One of the usual reasons trotted out for opposing cannabis law reform is that it “wouldn’t send the right message to the kids”. This was the statement that John Key frequently made to the media when pressed on the subject. As this article will examine, however, this thought-terminating cliche also attitude is mistaken.
It might sound laughable, but there are many in the New Zealand Government who believe that their personal conduct sets an example for the rest of the country to follow. These deluded fools genuinely believe that the young people of the nation look to them as an example of integrity, honesty and correct conduct. So detached from the people are they, that they are entirely unaware of the contempt in which they are held.
Some of these egomaniacs are afraid that making any move on cannabis law reform would “send the wrong message to the kids”. By this, they think that liberalising the cannabis laws will lead to a spate of young people taking up cannabis use as a habit, on account of that their elders had sent them the message that it was okay.
Leaving aside the obvious retort that this would actually be a good thing if it stopped those young people from doing as much alcohol or synthetic drugs, there are a number of reasons to think that this reasoning is illogical.
For one thing, the message that the politicians appear to be sending by example of their conduct is one of alcohol, tobacco and sleaze. If they are the ones setting the standards for the young to follow, then we can look forward to many decades of boozing, bribery, infidelity, dishonesty, backstabbing and all manner of petty quibbling and bitching.
For another thing, we have to ask ourselves if prohibition itself is actually a good message to be sending out.
The message that the Government seems to be sending by enforcing cannabis prohibition is that the best way to deal with drug problems is by putting people in cages. If someone has a drug dependency of some kind, the way to help them is not by giving them medical care, but by physically forcing them into a cage full of rapists, murderers and thieves.
They seem to be telling people that empathy and compassion don’t factor into government decisions, and that they are more than happy to brutally force citizens to conform to arbitrary laws, even when those same citizens don’t consent to them. Your body is the property of the Government, and they can do what they want with it, including put it in a cage if you use a medicine they don’t approve of.
Worse, they’re also sending the message that science, logic and reason don’t factor into government decisions. The Government is happy to go along with foreign mass hysteria about reefer madness, and thinks it acceptable to force laws onto New Zealanders on the grounds that they have been introduced overseas, with no consideration given to the science or to the need for evidence.
Perhaps the worst message of all has been that sent by Parliamentarians who have ignored all the letters and emails they have received from their constituents about cannabis law reform. For decades, Kiwis have been entreating their Parliamentarians to do something about cannabis prohibition, knowing how much access to cannabis medicine would improve their life quality. And for decades, those Parliamentarians did nothing – the vast majority too cowardly to even raise a peep.
By ignoring the will of the people for cannabis reform, the Government is sending the message that it’s acceptable for the Government to impose whatever arbitrary laws it likes on the population, even without that population’s consent, and then to ignore them when they complain about the suffering caused. This is far more of a danger than the risk of Parliamentarians sending the message that it’s okay to use cannabis.
If the Government is truly concerned about the message that their conduct sends to the people, they ought to legalise cannabis today, and make an apology for all the suffering their actions caused by waging a War on Drugs against their own people. This would send a message of humility, integrity and contrition – much better than imprisoning people for using a substance that the New Zealand people think should be legal.
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.