument will convince few who are not already convinced.

However, the fact remains that cannabis law reform is a better move for the environment. It would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the cannabis cultivation industry, as well as reducing the amount of wastage in other areas. Given the pressing need to consider environmental impacts in all areas, we should make it legal for individuals to grow cannabis outside at home.

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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.

Did Cannabis Prohibition Doom Humanity to Extinction?

Were the hippies right all along? The counter-culture that arose in response to the Cold War championed many things that made them hated: free love, a return to Nature, a rejection of materialism – and cannabis. This essay examines the possibility that we would have survived if only we had listened, and that cannabis prohibition doomed the human species to extinction.

A recent scientific report on climate data paints a grim picture for humanity’s future. Titled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy”, the paper lays out the stark fact that we have polluted the planet so badly that future chaos is inevitable. The truly baffling thing is we knew this all along. The science that explained what would happen to the planet if we continued to burn fossil fuels was established in the 90s – the 1890s.

So why didn’t we listen?

For the vast majority of human history, we lived in a close enough balance with the environment to not destroy it. Although there were certainly cases of localised destruction – the firestick farming method of the Australian Aborigines being perhaps the foremost – it was only recently that humanity developed the capacity to destroy the environment of the entire planet.

Somewhere along the line, we lost touch with the rest of the biosphere. Perhaps what initially kicked it off was following Descartes’s belief that only human beings were truly conscious. Maybe it was even further back, to Aristotle’s injunction that humans occupied the highest place on the food chain. In either case, what really pushed our ignorance into critical territory may have been the prohibition of cannabis.

Although the idea is commonly laughed at nowadays, cannabis is a spiritual sacrament, and has been used as such for thousands of years, particularly by the common ancestors of the Indo-European peoples. Evidence that ancient Scythians hotboxed tents with cannabis smoke predates writing in the area, Hindu and Vedic culture is replete with references to it, and even ancient Taoist alchemists considered it a major plant medicine.

An example of the kind of insights that people come to from cannabis use is that all creatures are part of one collective consciousness, which is more fundamental than time and space and is not constrained by them, and which is therefore eternal, and all of the other spiritual ideas that people nowadays consider to be mental illness. We’ve lost touch with these insights in the pursuit of ever more material wealth.

The real mental illness, it could be better argued, is on the part of those who don’t use cannabis.

It is the non-hippies, who don’t use cannabis, who buy expensive toys that are just plastic hunks of shit, and who drive around in enormously polluting vehicles, and who spend tens of thousands remodelling their house just for social status, who have wrecked the environment. A civilisation that destroys its own environment in pursuit of producing trivial, fleeting material pleasures could correctly be said to be insane.

If one understands that cannabis is a spiritual sacrament that used to keep humanity in touch with the natural world, and that this loss of contact with the material world has caused a climate crisis that may prove to doom us all, then it can fairly be argued that cannabis prohibition led to the destruction of humanity. If we’d just sat around smoking weed instead of working hard and aspiring to own ever-larger piles of crap, the planet might have survived.

If we had never contracted the disease of workism, we never would have thought it a good idea to drive miles to work, burning fossils fuels all the while, just to make three times more money than we actually need, and that just so we can buy piles of plastic crap and home improvements that never get used. We would have learned to appreciate the natural world more, instead of seeing it as something to be consumed on the road to economic growth.

Any hippie could tell you that the philosophy of eternal growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. You don’t need an ecology degree to understand that an organism or group of organisms cannot keep growing indefinitely and stay in their niche. Either they stop growing or they expand into other niches. The ideology of eternal economic growth was inevitably going to hit its limit in one way or another.

If that hippie was of the more thoughtful kind, they might be able to tell you that such philosophies arose because people started to become afraid of death. Because cannabis has been a spiritual sacrament for our ancestors for so long, its prohibition in the early 20th century had the effect of, quite literally, separating us from God.

It’s possible that, if cannabis had never become criminalised, we never would have lost touch with Nature enough to even think about such a thing as building a strategic naval force that spanned the entire globe, sucking up enormous amounts of coal and oil as it did so, to the point where the biosphere collapsed. Ironically, if we had lived as the filthy, lazy, crazy hippies had suggested, we’d have had a better chance of passing through the Great Filter.

