Writing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an unusual condition in that almost everyone has it to a greater or lesser degree, but few realise the impact that it has had on their lives. As the name implies, the condition describes when a person’s stress levels or reactions don’t go back to normal after a major traumatic experience. This article looks at how to write believable characters and situations involving PTSD.

PTSD is caused by exposure to a traumatic event, usually one in which a person thinks they are going to die. The classic examples are exposure to warfare, traffic accidents, sexual assault or physical assault. Experiences like these cause the brain to flood with fear, which can form long-term associations with the other stimuli present. This means that future exposure to those stimuli can trigger that deep fear again.

The classic symptom of PTSD is becoming full of adrenaline and going into combat mode when exposed to a loud noise or a touch to the head. In the former case, the loud noise might remind a character of the explosions of grenades and shellfire in combat; in the latter case, the touch to the head might remind of early childhood abuse at the hands of a parent. In either case, powerful memories of immense fear can quickly come flooding back.

The effects of PTSD are what could be expected from a close brush with gruesome physical death: adrenaline and cortisol prime the character for either combat or running. A character with the condition might easily become stirred into fight-or-flight mode as a response to the trauma. Here it can be seen that PTSD has considerable overlap with other psychiatric disorders, in particular Panic Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Other effects are an increased propensity for self-harm. After all, one of the natural consequences of having a massively traumatic experience is that a person comes to realise that the world is much nastier or more dangerous than they thought it was. Some people with PTSD might decide that this world is actually pretty shit and not worth living in, given the horrors it contains.

In the case of violent crime or rape, a person might also come to lose all trust in a major societal demographic, which entails everyday difficulties. If a woman comes to distrust all men or a robbery victim comes to distrust all blacks, their life might become a lot harder and quickly, for no real fault of their own. Like children who have had bad experiences with dogs, a person with PTSD might come to dislike anything associated with their initial trauma.

Because PTSD is frequently portrayed in dramatic fiction, care must be taken not to write in cliches. The example of a nightmare leading to someone waking up in the middle of the night screaming, only to realise that the object of their terror is no longer present, is a striking one but also very heavily used. So too is the man staring into the distance, reliving a traumatic experience, not hearing someone calling to them.

A protagonist who suffers from PTSD might be aware of their condition or unaware.

If they are aware that they have PTSD, they might be a deep and sensitive character. They could be directly aware that a particular early life event has damaged them irreparably. This might be the reason for their unusual levels of compassion – the character knows what it feels like to be scared to death and commiserates with others who also do.

A story featuring such a character might be one about how they overcame their psychic damage and managed to find a way to engage joyfully with life. Often this involves healing oneself, the shamanic path. An extremely wise character may have attained their insight through having overcome an equally extreme trauma earlier in their life. Perhaps this experience caused them to understand what another character is going through.

It’s common to have PTSD and to be unaware of it. This is especially plausible on account of that people who incur severe psychological trauma might not show signs of it until many years later. A person might grow into early adulthood with a particularly surly or nasty character because of some heavy trauma incurred while a child. They might also show other signs of being strongly emotional, reckless or impulsive.

Just because a character with PTSD is not aware that they have PTSD, doesn’t mean that other characters will not be aware. In some cases it will be very obvious, because they will observe the first character go into kill mode for what seems like an insufficiently grave provocation. The character with PTSD might soon find that their condition is part of their reputation – they seem “damaged” in the eyes of others.

A combination of the two can also tell a story, such as the case of a protagonist who gradually becomes aware that they have PTSD or something like it. Perhaps they are perceptive enough to realise that a prior event has damaged their psyche – for example, they observe that they feel intense anxiety when presented with a stimulus that reminds them of a particular traumatic event.

If your protagonist encounters a character with PTSD, how that protagonist behaves might depend on their naivety and openness. A naive character might think that simply by being nice to someone with PTSD they can get them to behave normally. Although this is sometimes true up to a point, the reality is that PTSD often carries with it sinister undertones of bitterness and resentment.

It’s common for people who have PTSD for similar reasons to bond strongly over the fact. This is especially true in the case of soldiers, emergency personnel and survivors of abusive relationships. For one thing, misery loves company, but for another, severe trauma is often the kind of experience that deeply shapes a person and their conception of life and reality, so people who share the trauma often share an entire worldview that’s based on it.

