The War on Cannabis seems to be based on the idea that cannabis, if persecuted hard enough, could potentially be eradicated, so that no-one used it at all anymore. In reality, such a war is unwinnable, for a number of reasons. This essay will make the argument that cannabis ought to be legal on account of that it is an established crop.
One of the reasons why cannabis prohibition was doomed to failure was because cannabis has been used by people all around the world for thousands of years. Despite the best efforts of prohibitionists to eradicate all knowledge of cannabis cultivation and use, people remain aware of its medicinal properties. Cannabis has been illegal for almost a century, but its medical uses are reflections of the natural world, because the calming, soporific and therapeutic effects are universal to humans.
For this reason, demand will always exist for cannabis, no matter what the law says. Whether by underground chemists, criminals, shamans, botanical scientists, insomnia and nausea sufferers or simply by the curious, cannabis culture has been kept alive despite the massive efforts to eradicate it. It’s likely that it always will stay alive, on account of that there are so many people who think so positively of the drug.
Evidence that cannabis is an established crop can be seen from the vast number of popular cultural references to it. Films like Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and Pineapple Express base their entire plotlines around the audience understanding cannabis and how it works, and that’s without even mentioning Cheech and Chong. There are entire genres of music called things like “stoner rock” or “stoner metal”, and literary references to cannabis or its effects are legion.
This establishment is a physical fact as well as a cultural one. All around the country there is wild cannabis growing, and there are millions of seeds in possession of private growers, who are just waiting for the Government to get out of the way. In every town and city there are rings of people who share seeds, clones and buds. Hundreds of thousands of people have a medical condition that might be alleviated by cannabis, and tens of thousands of them are aware of the benefits of cannabis and are trying to inform the others.
This demand survived prohibition; it will always be there.
Perhaps the best way of measuring this demand is by measuring the size of the cannabis market. Most people in New Zealand don’t understand how big the cannabis market is. Last year, Colorado made $1,500 million worth of cannabis sales to a population roughly the same size as New Zealand, roughly $300 per person per year. Considering that this is after 90 years of adverse propaganda – in other words, 90 years of strong abnormalisation of cannabis use – $1.5 billion is a lot of money.
Even without sentiment, in the cold hard light of pure commerce, the argument exists for cannabis to be treated as a major industry simply on account of its size. If the industry is worth billions then it deserves a place at the table alongside other industries of similar size. There ought to be Members of Parliament willing to argue the corner of the cannabis industry, and the consumers served by that industry, like there are for the racing, alcohol, tobacco industries, among others.
Fighting cannabis, and trying to eradicate it from popular culture by means of prohibition, makes as much sense as fighting potatoes. All over the world it’s possible to find cannabis enthusiasts who are devoted to the promulgation of their chosen plant and the culture around it. None of these enthusiasts can understand cannabis prohibition – making a plant illegal is insane, however you look at it. They will keep cannabis culture going.
Ultimately, the desire of the people to use cannabis for recreation and for medicine has proven itself stronger than the ability of the ruling class to successfully bullshit the rest of the population into accepting prohibition. Use of the plant is so deeply entrenched in culture worldwide that attempts to get rid of it are futile. Cannabis is here to stay, and the law ought to reflect this.
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.