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

The Case For Cannabis: Law Reform Is Not A “Slippery Slope”

The case for cannabis prohibition is essentially based on fear, in particular fear of the unknown. Prohibitionists and other doommongers like to give the impression that cannabis law reform is a “slippery slope” to widespread social decay. As this article will show, cannabis law reform will not be a slippery slope to selling heroin to schoolchildren, or anything like it.

The slippery slope argument is used so often that it has become a formal logical fallacy. In short, this logical fallacy is when a person argues that a certain action must not be allowed, because if it is allowed, it will lead to worse actions also becoming allowed. To prevent those worse actions from coming to pass, we should keep the status quo, because to make even a small change is to step onto a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to disaster.

When we wanted to make it illegal to hit your children, we were told it was a slippery slope to those children beating up their parents. When we wanted to legalise prostitution, we were told it was a slippery slope to Weimar Republic-style child prostitution on the main streets. When we wanted to introduce a capital gains tax, we were told it was a slippery slope to the Government confiscating properties from those it deemed too wealthy.

None of these feared outcomes occurred, which is why the slippery slope fallacy is a recognised fallacy.

The slippery slope argument, then, is wheeled out almost every time someone tries to change any law. So it’s not a surprise that it also gets wheeled out in response to proposals for cannabis law reform. The problem is that we’ve had cannabis prohibition for so long now that almost no-one can remember life from before it was brought in, so we’ve forgotten that prohibition has done more damage than legal cannabis ever could.

The old form of this argument was that cannabis use is a slippery slope to heroin use, and therefore we have to keep cannabis illegal to protect people from getting sucked into heroin, because they’re all some form of “dope”. Nowadays, almost everyone knows that the sort of people who use cannabis have very little in common with those who use heroin, and don’t generally move in the same circles.

Cannabis prohibitionists warn us breathlessly that liberalising the cannabis laws will lead to “THC-laced confectionery” being sold to schoolchildren. The New Zealand media has shown images of gummy bears that are purported to contain 30% or more THC, and the implication is that a small child might gulp down a couple of dozen of them thinking they’re sweets. Ignoring the fact that eating two dozen cannabis-infused gummy bears would still be safer than eating two dozen paracetamol, the argument fails for at least two major reasons.

For one thing, most of the arguments about harm don’t apply to other drugs. It’s fair and reasonable to argue that cannabis causes less harm than alcohol; it’s neither fair nor reasonable to make the same argument of crystal methamphetamine. Neither has anyone ever argued that heroin or methamphetamine was a spiritual sacrament.

Where those arguments do apply, then it’s fair enough to consider them on their own merits. The War on Cannabis is, indeed, one front in the wider War on Drugs, and just because the case for drug law reform is the most obvious in the case of cannabis doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in the case of other drugs. It happens to also be true that the law against psychedelics is as ridiculous as the cannabis one, if not more so.

The other major reason is that we are entirely free to recriminalise cannabis, should we reform the current laws and then decide the change isn’t working. The people who have looked at the evidence and the previous experience of places that have relaxed their cannabis laws almost all believe that this won’t happen, but it might. If we do decide that cannabis law reform doesn’t work, we will be free to change it back.

The argument that legalising cannabis would be a slippery slope to various kinds of social decay is not valid. Cannabis prohibition is, and never was, a wise move – prohibition is itself the experimental condition. In any case, relaxing the law is not a move into permissiveness but finally having the courage to correct an error that was made generations ago.

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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 Destroys Families

Cannabis prohibition is a destructive approach in many ways. Because of the need to use law enforcement officers to attack people who use cannabis, massive emotional trauma and psychological damage is the inevitable result of prohibition. As this article will examine, some of the worst damage is that inflicted upon families of cannabis users.

The most severe way that cannabis prohibition affects families is through law enforcement. To fully appreciate the destructive effect that prohibition has had on families, it helps to imagine the situation from the perspective of a child who has had a parent taken way on account of a cannabis offence.

The psychological literature is replete with information about the devastating effect that losing a parent, even temporarily, has on the child’s mental health. It’s common for children in such a situation to feel a powerful sense of neglect and loss. They don’t understand why their parent has been taken away and put in a cage – after all, most adults don’t understand cannabis prohibition either, so how can a child?

Cannabis prohibition means that children are deprived of bonding time with their parents, sometimes even for years, because of the need to put people in prison for violating the cannabis laws. This regularly has a devastating effect on the child’s mental health – for no real benefit to anyone.