C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) isn’t actually in the DSM-V, but it’s worth covering here for the sake of completeness. Essentially it’s a similar condition, only brought about by repeated exposure to a traumatic person or stimulus, as opposed to one single, horrifying event as is usually the case with regular PTSD.

The major difference with C-PTSD is the loss of a sense of self. One’s boundaries are violated with such consistency that it becomes hard to say where one ends and the outside world begins. This can be related to Depersonalisation Disorder and frequently coincides with a deep sense of distrust about other people.

*

This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM-V (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

The New Zealand Government Has Been Separating Children From Their Cannabis-Growing Parents for Decades

This is no worse than what our own Government is doing to us

Today’s mass media assault on consciousness involved emotional images from America of Mexican children in cages. The ensuing outrage was based around the fact that when a Mexican family is apprehended crossing the American border illegally, the children are temporarily separated from their parents. Although this is regrettable, what the media is ignoring is that the New Zealand Government has been doing the same thing to its own citizens for decades.

For one thing, it’s standard practice for the New Zealand Government to separate children from their parents if those parents are going into custody for breaking the law. In this regard, the New Zealand Government’s normal actions are no better than what the American Government is doing. Even worse than this is the fact that many of those parents are going to jail for offences that don’t harm anyone, unlike (arguably) illegal immigration.

The fact that cannabis is a medicine is a fact near enough to universally acknowledged by the young people of the world, even if Baby Boomer politicians have been slow to understand it. However, cultivation of it remains a crime punishable by up to seven years imprisonment in New Zealand, despite that the plant has a wide range of medicinal effects and is used all over the country to alleviate needless suffering.

Because cannabis is so good for alleviating suffering – taking away pain, nausea, insomnia among other maladies – people continue to grow it, despite the law. But because of the law, a significant number of these people end up being apprehended by Police and sentenced to prison.

Many of the medicinal cannabis growers who have been put in prison over the past 40 years have had children. Those children were forcibly separated from their parents by the New Zealand Government for the sake of enforcing a law that should never have been a law.

So all the perfectly natural dismay that Kiwis have been induced to feel at what the Mexican children at the American border are forced to endure – a traumatic forced separation from their parents as a consequence of an arbitrary law enforced by armed men – could just as well arise as a result of thinking about what Kiwi children have to go through as a result of cannabis prohibition.

In fact, our own children have it worse, because they will often not get to see their parents again for a long time.

So if people in New Zealand are going to get upset because of an outrage that the global corporate media manufactured in order to target a conservative American President, let’s get equally upset about similar and equally evil actions in New Zealand.

Every time a New Zealander gets put in prison for a cannabis offence that has harmed no-one, leaving a child on the outside who is now missing a parent, we ought to react with the same outrage towards our own Government as we had today for the Trump Administration. If we’re going to expend energy on outrage let’s at least direct it somewhere where it can do some good.

*

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).

Can North Korea Teach the West How to Have A Humane Cannabis Policy?

Our media has been giving us the Two Minute Hate about North Korea for over two decades. Anyone who has read 1984 knows that most of the reason for this is to distract from the crimes of our own politicians and industrial leaders. One of these crimes is the War on Cannabis: Western Governments could learn from the North Koreans how to have a humane, honest and fair cannabis policy.

For the past 40-50 years, Western Governments have conducted a War on Drugs against their own people, without the consent of those people. Trillions have been spent during these decades to persecute tens of millions of Western citizens, many of whom had not caused any harm to anyone. This mass human rights abuse – because that’s what it is – continues to this day, despite small wins for the people in some areas.

This War on Drugs has been justified with a rhetoric so clumsy and corrupt that even a 1930s-era propagandist would be embarrassed by the lack of subtlety. From the infamous “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” to “Cannabis use causes psychosis” to today’s horseshit stories about how buying cannabis is supporting Mexican narcoterrorism, no more hamfisted effort has ever been made to sell anything.

For roughly half a century, Western families have been ripped apart from having one of their family members sent to prison for a cannabis offence. Tens of millions have been forced into a traumatic encounter with the Police and justice or prison systems, treated as criminals when most were mentally ill and needed help. In America in 2016, there were 574,641 people charged with the crime of simple cannabis possession.

One would expect then, that the punishment for cultivating cannabis in a place as fundamentally evil as North Korea would be horrifically draconian and senseless. If it’s up to seven years imprisonment in New Zealand it must surely be life in prison or even execution there.

