All of us take for granted that we are a free people, that we are not slaves and so have the right to autonomy and self-determination. The problem with this line of thinking is that is doesn’t survive scrutiny, especially once one asks why we’re not allowed to grow or to use cannabis. This article argues that cannabis ought to be legal for the reason that we are supposed to be a free people.
History shows that the ruling class and the masses are always in conflict over what freedoms that masses are allowed to exercise. Alexei Sayle in The Young Ones satirised the cruelty of the medival ruling class by having a peasant sentenced to death for “whistling on a Tuesday”. Although facing the court system for whistling on the wrong day might sound arbitrary, the fact is that it’s no more so than cannabis prohibition.
A person does not have to be a libertarian to agree that it is the individual that ultimately has the right to decide what goes into their body. If that person’s body is their own private property, then it is that person who decides what goes into it and what doesn’t. If that person’s body is not their own private property, then whose property is it? If the answer is not their own, then they are a slave.
It doesn’t matter if the answer is “the nation” or “the community” because the individual has no way of knowing if the people who claim to be making decisions on behalf of these entities actually are. The vast majority of people can agree that conscription is immoral because it is effectively the Government stating that they own your body, even if you object. If the Government owning your body is immoral in that instance, it is so in other instances.
The argument for freedom is essentially an argument against slavery. What we now call chattel slavery is when the will of a person is entirely subjected to and subjugated by the will of another. If you are a slave, then that other person decides what goes into your body and what does not. This state of subjugation is considered so inhumanly cruel that it is now illegal anywhere that has pretensions to be civilised.
We are forced to ask ourselves, however: is not the prohibition of cannabis, such that if a person presumes to be free enough to grow a cannabis plant in a bucket of dirt then they go to prison for years, in the same category of brutal and unjustified control of another person as chattel slavery?
If we can all agree that freedom entails the right to grow and consume medicinal plants, particularly when neither activity causes harm to anyone, then on what grounds does the Government believe that it has the right to restrict this freedom?
Freedom means freedom. Freedom doesn’t mean “You’re free to do what you like except for things on this list of arbitrary and inhumane restrictions, because if you do anything on this list you go in a cage”.
From the perspective of a cannabis enthusiast, the law prohibiting cannabis is immensely frustrating. It is immensely frustrating to desire cannabis but to not be able to use it, because some idiots in Parliament decided that they had the right to decide what goes into your body and not you. This frustration leads to a deep sense of humiliation – sometimes it seems like the main reason for cannabis prohibition is just to rub our faces in it.
Without freedom, depression, low self-esteem and despair follow naturally. It’s only natural to lose the will to live when politicians are the ones that decide what goes into your body, because this is a form of authoritarianism, which doesn’t work for everyone. The natural place for authoritarian conduct is between master and slave, or between farmer and livestock – it’s not natural for humans to conduct relations between each other on such a level, and the more educated and sophisticated a people are, the less well it works.
There might have been a place for authoritarianism in drug policy a century ago, back when the vast majority of people were illiterate and incapable of rationally forming their own opinions. In such a primitive state, people could not have been expected to handle the complexity of the cannabis issue, and therefore could not have been expected to think rationally about it.
In 2018, people can simply go on the Internet to find as much information about cannabis as they like. We’re able to research the medicinal effects of cannabis, and we’re able to research the consequences of legalising cannabis in other places. Every one of us has access to a hundred times more information about cannabis than even Government ministers had as little as ten years ago. We all know that legal restrictions in this area are unreasonable.
Ultimately, cannabis should be legal for people to use because people have the right to be free. There is no higher authority than the individual when it comes to deciding what can and what cannot go into the body of that individual. This means that the law prohibiting this ought to be repealed on the grounds that it is immoral and an unreasonable restriction of our natural right to freedom.
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.