Consider this thought experiment. You’re driving down a state highway at 100km/h, with some cannabis in your car. Going around a bend, you see a Police car upside-down in a river with no person in sight. Obviously the driver failed to take the corner, and is almost certainly in dire need of immediate medical help. The question is: do you stop and help, or do you just drive on past?
Most Kiwis would argue that the correct answer is clearly to stop and help. After all, it’s a medical emergency, and the Police couldn’t possibly be so unreasonable as to charge a person with a cannabis offence if someone’s life was on the line. Surely discretion would be used in such an instance.
These Kiwis would have more faith in the Police than Caleb Smith, of Greymouth. His story, which hit the news yesterday, has appalled New Zealanders. Smith made a suicide attempt, and part of the Police response was to search his house, discover some cannabis plants, and charge him with a criminal offense. He now has three criminal convictions.
This incident is very enlightening when considered in the context of broader relations between the public and the Police. The reaction of most New Zealand citizens when reading about the conduct of the officers in the Caleb Smith story is horror, disgust and outrage, but that isn’t the worst thing.
The worst thing is the effect stories like this have on public perceptions of New Zealand Police officers.
Stories like Caleb Smith’s tell the reader that the sort of person who becomes a New Zealand Police officer is the sort of person who is willing to go up to another Kiwi at their lowest point – in the midst of a suicide attempt – and kick him in the guts, making his life far more difficult for no benefit to the public good, and without the consent of the New Zealand people. It’s a person willing to be cruel simply for the sake of it, using their uniform as a shield to evade responsibility.
Like a dog, they just do what they’re told without consideration. At least, this is how the Police naturally start to appear in the eyes of the population they are supposed to be keeping safe when that population read about such incidents.
Cries of “They’re just doing their jobs!” don’t change the sentiments that stories like Smith’s make Kiwis start to have towards Police officers. In fact, mindlessly following orders is as contemptible as anything else – and people know this.
At the end of the day, every Police officer has the free will to refuse to enforce laws that are unjust, and if they choose not to exercise that free will they cannot complain of the consequences.
It is the duty of every sentient being to consider whether their actions cause suffering to leave the world, or whether their actions bring suffering into the world. That Police officers enforce a law on the Kiwi people that causes great suffering, and that they do so without the consent of those people – who do not approve of that law – is worthy of contempt.
If Police officers choose to enforce a law, even when doing so requires them to willfully add more suffering to the life of one of their fellows who is already suffering severely, then it’s only natural that the people come to hate them.
One oddity about the Western political landscape is taken for granted with no explanation given. It is that the religious, especially the fundamentally religious, oppose all drug law reform measures. Considering that drug prohibition does immense harm to drug users by subjecting them to a justice system built for murderers, rapists and thieves, it’s not clear why the religions would oppose this. This essay looks at why.
The religious prohibitions against drug use seem doubly strange if one considers that many of the world’s oldest religious traditions involve the use of cannabis. This is particularly true of the South Asian religions like Hinduism, which arose in the same general area in which cannabis was cultivated. Why would a tradition of behaviour intended to get one closer to God oppose the legalisation of an entheogen?
The truth is that religion, insofar as it’s practiced in our modern times, has degraded into the opposite of a spiritual practice. 21st century religion in the West no longer has anything to do with apotheosis or sharing any genuine insight into the nature of God that a person might have had.
21st century Western religion is just a sham, selling a communal sense of moral superiority, to people with low self esteem, for money. The people selling it don’t want their flock asking too many questions. They just want them regularly returning to be fleeced for a steady passive income.
In order for this ancient scam to be possible, people have to be separated from true spirituality. If a person is connected to true spirituality then they will instinctively understand that ridiculous stories like the need to mutilate the genitals of new-born babies, or that failure to worship God in the correct manner would doom someone to eternal punishment, or that a desert full of inbreds in Asia Minor was the holy land, are all ludicrous superstitions that serve only to distract people from genuine communion with God.
So religions need to deny people their spiritual birthright in order to make them confused enough to exploit them. Therefore, they need to deny them the entheogenic sacraments that the people have used since prehistory to connect themselves with God.