To the contrary – far from scheduling cannabis as belonging to the most dangerous category of addictive drugs with no medicinal value as America does, North Korea doesn’t even consider cannabis a drug. Not only are people free to cultivate it without sanction, but it grows freely by the roadside in many places, being a weed and not being subject to eradication programs. North Koreans are free to harvest and smoke it every single day – and they do.

Many would personally be happy to trade all the supposed Western freedoms to drink booze, watch television and chase loose women for the freedom to smoke cannabis, have quality conversations with intelligent people and at the end of the night still be capable of maintaining an erection. So one has to ask: who’s actually better off?

The thawing of relations between the West and North Korea might have implications for cannabis policy in the West. Those Westerners who are still labouring under primitive superstitions such as “cannabis causes brain damage and therefore people should go to prison for it” might learn something from the more enlightened approach taken by the North Korean Government.

Perhaps North Korea could send advisors to the West to educate our politicians about how large industries conspired to make cannabis illegal for the sake of wiping out a competitor, and that keeping it prohibited is actually an immoral thing to do. These North Koreans could also be tasked with going through our Police and justice system employees to root out the sadists who believed that imprisoning someone was ever a fair or reasonable response to drug possession, because they are morally defective and cannot be trusted to serve the public.

*

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).

Will Drinking Alcohol Still Be Popular In 50 Years?

Booze: it’s kind of crap, and it’s time we moved on to better drugs

A lot of really stupid things have fallen out of fashion in recent decades, and for good reason. Smoking tobacco is now uncommon, because we’re now much more aware of the deleterious effects than we used to be, and seeing someone riding a motorcycle without a helmet is rare too. This article asks the question: will drinking alcohol still form the basis of Western social interaction in half a century?

Let’s face it: the only reason we drink a lot is habit. It’s not because alcohol is good, and it’s not because alcohol is safe. Alcohol isn’t really good because there are plenty of other common drugs that are better: MDMA is a better entactogen, cannabis is more relaxing, opium is better for getting wasted with. It’s also not safe, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has spent time around drunks.

No – the reason why we drink a lot is because our parents did, and they drank because their parents did, and so on, and in every case it’s true that people drank alcohol because that’s just what people did. For thousands of years, the ancestors of Westerners knocked back the booze – they didn’t know about the relationship between alcohol and heart disease, liver failure or cancer, because people seldom lived long enough to be affected by such things.

Moreover, there are large capital interests that are tied up in alcohol manufacture and sales. The alcohol industry is easily big enough to buy off politicians at the national level – and they do. These politicians have been more than happy to stop any competitor to alcohol getting established, which is why our recreational drug scene is soaked with booze (and thereby with the violence, sluttiness, vomiting and hangovers that inevitably accompany the alcohol experience).

These factors might very soon stop having an impact. The changing drug market scene has smashed the duopoly over the recreational drug market that alcohol once enjoyed along with tobacco. Not only are there now over a dozen territories where cannabis is properly legal, but the rise of dark markets on the Internet has made it possible for people anywhere to access a wide variety of drugs without needing anything more than a postal address.

There have also been more sinister undertones to the historical promotion of alcohol use.

From the earliest days of the Age of Colonialism, European traders were aware of the destructive effect that alcohol (usually in the form of rum) had on the natives of the New World. There was no need to shoot them when you could simply trade them some booze and watch them destroy themselves. Although it was not appreciated at the time, alcohol was effectively able to be used as a bioweapon by the Europeans.

This was because they had developed a genetic resistance to alcohol over thousands of years of exposure, while the natives had not. Over the past several thousand years, because Europeans were getting drunk much of the time, there was a selective pressure against those who misbehaved while drunk. Anyone who became excessively violent or stupid while drunk was liable to delete themselves, and their genes, from the gene pool. Over time, therefore, Europeans adapted to behave relatively tamely when intoxicated.

So when the European traders introduced alcohol to the delicate psychobiological balance of the New World, it had a similar effect to a hand grenade. Alcoholism has destroyed the native peoples of North America, South America, Australia and Polynesia. If European complicity in this was widely accepted and owned up to, the need to legalise recreational alternatives to alcohol would become obvious.

Given all of these factors, it has to be asked whether the widespread consumption of alcohol is something that will continue much further into the future. It can already be observed that the youngest generation is abandoning alcohol en masse, usually for cannabis but sometimes for other substances that can be easily be obtained: MDMA or research chemicals are popular alternatives.