Another way that prohibition destroys families is by driving a wedge between generations. As mentioned elsewhere in this book, the young are almost universally in favour of cannabis law reform. They know it’s much safer than alcohol, and they’ve seen the carnage alcohol has caused to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

So when their parents start lecturing them about how they should avoid cannabis because it causes psychosis, and how they should drink alcohol instead because it’s not a drug, the predictable response is that the children come to lose faith in their parents, and to trust them less.

The most extreme example of this is when one family member is using medicinal cannabis and living in the same house as another one. This often causes conflict when the owner of the house is afraid that the presence of cannabis will attract the Police. In cases like this, it’s possible for the tension to lead to a family being pulled apart, and this can all be attributed to the law against cannabis.

It should be pointed out here that the damage done to families is worse than it seems at first glance. The sort of people who grow cannabis are frequently in a precarious social situations. After all, one of the main reasons why people smoke it is to deal with the anxiety and depression that comes with being on society’s fringes.

For these people, the safety net of the family is sometimes the difference between life or death. Vulnerable people generally don’t have much else to rely on. Putting an adult in prison can have the effect of removing an important node from their family’s social net, meaning that families have to go without income and children have to go without parents. Even more distant relatives like cousins, nephews and nieces can be affected.

It’s common for the imprisonment of one parent to lead to the rest of the family having to move home or school. Breaking up these social networks, merely because a person grew a medicinal plant, is unconscionable. This suffering caused to family members of cannabis users is not justifiable.

Cannabis ought to be made legal so that Kiwi families are no longer made to suffer as collateral damage. A repeal of cannabis prohibition would mean that the integrity of the family could no longer be damaged by the actions of law enforcement. This would avoid causing severe emotional damage to the children and wider family members of anyone imprisoned, a much more humane and compassionate approach to the one currently used.

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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.

Almost All Cases of Growing Cannabis Are Altruistic

New Zealand cannabis law reform supporters were overjoyed on Monday by the news that Rose Renton was discharged without conviction in her case at the Nelson District Court. Charged with the cultivation of 58 plants, she could have been facing seven years’ imprisonment. As this essay will examine, the logic used to exonerate her could be used to exonerate almost any other cannabis grower, and should lead to a change in the cannabis law.

Renton was discharged without conviction on the grounds that her offending was “altrustic” in nature, according to Judge David Ruth, who was quoted as saying: “This was effectively an altruistic endeavour on your behalf to help those for whom that help wasn’t otherwise possible.” This is an entirely fair point, and it’s about time a judge said so, but it goes further than this.

She had been growing cannabis to supply medicine to a variety of people, a job that has been given the title “green fairy”. The ‘green’ refers to cannabis medicine and the ‘fairy’ refers to the fact that this medicine doesn’t come regularly but simply shows up whenever the fairy can make it happen. Renton was supplying clones of a CBD-rich strain to people who then grew the medicine themselves.

A Police officer who came to Renton’s home noticed a cannabis plant there. Instead of ignoring it, the officer made the decision to enforce Parliament’s law against cannabis by arresting her. This decision led to 18 months of suffering on Renton’s part, until discharged without conviction on Monday, for the reasons mentioned above.

Cannabis is a medicine. The main reason why people use it is to escape the suffering caused by either physical or psychological pain. There are several effective substitutes for the effect that cannabis has on physical pain, but there is little that can stop psychological suffering as quickly and efficiently. Countless people have found that a bout of rage, depression or despair can be stopped cold by a dose of cannabis.

It’s rarely admitted to, but there is a lot of suffering in our society. Not just the tedium of the drudge-work that we endure, and the anxiety over our uncertain futures, but the stress of encountering new strangers all the time and the alienation of having no community or political representation all combine to create an existence that is wretched for many. This can be measured by our increasing suicide rate, which hit a record level last year.

Almost all the cannabis that is grown, by anyone, ever, is grown with the intent of reducing some of this suffering. There’s no point to it otherwise. No-one grows cannabis with the intent to cause suffering. Anyone who believes this is simply not in touch with the reality of cannabis use. Everyone who grows it does so with the intent that using the end product will alleviate suffering in some way.

So the concept of non-altruistic cannabis growing makes as much sense as the idea of non-altruistic insulin production.