Entheogenic drug use leads to novel states of consciousness, which lead to original perspectives, which have a deconditioning effect on previous brainwashing, obsession or delusion. In this sense it is very similar to meditation, which also leads to novel states of consciousness that have a deconditioning effect (and it’s no coincidence that the religious have also tried to replace meditation with ineffective lizard-brain rituals such as prayer, chanting, contemplation etc.).
The religious oppose entheogenic drug use because it leads to genuine spirituality, because once this is achieved a person can no longer be scammed with fairy tales that are only convincing to the ignorant. It’s just a rehash of the many-thousands of years old story of wealth and power and the lies told to secure them.
Kiwi cannabis users have been buoyed by the demise of the Fifth National Government. It is already clear from the change in rhetoric that the incoming Sixth Labour Government will approach the issue with honesty, in contrast to the John Key/Bill English/Peter Dunne approach. However, honesty doesn’t prevent one from making errors – and the decision to hold a referendum about legalising the personal use of cannabis is one such error.
It’s widely accepted that the actions of the New Zealand Parliament in passing gay marriage legislation was a wiser, less divisive move than the actions of the Australian Parliament in holding a referendum on the subject. The Australian experience of having a referendum on such an emotive subject was that the country tore itself in two, with many people eventually choosing to vote against gay marriage out of sheer bitterness and resentment.
The New Zealand experience of making it legal by Parliamentary decree gave the country an opportunity to come together in mutual desire to right the wrongs of the past. Even conservatives like Maurice Williamson saw the need to give a passionate speech in favour of a law change, and the Parliament itself went as far as singing a song out of a will to demonstrate that the old days of hate were over.
It’s also widely acknowledged – by the New Zealand people, if not by the New Zealand ruling classes – that withholding cannabis medicine from sick people who need it is an extremely cruel thing to do, and something only done because of hate. Certainly it’s much crueler than withholding marriage rights from people, which, while inconvenient, are hardly a matter of life and death or daily suffering and misery.
Moreover, it’s obvious from the experience of the half a dozen American states that have already legalised the recreational use of cannabis that the downsides of doing so have been massively overstated for decades. The predicted crime explosion and spates of suicides never eventuated – indeed, some research suggests that suicide rates can drop by almost 5% in the wake of legalising medicinal cannabis, and this rises to almost 10% in the cases of young males.
So why not just do the obvious thing, acknowledge the evident truth, stop lying and just make the personal use of cannabis legal by Parliamentary decree, as the Labour Government intends to do with medicinal cannabis?
This way we can avoid giving a platform to moronic bigots like Bob McCroskie to further divide our society with fearmongering and lies. The Australian equivalents to McCroskie have polluted media space with hysterical predictions of doom, further alienating gay people from the mainstream, and the same will happen in New Zealand if we also put a question of basic human rights to referendum.
Ultimately, no-one has the right to prevent anyone else from using cannabis. No-one has the right to take this freedom away from other people, any more than they have the right to prevent them from watching cricket or eating parmesan. Therefore, there is no good reason to have a referendum about whether it should be legal or not, because there’s ultimately no good reason to obey any law prohibiting the use of cannabis.
Our law should simply reflect this reality and make it legal.
Vince McLeod is a former Membership Secretary of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and author of the Cannabis Activist’s Handbook.
A black-red-green “Afghanistan” coalition has replaced National in the halls of New Zealand power, and so the absolute, mindless refusal of the outgoing National Government to countenance any kind of cannabis law reform is now no longer relevant. This means that the wasted decade might be at an end. This article looks at the prospects for cannabis law reform over the next three years.
Labour had already pledged to introduce medicinal cannabis within the first 100 days of taking power, at least to “people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain”, but questions remain.
It isn’t yet clear what definition of medicinal cannabis Labour intends to use when they change the law. What constitutes “medicinal” use of cannabis is a subject of considerable debate, not least among medical and mental health professionals. That it could be prescribed to people with terminal illnesses seems straightforward enough, but what qualifies as “chronic pain” could vary from a small number of acute conditions on the one hand, to a California-style wide range of ailments on the other (California has had legal medicinal cannabis since 1996).