Global recreational drug culture this century is more likely to revolve around cannabis for the reasons described. Cannabis is something that people of all nations and races can enjoy equally without any sense of cultural advantage, unlike alcohol, which is really the white man’s drug. It can already be seen (in the few places they exist) that cannabis cafes serve as places where people of many cultures come together in harmony and good cheer.

As awareness of the harms of alcohol spreads, as recreational alternatives become increasingly available and as world culture moves further away from a Eurocentric model, it’s possible that the prominence of alcohol in our culture diminishes in the same way tobacco did. It’s hard to imagine now, but there are good reasons to think that hardly anyone will still be regularly drinking alcohol in 50 years’ time.

*

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).

Writing Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is an uncommon condition that arises as a consequence of permanent perceptual changes brought on by use of hallucinogens. There is almost no data on the prevalence of this condition, and some don’t even believe it exists. Nevertheless, this article will discuss how to believably portray characters with HPPD.

HPPD usually causes a problem because of visual disturbances that are akin to those that accompany a hallucinogenic experience. It’s common to see glowing halos around various objects, or visual trails that linger behind moving objects. It’s also possible to perceive objects as being much larger than they actually are, or much smaller. Some people even see a kind of “visual snow” between objects, like the static on a television set. Auditory hallucinations are also possible.

A character who has HPPD might appear kind of ‘spaced out’ to the other characters. Those other characters might suspect that the one with HPPD is, or has been, on a heavy drug of some kind. Because their perceptions are so vivid, a character with HPPD might be too distracted to pay proper attention to what’s going on around them. This could create a number of social difficulties for that character.

The author might decide that writing a character with HPPD is not very interesting if focus is placed solely on visual and perhaps auditory disturbances. It might be possible to tell a far richer and more engaging story by showing the reader some of the other lingering psychological effects of psychedelics, especially the deeper emotional and spiritual ones.

The problem with this approach is that one soon steps outside the bounds of the clinical – which is perfectly fine for the sake of literature, but it has to be kept in mind that the strictures of the DSM are distantly removed from what follows here.

Many psychedelic drugs have the capacity to break down a person’s existing perception of reality and replace it with something entirely different. This means that some of the persisting perceptions that arise from hallucinogenic drugs use are not so much sensual, but intuitive.

A common persisting perception from using hallucinogens is a belief that the material world isn’t real. Our culture is materialist; we take for granted that the material world is real and that the human brain generates consciousness. For the vast majority of us, it seems intuitively true that the material world genuinely exists and that the brain gives rise to consciousness, and this perception is so common that it’s taken for granted by most.

People who have HPPD might no longer believe in materialism. They may feel that, in the course of a hallucinogenic trip, they were granted a particular insight into the way the cosmos truly functions. Maybe they now believe that the world is a dream in the mind of God. A character who has had a change in perceptions relating to cosmic attitudes might find themselves coming into conflict with some of the other characters around them. Theirs could be a story of how easy it is to get ostracised from a community for having unique beliefs.

In practice, it doesn’t actually matter whether materialism is correct or not; a character who becomes a non-materialist as a result of a hallucinogenic experience will have extreme difficulty fitting into society in any case. They will frequently be rejected and mocking for being mentally ill. In particular, it will be impossible for them to convince a psychiatrist that their new belief is anything other than a mental illness. A character who thinks like this will therefore likely be an outsider to some degree.

Another common change in perception relates to the presence of a light at the end of the tunnel. Dovetailing with materialism is atheism – the two seem to follow each other closely. The vast majority of people who were raised atheist do not believe in the presence of a benevolent force that watches over their life with a desire to end their suffering. The cosmos is indifferent to human suffering and misery.

A person who has a strong experience with a hallucinogen can easily come to change their opinion on this subject. It might be that your protagonist has suddenly decided to believe in God – not the God of Abraham, but the benevolent, all-pervading force that gives rise and motion to the world. This might not be received well by the other characters in your story, especially if they are materialists, or if they believe in a dead God such as the Abrahamic one. They will probably think your protagonist is mad or evil.

This can make for an interesting story because of the contrast between the good feelings that arise naturally inside a person who has spiritual satisfaction, and the bad feelings that comes from the outside world as a consequence. Their social life might become much more difficult than before, on account of pressure to go back to the socially-approved way of thinking. This could push them into the arms of a new group of people, such as those who have also seen beyond.

