The Case For Cannabis: Other Acceptable Drugs Are More Harmful

The standard argument is that cannabis is too harmful to be allowed and this is why it has been made illegal. This extreme level of harm is ostensibly the reason why criminal penalties are applied to its possession and cultivation. However, as this article will examine, this argument is hypocritical and dishonest.

There’s no doubt that alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than cannabis. In New Zealand, alcohol is believed to kill between 600 and 800 people every year, mostly from cancer, heart failure and liver failure. This is a horrendeous body count by any standard, even higher than the suicide count and the road toll.

The butcher’s bill for tobacco is even worse – this is believed to kill 5,000 people in New Zealand every year. 1 in every 1,000 Kiwis killed every year by one legal drug can only really be described as carnage. It’s orders of magnitude more destructive than cannabis, which is not conclusively known to kill anyone.

This argument for cannabis law reform is therefore very simple. If alcohol and tobacco do not meet the threshold for causing sufficient harm to be banned, then neither does cannabis. Put another way, if either alcohol or tobacco are acceptable when judged by balance of harm, then so is cannabis.

Others will respond that there’s no reason to add yet another harmful drug to what’s already available.

As mentioned elsewhere, this argument is ignorant of human psychology. People who want to get high will use whatever is available to them. There are no perfectly sober people enjoying their lives right now who are at risk of becoming a cannabis addict after one puff. There are, however, a lot of hard-core alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical users who would switch to using cannabis instead if it were available.

In much the same way that voting in an election means supporting one evil for the sake of defying a greater evil, many people use cannabis instead of a drug that is more harmful. In other words, cannabis can serve as a substitute for alcohol. This point has been argued at length elsewhere, but it’s important enough to be worth bring up again here.

If you could reduce the nation’s alcohol consumption by a quarter, you should also reduce the nation’s death toll by 150-200 every year. A proportion of people would use cannabis instead of alcohol if they were given the opportunity, so if legal cannabis would reduce the alcohol intake then it would save lives.

Even if a third of those who gave up alcohol for cannabis died from complications related to cannabis use (a ridiculous idea if one realises that legalisation will mean vaping instead of smoking), this would still represent a saving of 100 or so lives every year. So if other drugs are both more harmful than cannabis and legal, then it makes sense that cannabis should also be legal, because then some people could switch to it.

Some will respond that alcohol and tobacco are “part of our culture”. Well, we cannabis users would respond that cannabis is part of our culture. Certainly no-one asked us what our culture was, and if they had asked, many of us would have told them that we prefer to use cannabis. The people who made the decision are in the pockets of big alcohol manufacturers – they’re not objective judges.

For those of us who are part of the cannabis culture, using cannabis simply fills the same niche as those who recreationally use alcohol or tobacco. We know that it’s slightly physically harmful and can be mentally harmful if misused. Everyone knows this. It’s just that we believe the social, emotional and psychological benefits of recreational cannabis use outweigh the minor harms.

Yet others will argue that “the horse has bolted” when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. These drugs are so widespread that they are now impossible to prohibit.

However, the same is true of cannabis. Cannabis is easier to manufacture than alcohol, and getting hold of seeds is barely more difficult than getting hold of seeds for any other plant. Cannabis is everywhere in New Zealand, and plenty of people are willing to help others get seeds (or even clones) simply to defy the Government. An entire underground culture dedicated to its survival and propagation exists.

If it’s too late to enforce alcohol prohibition, then it’s too late to enforce cannabis prohibition as well.

In the end, the fact that there are drugs that are both more harmful than cannabis and legal is proof that our drug laws are not logical. Indeed, our drug laws are based more on past hysteria than any sober appraisal of the evidence. Cannabis law reform would be the first step in rewriting these laws to achieve harm minimisation.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: Prohibition Harms Social Cohesion

Cannabis prohibition does a lot of harm to various groups within society, as other articles here have shown, but it also has an effect on society as a whole. Not only does society have to pay for the cost of enforcing cannabis prohibition, but it suffers at a collective level the same harm done to individuals: as below, so above. As this article will examine, cannabis prohibition harms social cohesion.

Our society relies on co-operation between different groups at all levels.

One of the most important ways is the solidarity between generations. In order for the young to be willing to care for the old when the time comes, the youth have to feel some kind of solidarity with those older ones. They have to feel like those older ones managed the country in such a way as to leave them a worthy inheritance. They have to feel like the old cared about them.

As Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand, there is a sharp distinction between young and old when it comes to support for cannabis law reform. The correlation between voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017 and being in the 65+ age bracket was -0.43 – not extremely strong, but strong enough to suggest that the average person in that age bracket is decidedly against cannabis law reform.

There are several reasons why a young person might feel that the generations before them had failed in their duty of stewardship, but the unwillingness to reform the cannabis laws are one of the foremost. For a young person today, the thought that the nation’s elderly are sitting back on a fat pension drinking whisky and chomping painkillers, while at the same time putting you in prison for growing a medicinal flower, seems obscene.

Given these reasons, why would the young not come to see the elderly as evil? The indifference of the elderly towards the suffering caused to the young by cannabis prohibition certainly appears evil to those suffering it. As a result, their coming to hate those pushing it on them is inevitable. And by such means, society is divided and conquered.

Cannabis prohibition doesn’t just divide society on the basis of age.

Understanding New Zealand also showed that the correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and being New Zealand-born was 0.73, which is very strong. This is because cannabis use is an integral part of Kiwi culture – it brings Maoris and white people together as well as rugby and barbecues, and especially when it comes to younger demographics.