The best outcome for cannabis users would be that the Labour Party adopts the same definition of cannabis, and treats cannabis the same way, as in Julie Anne Genter’s medicinal cannabis bill, currently before Parliament. This bill contains a very broad conception of medicinal cannabis and provides for users to grow their own medicine at home if they have approval from a doctor who believes that cannabis would prevent suffering.
A jackpot outcome for medicinal cannabis users would be for the home grow provisions of Julie Anne Genter’s bill to be made legal within the first hundred days of the Sixth Labour Government. Although we can be sure that all of the Green MPs and most of the Labour MPs would support this, Winston Peters and New Zealand First might prefer a narrower definition of medicinal cannabis in the first hundred days with a broader definition put to referendum as part of the deal with the Greens.
Recently it was learned that the Green Party had successfully negotiated to hold a referendum on personal use of cannabis at or before the 2020 General Election. Although it isn’t clear at this stage whether this will be similar to the referendum that successfully legalised recreational cannabis in Colorado in 2012, or if it will be some watered-down offer of decriminalisation, the very fact that a referendum is happening is excellent news for New Zealand cannabis users.
Although James Shaw is maintaining the lie that the Greens have supported legalising cannabis for 20 years, rather than tell the truth that they abandoned cannabis users for many years in an effort to appeal to the middle class, the fact that he feels the desire to take credit for the change in public perception regarding cannabis is a sign that he is sure that the wind has changed.
This column pointed out some years ago that it would be possible to tell when the public perception of cannabis had definitively shifted because politicians would start publicly claiming to have always supported a law change. Shaw is lying when he says that the Greens have had cannabis law reform as part of their policy for the past 20 years, because cannabis law reform activists have been challenging the Greens that whole time to update their cannabis policy to something similar to that of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, and they have only done so in the past year.
But that doesn’t matter any more. The important thing is that a lot of cannabis law reform should be happening in the next three years, under a governing alliance that does not suffer from the fear-based myopia of the National Party around the substance. It appears that the efforts of cannabis law reform activists to persuade the centre-left parties of the merits of reform have been broadly successful, and that the ruling powers are now of a mind to make change to the laws.
Vince McLeod is a former Membership Secretary of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and author of the Cannabis Activist’s Handbook.
“That person must have been on drugs” is a common response to observing all kinds of wacked-out behaviour, as if taking a psychoactive drug inevitably brings about false kinds of thinking – a cognitive bias this column has previously described as Sobriety Bias Syndrome. But if we look around the world that sober people built, and the moral values agreed upon by sober people, things really didn’t turn out that great.
It was pious and sober people who decided, a few thousand years ago, that mutilating the genitals of baby boys was a legitimate expression of God’s will. It was sober people who decided to adopt this tradition from the foreigners who practiced it, and people are sober when they argue for the “health benefits” of the mutilation.
George W. Bush, completely sober, decided that sending the firepower of the US military after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a great idea, even though it led directly to the deaths of over a million people. The US Congress, elected to represent the American people, also soberly decided that this was a great idea.
In the 1930s we created and watched “documentaries” such as Reefer Madness, which exhorted us to tell our children that smoking cannabis will turn them into murderers; a dozen years later, with god-fearing sobriety, we built nuclear weapons and dropped them on Japanese civilians, killing hundreds of thousands in one hit.
These are the actions of sober minds. So clearly a person doesn’t have to be intoxicated in order to do terrible things to someone else.
Far from it. In many ways, sobriety can be seen as a kind of virus. Its presence in a person’s mind tends to work to drive out periods of non-sobriety, usually because of egoistic religious delusions about achieving purity of thought. The sober mind tends to have thoughts repeating in it over and over again, and this repetition can lead to a powerful commitment to some ideas.
This is a fact long understood by television programmers, who appreciate how repeated exposure to a short, powerful stimulus is more likely to induce purchasing behaviour in a potential consumer than a single exposure to e.g. a lecture about the qualities of a product.