These persisting changes in perception are much more subtle than the visual and auditory ones, but they might have just as large an impact on a person’s ability to live a normal life, primarily because of the social disruption just mentioned. In extreme cases, these changes in perception might make employment also impossible, leading to radical life changes that could lead anywhere.

Writing a character with HPPD is no easy task, because it is likely that most of the readers are not intimately familiar with the effects of hallucinogens and so will have difficulty relating to the often bizarre and surreal perceptual changes that accompany the condition. However, if executed skillfully, a tale with a character who has HPPD could be highly entertaining, insightful or even edifying.

*

This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Jordan B Peterson is the Timothy Leary of Our Generation

Helping the next generation to see beyond – or corrupting the youth?

Jordan B Peterson has struck a dull and ossified mediascape like a meteor. Where there used to be only talking heads reading from teleprompters and a variety of family-rated corporate whores, the Canadian professor has burst onto the scene spraying the truth like machinegun rounds. Being so used to lies as we are, this has astonished us, and as of right now Peterson is the man of the moment. The reaction he has generated is an echo of another psychologist who clashed with the Establishment of his time – Timothy Leary.

Once described by U.S. President Richard Nixon as “the most dangerous man in America,” Leary was a pioneer of psychedelic therapy. Also like Peterson, Leary was once a psychology lecturer at Harvard University. Leary devoted his life to understanding the human mind and behaviour and communicating this knowledge to other people, and in doing so helped set them free.

And in setting people free, he became the enemy of the Establishment.

Peterson and Leary are hated by the Establishment because they deprogrammed the young people of their time from the brainwashing that the elites had forced onto them. In Leary’s time, during the early 60s, the young had been brainwashed to be right-wing: they had been programmed to be judgmental, harsh, even hateful. Leary’s task was to teach them to love, and he found that psychedelics were useful for accelerating this deconditioning process.

The only difference with Peterson in this regard is that the young people being deprogrammed by Peterson have been brainwashed with left-wing logic. Instead of being programmed to be discriminating and hard, they have been programmed to be unquestioning, passive, yielding and soft. In other words, where Leary was confronted with a youth that was too masculine as a response to World War II, Peterson has been confronted with a youth that is too feminine as a response to the great decades of peace.

Timothy Leary showed in the Concord Prison Experiment that violent felons could be induced to repudiate their criminal ways if given a guided psychedelic therapy session under the supervision of a qualified therapist. Recidivist criminals learned some empathy for the victims of their aggression and swore off it. In other words, he showed that an excess of masculinity can be countered by the restorative effects of psychedelics.

Those restorative effects can also counter an excess of feminity. They can help a Western world that has lost itself in materialist sensations. We are so obsessed with our own bodies and with sensory pleasures that we have lost touch with the spiritual and with the transcendental. Peterson correctly understands that psychedelics can help here but he is also canny enough not to fall into the Leary trap of propounding something that the populace isn’t mentally ready to handle.

Both men also had a message of “turn on, tune in, drop out”, only they are different. Leary’s message was to drop out of society entirely. His belief was that people who turn on to their true nature will realise that it isn’t served by the way society is structured, and that if they completely rejected it they could form a new society that suffered from none of those problems. A new society could be built by a switched-on movement of hippies, and it would prevail.

Peterson has a similar message, only without the anarchism. For both Peterson and Leary, turning on and tuning in involved learning to know one’s own mind, one’s one thoughts and consciousness. Where Peterson is different is that his emphasis is on restoring order within oneself before attempting to impose order upon the external world. His catchphrase is “Clean your room before you worry about fixing the world,” echoing Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see.”

Where both men are exactly the same is in that they teach people to look within for answers, instead of without. Teaching young people to rely on their own judgment and their own experiences instead of taking direction from aggressively self-imposed moral authorities absolutely terrifies the Establishment – because the Establishment consists of nothing more but self-imposed moral authorities.

The Government, the Church and the media all gain their power from the attention that they are given by those who look to them for guidance. Power flows where attention goes. When Peterson exhorts young people to impose order upon their own inner lives so that they can more easily impose order upon the outer world, these Establishment elites correctly see this as a massive risk to their own influence and control – and that’s why the Establishment and its lackeys are attacking him more and more.

