There is a faulty premise in the national consciousness – the premise that the pro-cannabis lobby has the responsibility to make the case for legalising cannabis before prohibition can be repealed. All kinds of politicians, from Andrew Little to Peter Dunne, have trotted out this lazy deception.
This line of rhetoric is false because it relies on a more fundamental premise, which is that the manner cannabis was made illegal was legitimate in the first place.
The usual apologia is that the politicians are our lawful representatives and so the laws they pass are done so with our consent, and so the politicians have the consent of the governed, and so all the laws they have passed are legitimate, including the ones pertaining to cannabis prohibition.
Basic logic that even a child can understand will tell you that, in the case of cannabis, the lack of a victim makes the law against it categorically different to other laws.
Punching people in the face is bad because it causes suffering.
Stealing someone’s food is bad because it will make them suffer from hunger.
Killing people is bad because it causes suffering to the remaining friends and family (not to mention the person while they’re being killed).
Murdering, shooting, stabbing, raping, kidnapping, defrauding, robbing, stealing, assaulting and battering – all of these are crimes because they have victims.
Outside of the delusional fantasy role-playing world that judges, lawyers and politicians have invented, crimes are distinguished from non-crimes on the basis that crimes cause suffering, not on the basis that a bunch of paedophiles in Wellington have decreed them thus.
This might sound really obvious to any Buddhist readers out there, but to many Kiwis, conditioned from childhood to obey authority without ever questioning its legitimacy, it appears revelatory.
It also puts the moral responsibility back on us to consider if the laws being passed by our supposed representatives actually have the effect of reducing suffering in New Zealand or not. The responsibility is not on our political representatives to make moral decisions on our behalf, because politicians are men of silver and philosophy is the preserve of everyone.
One argument is that cannabis, even if not directly harmful, may be indirectly harmful because of long-term health considerations of the user that the general taxpayer has to pay to treat. This argument contends that we ought to wait for science to prove that cannabis is relatively harmless.
The truth is this – we don’t need to prove that science says cannabis should be legal because science was never used to make it illegal. We also don’t need to prove that cannabis is harmless because harmless is not the standard things have to reach in order to be legal.
It’s legal to consume any of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat or tobacco to whatever extent one likes and to have the taxpayer cover any medical costs that may arise.
It’s legal to fill the tank of your car up with petrol, a vital and ever-diminishing resource, and to drive around and around in circles for no reason.
It’s legal to join a rugby team and to hit another person in a tackle with the intent of injuring them and to break a bone oneself and to go on ACC.
It’s legal to go into a forest with a rifle and shoot dead a whole bunch of large mammals.
All of these activities arguably cause more harm than smoking cannabis does, even under the broadest interpretation of health issues.
The standard to make cannabis illegal – which has never been met and which never will be met – is that there is more suffering under a regime of cannabis freedom than under a regime of cannabis prohibition.
Until this standard is met, no further reason for using cannabis need be given than ‘I like smoking weed.’