Because novel psychoactive experiences tend to destroy this conditioning by allowing the conditioned person to see things from new perspectives, if you want to get everyone marching in lockstep then these psychoactive experiences need to be either discouraged or made illegal.
Consequently, entirely sober people have decided, presumably using sober logic, that putting another human being in a cage is a fair punishment for being caught growing a medicinal plant without permission.
Maybe there’s an argument that too much sobriety makes an individual mean from a lack of levity, and a society dumb from a lack of questioning?
After all, the mass shooters making the front pages recently are definitely not smoking weed, taking ecstasy or tripping on mushrooms or LSD, and neither are the genital mutilators, military warhawks and brainwashers that are responsible for most of the world’s evil.
The truth is that the world needs a diversity of ideas if humans are to survive the challenges of coming years. Never mind a diversity of skin colour – such superficial qualities do not constitute real diversity. Real diversity is diversity of ideas, even outlandish ones, even crazy ones, because that is the kind of diversity that saves us from groupthink and prevents us from making the kind of error that arises from self-righteous conviction about one’s correctness.
To that end, sobriety is our enemy and getting wasted is our friend.
Nevada was depicted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a harshly repressive place for anyone with an interest in cognitive liberty. As captured in the foul year of our Lord, 1971, the billboard welcoming drivers to Nevada warned of 20 years imprisonment for being caught in possession of “marijuana”. Fast forward to July 2017, and they have recreational cannabis legally on sale in shops. This article looks at what we could learn from them.
Colorado passed a referendum legalising cannabis five years ago, and the results were more or less exactly what cannabis law reform activists had predicted the entire time. Now there are eight American states that allow legal recreational cannabis use, making it all the more pathetic that New Zealand politicians have so far lacked the courage to even discuss the issue.
Nevada is the most recent of these. Recreational cannabis sales became legal in Nevada this July. This first month of legal sales generated $US27.1 million in receipts, about $40 million in New Zealand dollars.
Much of that $40 million is believed to be from tourists who came into Nevada for the sake of their legal cannabis. It was almost double what Colorado sold in the first month of legal recreational sales there, and if one considers that the population of Nevada is 60% that of Colorado it’s three times the amount per capita, so clearly this isn’t all just coming from local demand.
What that tells us is that, with eight American states now with some form of recreational cannabis sales, New Zealand’s edge in the tourist market is rapidly bluntening. In much the same way that Islamic theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia that suppress alcohol don’t get many tourists, neither will New Zealand get many tourists when we’re the last ones to legalise recreational cannabis.
At the very least, we need to get the jump on Australia. If Australia, or even one of the major tourist states (Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria), would legalise recreational cannabis it would have a devastating impact on New Zealand’s place in the backpacker circuit.
On the other hand, if we legalised recreational cannabis sales while Australia was still struggling with gay marriage, we could capture a decent sector of the international tourist market. If it were possible to visit cannabis cafes on the main streets of places like Levin and Ashburton (let alone the bigger places) then Australia would start to look like a backwater in comparison.
$40 million in the first month of sales suggests around half a billion dollars a year in recreational cannabis sales for Nevada alone. This equates to some 5-10,000 full-time jobs. On a per capita basis, such a policy might provide 8-16,000 full-time jobs in New Zealand (this is in line with job figures suggested by Waikato cannabis kingpin John Lord).
Of course, Nevada voted to have legal medicinal cannabis in 2000, and New Zealanders haven’t even been allowed to have that yet, so the worry is that if we’re 20 years behind in that regard we will be 20 years behind when it comes to recreational law reform as well, i.e. Kiwis can expect to be allowed to buy a few grams of cannabis and use it like they would alcohol sometime in the mid 2030s.
But what we can tell from the short experience with legal recreational cannabis sales in Nevada is that the process has more or less gone the same way as in Colorado and Washington: no spike in crimes, tens of thousands more white market jobs, a lot more money for schools, and a whole lot of sheepish-looking prohibitionists.
Every genre of speculative fiction has its own signature atmosphere: often a combination of fantastic, awesome, terrifying and bizarre. So do psychoactive drugs – and the two match up. This article looks at which drugs give a vibe that best matches the vibe from a genre of speculative fiction.