People who aren’t interested in the medicinal effects of cannabis might still be using it for that reason, even if they smoke it in joints. Even casual joint smokers are often motivated by the decrease in anxiety, stress, nausea or insomnia that comes with using it. This means that the vast majority of cannabis that anyone is growing, anywhere, is for altruistic reasons, much the same as with Rose Renton.

Many people are unwilling to accept this, for the reason that this makes the current law seem extremely cruel. The hard facts are, however, that the current law is extremely cruel. It’s possible that the law prevented Alex from getting hold of a medicine that would have saved his life. We’ll never know.

It’s possible that Rose Renton had to watch her son die for no other reason than that New Zealand politicians were too stupid and cowardly to address the need to repeal cannabis prohibition in time. That might seem unreasonably cruel, perhaps even so cruel that it’s hard to admit to, but that’s what we did. We’ve been doing it for decades, to Kiwi families up and down the country.

We have to face up to the fact that cannabis is a medicine, and that the law withholding it from people is killing those who need its medicinal qualities. It’s time for us to accept that the vast majority of people who are growing cannabis are doing so with the ultimate intent of alleviating human suffering, so we should repeal cannabis prohibition and make it legal.

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

The Case For Cannabis: Prohibition Funds Crime

Other articles here have mentioned that cannabis prohibition doesn’t mean the cannabis market goes away: it just means that it goes onto the black market. There are several deleterious aspects to this, each worthy of separate discussion. This article will look at the role cannabis prohibition plays in funding crime.

The logic is that, by prohibiting cannabis and by attacking cannabis users through the justice system, it becomes possible to prevent cannabis profits from steadily flowing into the hands of criminals, which would prevent them from being able to fund further enterprises. So criminal activity, and thereby the suffering of the citizenry, can be pre-empted by attacking cannabis users and growers.

As we saw with alcohol, the attempt to prohibit a substance just makes everything about it worse. Alcohol prohibition infamously led to the rise of an entire class of gangsters and bootleggers, the most well-known being Al Capone. Because the substance couldn’t be sold lawfully, it was sold on the black market, and the criminal enterprises who made the profits were happy to use that money to find other ventures.

In Capone’s time, much of that black market money was used to buy firearms, which were then used in the commission of robberies and contract killings. Alcohol prohibition ensured a constant flow of money into the coffers of criminal gangs, and this financed further ventures. Consequently, those criminal enterprises flourished.

We don’t have alcohol prohibition any more, but cannabis prohibition has done a fine job of filling that gap.

The New Zealand Drug Harm Index 2016 stated that “Over $70 million in funding for other criminal activities is provided each year from drug trafficking. The majority of this (nearly 90%) is generated from the sale of cannabinoids.” Another way to write this is to say: Cannabis prohibition puts $60 million into the pockets of criminal gangs in every single year, in New Zealand alone.

This money then finances all the murders, robberies and methamphetamine production that the rest of us have to suffer from. The Police are not wrong when they say that illegal cannabis sales fund further crime – they’re just wrong when they say that the solution is to crack down on it. It’s the cracking down on cannabis that makes it valuable, and this attracts the desperate, greedy and short-sighted.

If a criminal wants to fund the purchase of a large amount of precursors to methamphetamine, they might find themselves in need of a few thousand dollars. This is a similar amount of money to what they could make in one cannabis grow under a 600 watt light, after about three months of growing. Because anyone with a real criminal network knows someone with cannabis clones (or at least seeds), just about anyone inclined to set up a meth operation can also get a cannabis grow started.

Moreover, cannabis prohibition makes it possible to cut up a pound of cannabis into $50 bags and sell them piecemeal. They can do it themselves, or they can get gang underlings to do it – after all, $50 is within the reach of even high schoolers. This makes it possible for criminal enterprises to draw more and more people in.

Under a regime of legal cannabis, such things would not be possible, or would at least be strongly disincentivised. For one thing, cannabis prices are much lower in places where it is legal, and this removes most of the incentive to get involved in selling it. A second factor is that the vast majority of people prefer not to deal with criminals if they can get the same goods from a white market vendor.

So cannabis prohibition makes it possible for a variety of criminal enterprises to get funding, whereas they may not have been able to get off the ground without their backers’ ability to sell cannabis on the black market. A lot of this criminal activity only exists because the law makes it possible. Wherever you have an economic niche, white market or black, someone will step into it.