The true counterculture is neither left-wing nor right-wing, but simply a reaction to the excesses of the previous culture. In the same way that Leary was the voice of the left-wing counterculture of the 60s that opposed right-wing thought control, Peterson is the voice of the right-wing counterculture of this decade that opposes left-wing thought control. In this way, he is another iteration of the philosopher-king archetype who gets attacked by the liars in the Establishment – a pattern going back at least to Socrates.

*

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).

Why New Zealand is Now Behind Zimbabwe On Cannabis Law Reform

For all the gloating about how incredibly progressive New Zealand is on issues relating to race and sexual orientation, we Kiwis sometimes fail to notice that we are lagging behind the rest of the world on many other human rights issues. Incredibly, New Zealand is more backwards than Zimbabwe now when it comes to cannabis law reform. This essay examines why.

You read correctly: New Zealand is now behind Zimbabwe on cannabis law reform. The despotic Southern African state announced recently that both individuals and companies can apply to the Minister of Health for a licence to grow medicinal cannabis. You don’t have to be dying, as is the criteria in New Zealand.

So how did our human rights decay to the point where Zimbabwe is beating us on major human rights issues like medicinal cannabis law reform?

Crucial to understanding this is understanding that the National Party has always been the pisshead’s friend. When drinkers wanted pub hours extended for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the National Party was eager to help. But when Kiwi medicinal cannabis users petitioned them for nine years to allow them equal rights to people in California, they were utterly unmoving, despite the evidence in the research journals and from the examples set overseas.

When the Electoral Commission revealed the list of each party’s donations last month, it became clear why New Zealand is now more backwards than Zimbabwe when it comes to cannabis law reform. Simply put, the National Party has whored itself out to the same alcohol and pharmaceutical interests that have opposed cannabis medicine from the beginning.

In 2017, the National Party got $41,945 in donations from Stoneyridge Vineyard, $25,438 from Gibbston Valley Winery, $16,700 from Spirits NZ and $42,000 from Graeme Douglas of Douglas Pharmaceuticals, whose morphine product is competing with medicinal cannabis for the billion-dollar analgesic market. This totals $126,083 in donations from industries that are implacably opposed to cannabis law reform.

The National Party spent around $2,500,000 on their 2017 General Election campaign, which means that these donations are reasonably small in the overall scheme of things, amounting to only c. 5% of the total spending. But this has to be contrasted with the fact that the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, the only party seriously promoting the will of the 80% of Kiwis who want a change to the cannabis laws, spent less than $1,700.

In other words, anti-cannabis forces spent over 70 times as much on bribing National Party MPs as pro-cannabis forces spent in total during the 2017 General Election. Little wonder, then, that National Party MPs unanimously voted against Chloe Swarbrick’s bill that would have allowed sick Kiwis to grow their own medicinal cannabis at home without fear of prosecution.

This all sounds very cynical but unfortunately, this is how the game is played in politics, which belongs ultimately to the paradigm of silver. Our politicians are literally whores – this is a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who has had cause to observe the politically ambitious at close range for any length of time. They will say whatever someone wants to be said for money, so their tongues are for hire as much as those of any streetwalker.

Despite all that, this situation may not last. The experience of American states that have liberalised their cannabis laws (beginning with medicinal cannabis in California in 1996), suggests that money talks both ways.

East Coast medicinal cannabis operation Hikurangi Enterprises recently raised $2,000,000 in their share offering and were heavily oversubscribed – so much so that the crowdfunding site handling it crashed twice. Considering that most people who are interested in medicinal cannabis are sick and therefore poor, being able to raise two million dollars speaks to a tremendous level of support among the population.

What this means is that, sooner or later, there will be a player with extremely deep pockets who wants to break into the New Zealand cannabis market, and this player will see fit to make a “donation” to a reformist party in return for that party supporting some form of repeal of cannabis prohibition. It will probably be a while before this donation matches the six-figure sum that the booze and pills industries are spending on keeping medicinal cannabis illegal, but the gap ought to keep closing.

New Zealanders have fewer rights to access medicinal cannabis than people in Zimbabwe, and the reason for it is alcohol and pharmaceutical industry bribe money going to the National Party. Until we can remove this blatant corruption from our political system, sick Kiwis can only access their medicine in secret.

*

Vince McLeod is a former Membership Secretary of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and author of the Cannabis Activist’s Handbook.