High fantasy fiction matches up to cannabis. Lord of the Rings contains a couple of sly allusions to cannabis use, most notably when Saruman admonishes Gandalf for his “love of the halfling’s weed” while explaining how Gandalf missed a clue that he should have noticed. The scene in the film Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf and Frodo sit above the drunken revellers and smoke some magical substance from a pipe is one familiar to most stoners.
Some of the experiences that Elric has in the Stormbringer series of novels by Michael Moorcock were also very likely to have been cannabis-inspired. There’s something about Elric’s experience of having an extremely powerful ally that couldn’t really be trusted that speaks to the paranoia that sometimes comes with the cannabis experience.
The sword and sorcery style of low fantasy matches up with psilocybin mushrooms. It’s unlikely that Robert E Howard took any magic mushrooms before writing any of the Conan the Cimmerian stories, but the protagonist’s many adventures in dark, subterranean caves and inside fantastic towers and castles are reminiscent of the depth and range of sometimes terrifying personal insight that often comes with mushrooms.
The Forgotten Realms universe of Dungeons and Dragons adventures, with their massive, dark forests full of elves and goblins also relates closely to the vibe of the psilocybin mushrooms experience. The reason why magic mushrooms enthusiasts are encouraged to try taking five grams in silent darkness is because it leads to exploration of a fantastical inner world, and going down into the subterranean to arise wealthier at some later point is a regular theme.
Most of what sells as science fiction could have been inspired by LSD. Stories like The Demolished Man, with a very strong psychological content, harken to the disintegrative effect that psychedelics can have on the personality. The main character of The Demolished Man, somehow between protagonist and antagonist, ends up having his personality completely demolished (and then rebuilt) as punishment for his crimes, reminiscent of how the psychedelic experience can destroy a person and then build them back as something stronger than before.
This sense of twisted psychology comes through also in the writings of Philip K Dick, who had himself tried LSD. Psychedelics might have inspired the plot of Ubik, in which the character Glen Runciter experiences a believable but bizarre reality while his physical body is “on ice” in a cryogenic chamber. Wondering if you’re really dead or alive is the kind of thing that LSD can make happen to you.
The almost schizophrenic belief in a hidden real world outside of this merely simulated one is a mainstay of cyberpunk literature, and is similar to the impressions one gets on DMT or salvia divinorum. For thousands of years, human shamans have been having experiences of dying to the physical world and being reborn to the real one, like Neo did in The Matrix. In that regard, The Matrix is really a retelling of the ancient mystery school teaching of death and resurrection, reclothed in 21st-century technology.
A description of what might be the spirit of the DMT experience is given in the ANZAC cyberpunk novel The Verity Key. In the chapter Mindknife, the protagonist Jonty Gillespie has his perception altered by ingestion of a drug called Cinque Nuevo, which briefly blasts his consciousness out of his physical body and into an entirely external dimension that is occupied by beings that take the form of balls of light, while mechanical constructs that might be metaphors churn around him.
The datura experience is pretty similar to what befell many of the unfortunate researchers in the Cthulhu mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. A disquieting sense of things not being quite as they should be grows into an intense paranoia that leaps at every shadow and from there to total psychological collapse at the raw horror of reality itself. Alien beings that seem to have come to Earth just to torment you is the kind of thing you’re dealing with in either case.
Datura is also the kind of drug that fits the background of weird horror stories such as those in His Master’s Wretched Organ. Talking to grotesquely deformed entities like Mr. Creamfeather and eating tobacco cakes are the sort of horror that, once experienced, leaves a person never quite the same again. The concept of ordeal rituals that leave you wiser for having suffered come to mind here.
Others are arguable. The steampunk of The Rocketeer might suit opium, the boo-yah aggression of Starship Troopers might suit mescaline, and the gritty military noir of the Altered Carbon series might be the old classics of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
It might be hard to read any speculative fiction on most of these drugs, because a person on them is more likely to be occupied with the inner theatre of the thoughts in their head than a book in the external world. However, it might be possible to have a richer experience of reading speculative fiction after having tried some of them, because they could open your awareness to realms of thought previously unimagined.