The common counter-argument that, if cannabis was made legal, gangs would just sell hard drugs, turns out to be the opposite of the truth. The scenario we’re given is that criminals will sell drugs anyway, so it’s better for them to sell cannabis to our children than methamphetamine. The assumption seems to be that criminals choose to sell cannabis in preference to methamphetamine etc. out of kindness.

Leaving aside all the other ways in which this argument is wrong, it takes a certain amount of start-up capital to be able to get in on the market for hard drugs, because it’s necessary to deal with major players. Cooking up a batch of meth takes start-up capital, and even buying precursors usually requires a five-figure sum of cash on account of that people dealing in such are disinclined to make petty deals. Cannabis law reform would make those five figures harder for criminals to come by.

Cannabis prohibition should be repealed so as to take a major source of funding away from criminal gangs. Without black market cannabis, a number of criminal enterprises and schemes would not be able to get off the ground, which would keep our communities safer than cannabis prohibition can.

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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: There Is No Moral Argument Against Cannabis

Some cannabis prohibitionists contend that cannabis should remain illegal because its use is immoral. This immorality is such that it’s fair to use the criminal justice system to prevent it from happening. As this article will examine, not only is there no moral argument against cannabis, but the moral equation suggests that it should be legal.

The sort of person making this argument is usually some kind of wowser. This is the reason why this argument is becoming less common – proponents of it are dying off.

Usually, the argument takes some form of slippery slope argument. The usual patterns is that smoking cannabis is claimed to lead, by stepwise degeneracy, into the total abandonment of all healthy human values, until the user deteriorates into a wretched shell of the person they once were. Here the spectre of Reefer Madness can be seen once again.

The idea that cannabis use is inherently immoral harkens back to the religious fundamentalist idea that all pleasure is inherently sinful, on account of that it induces a person to worship the material world instead of God. It’s essentially a religious idea, and fundamentalist in the sense that the suffering caused by this admonition is ignored.

In reality, human beings have a need for recreational activity or they will become mentally ill. This is apparent from observing anywhere in history where those activities have been restricted. Pleasure is not inherently immoral, and it’s not immoral to enjoy one’s life, provided that one’s duties are still met and one’s responsibilities still discharged.

To the contrary – there is a moral imperative to enjoy one’s life, for if one does not do so, then bitterness, anger, frustration and depression are the consequences. These emotions invariably take themselves out on other people. Therefore, a person has a moral imperative to keep themselves happy enough that they can have a positive effect on other people. If using cannabis helps achieve this, so be it.

Morally speaking, the correct course of action to take at any given time is the one that minimises the suffering of conscious beings. It isn’t to blindly follow the law, and neither is it to blindly follow some crude ascetic concept of religious purity by banning and avoiding all recreational substances. If such a thing could be summarised, we might say that it’s closer to taking the correct decision in every situation, despite the pressures and temptations to take the wrong one.

Some might argue that people have more important things to do than to use cannabis. That’s all well and good, but it isn’t a sufficient argument to make cannabis illegal. It’s entirely possible that some people use cannabis when they could have been doing something more edifying or productive. This would still not constitute a moral demand to attack these people through the criminal justice system.

Others might argue that the moral imperative lies not with the prospective cannabis user, but with society, who ought to act to make cannabis less widely available. But this, too, is an example of putting abstract rules ahead of a sober calculation of which legal arrangement leads to the least suffering. Punishing cannabis suppliers and users cannot be the way forward.

It can hardly be argued that setting the Police and the criminal justice system onto someone for growing or using cannabis is the morally correct thing to do. The effect of being arrested and potentially dragged through court is more suffering than could ever possibly be prevented by breaking a cannabis habit. If moral considerations are important, then we need to look for a less brutal solution.

The most morally sophisticated way of dealing with cannabis is to make it legal, and to use some of the money freed up by this to fix any problem that might arise. It is estimated that legalising cannabis could save even a small country like New Zealand up to $500 million per year. This would provide ample funding to every drug counselling service in the whole country.

If this was coupled with a cultural change that saw cannabis dependency treated like dependency for legal drugs, instead of a moral failure for which one must be punished, it might be possible to encourage people who were dependent to get help instead of intending to force them away from cannabis by using the Police and prisons. If there is a moral argument around cannabis, that is surely the solution.

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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.