Aggression is a universal phenomenon within the human species. Both genders and all races are capable of it. Not only are we capable of aggression when it comes to sex, property and dominance but we are also capable of it when it comes to politics. This essay looks at the masculine and feminine expressions of political aggression.
The nature of the masculine is to discriminate. This is represented metaphysically by the straight line, the angle and the number one, and is represented biologically by the sperm. A straight line is, after all, the shape of a sword, and the purpose of a sword is to separate and keep apart those things that the wielder believes should be separated and kept apart.
The nature of the feminine is to bring together. This is represented metaphysically by the circle, the curve and the number zero, and is represented biologically by the egg. The circle is the optimal way to achieve the largest possible surface area for the smallest possible perimeter, and is therefore the most inclusive shape that can be drawn.
The characteristic masculine political sensibility is disgust when confronted with disorder. This means that the masculine is that which desires to keep the peace and to keep things under control. This is partially achieved by means of the sword – to be more precise, the masculine keeps order by inspiring fear with its use of violence.
The ultimate feminine emotion is fear, and so the masculine right wing fights an eternal “War on Terror.” This it carries out by attacking places of excessive chaos. And so, it can be observed in the modern West that masculine aggression finds a political expression in conservatism, which seeks to impose order on as much of the world as possible.
The Republican Administration of George W. Bush is an excellent example of this. Under George W. Bush the masculine sentiments of Americans found a home in the War on Terror – which is essentially a war on the excess of feminine emotion. This led them to attack the Middle East in the belief that it was a chaotic place that produced terrorists, and which therefore needed order imposed upon it.
The characteristic feminine political sensibility is horror when confronted with oppression (this probably developed as a consequence of being confronted with the possibility of rape). This means that the feminine seeks to include as much as it can (in other words, to discriminate as little as possible).
This can be observed by looking at the nature of a circle, which is the appropriate shape for including as many people as possible on even terms. Inclusiveness, and a belief in the value of inclusiveness, was probably how prehistoric matriarchal societies prevented any frustrated reproductive instincts among its malefolk from spilling over into jealous violence.
The ultimate masculine emotion is hate, and so the feminine left wing fights an eternal “War on Hate.” This it carries out by attacking places of excessive order. And so, it can be observed in our societies that feminine aggression finds a political expression in liberalism.
There are any number of examples of this, perhaps the best one being the neo-Communist street gang Antifa, who are known for indiscriminate violence in the name of fighting discrimination.
Feminine political aggression is usually expressed as a will to tear down all borders, walls and hierarchies that separate people. Feminine political aggression thus occurs when the masses get together to get rid of a monarchy, for example, or through voting Marxist policies into law in democratic elections.
In many ways, these two sentiments work together. Most Westerners consider slavery, for example, to be both disorderly and oppressive, and consequently the vast majority of Westerners abhor the practice and it is illegal in all Western countries. Likewise, public health epidemics create both disorder in making people sick and oppression in making people suffer from the disease, and so society is capable of working together harmoniously to fight such things.
In other ways these sentiments work directly against each other. The most obvious example of this is immigration, especially immigration from refugees. The masculine sentiments are generally against refugees turning up because of a belief that they create disorder and disharmony, and many masculine thinkers are duly disgusted by politicians who argue in favour of this.
The feminine sentiments, on the other hand, are generally in favour of refugees because they do not want to exclude them from the perceived benefits of society. To exclude, after all, is to discriminate, and that is a masculine political expression.
Another common example is that of the drug war. Because using drugs causes original thoughts and original behaviours to arise, the natural masculine reaction is to punish their use in the belief that they cause chaos. The natural feminine reaction, on the other hand, is to reject punishment for taking drugs in the belief that this is oppression.
These two differing forms of aggression share what is common to all aggression, namely a will to remake the world in the image of the aggressor. They only differ in terms of what is targeted for destruction – chaos in the case of masculine aggression, and order in the case of feminine aggression.