Because of the central role of cannabis in Kiwi culture, cannabis prohibition is something that pits New Zealand-born Kiwis against immigrants. This is a recipe for deep resentment, because this plays along a pre-existing fracture line in society. If the New Zealand-born would come to feel that it was only because of recent immigrants that they were not allowed to freely use cannabis, they could become very angry.

Neither is the damage done to social cohesion just a matter between different groups. Cannabis prohibition also destroys solidarity within groups.

There are occasions where people don’t get together because the illegal nature of cannabis means that some people don’t want to be associated with others. Many a party guest has been uninvited because the hosts were not sure that the guest would be comfortable with the cannabis being smoked there, or because the hosts didn’t want the guest bringing cannabis to their house.

In such ways, all manner of natural social bonds have been broken because one or the other party was a cannabis user. This isn’t just seen at parties but in romantic relationships and in the workplace too. If cannabis is illegal, then cannabis users will naturally not trust non-cannabis users and non-cannabis users will naturally not trust cannabis users. These divisions are so needless.

As mentioned in another chapter, cannabis prohibition has had a severe impact on people’s respect for the Police. But cannabis prohibition impacts other industries as well. Some people no longer trust their doctors because of their inability to speak honestly about the medicinal value of cannabis. Some people no longer trust journalists because of their past fearmongering and sensationalising over the issue. This loss of trust impacts social cohesion.

Worst of all, prohibition has caused some people to dislike their country and society, when that need not have been the case. This is especially true of those who have faced the wrath of the justice system.

How can a person respect a society that wants to put them in a cage for using a medicinal plant? How can a person respect the hypocrisy that sees hundreds of people kill themselves with alcohol every year, while at the same time targeting others for something much less harmful? Cannabis prohibition is such a poor idea that it cannot be enforced without stoking massive anger and resentment.

All this anger and resentment has had an injurious effect on social cohesion. Prohibition has caused people to dislike and mistrust each other when they otherwise wouldn’t have done so. This has had the total effect of making society worse. The only way to fix it is to legalise cannabis.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: It Doesn’t Matter That Substance Abusers Use Cannabis

Some people are hesitant to support cannabis law reform because they don’t want to make it easier for substance abusers to destroy themselves. Their fear is that legal cannabis will simply provide another substance for substance abusers to get wasted on. This article will explain why cannabis prohibition is not the best way to deal with those fears.

Like many of the arguments against cannabis law reform, this one is mostly based on a misconception of the psychology of cannabis users, and of substance abusers in general. It could be called the Trainspotting myth, because some people believe that the trajectory of cannabis use proceeds much like heroin use does in the film based on the eponymous Irvine Welsh book.

The fear is that legal cannabis will simply provide another way for degenerates to destroy themselves, and so why should the Government facilitate this? The fewer legal drugs available, the fewer easily-accessible avenues for self-destruction. Better to keep cannabis illegal to persuade people to go straight.

The sort of moraliser that makes arguments like this is generally not the same kind of person that hangs out with actual heavy substance users. As such, they don’t understand the psychology of them. Almost no-one goes from living a completely clean life to misusing any drug just because they “got addicted”.

The reason why people become substance addicts is usually because they have untreated mental illnesses, and this leads to a much stronger sense of enjoyment from the feeling of being drunk/stoned/wasted. The more unpleasant one’s thoughts, the more pleasant to escape from them. Therefore, it’s not so much the drug that leads to the abuse but the way the mind and brain are wired.

There are cases where people are substance abusers, and it may be that, for some of these people, legal cannabis means that they abuse more cannabis than they would have done if it was illegal. If this means that they avoid abusing worse drugs, then this is a good thing. All things being equal, it’s better for a person to use cannabis every day than to use several of the drugs listed in the image at the top of this page.

There’s no guarantee that any individual cannabis user is going to smoke cannabis until they die. Plenty of cannabis users, even heavy ones, get sick of smoking it and move on to other things. After all, although cannabis can be great fun, it can also get boring, much like alcohol and women and loud music and all the other things that people like to indulge in for a while.

So it’s better for them to get their fix on a drug that they are going to survive than on one that is going to kill them. Let them get their kicks on something that’s not going to do any long-term damage. It’s much, much better for people to use cannabis – and to perhaps need a few weeks to come back to normal – than to use something that will permanently change their brain chemistry.

An intelligent approach to cannabis law reform would put the emphasis on harm minimisation. If a person is honestly concerned about the total damage and suffering that a substance abuser might cause themselves, then a regime of regulated, legal cannabis would lead to less harm, for a variety of reasons.

Substance abusers are much more likely to get help from mental health professionals if their substance is legal. This fact has been clearly demonstrated by the willingness of patients to talk to their doctors about their alcohol or tobacco use compared to their willingness to talk about their methamphetamine use. If a substance is illegal there is a lot of fear associated with it.

Legal cannabis would make it easier for actual substance abusers – the sort who are destroying their lives – to trust their doctors or drug counsellors. This would make them more likely to take advice to either quit, or, if necessary, to go on a treatment program such as one that tapers off cannabis.

Legal cannabis would also make it possible for accurate and honest educational campaigns to exist. Right now, there’s no reason for any cannabis user to believe anything the Government says about the substance, because everyone knows they lie about it. So if the Government gave intelligent advice about protecting the lungs, it may not be heeded.

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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.

Who Wins From Having The Cannabis Referendum at The Same Time as The 2020 General Election?

The process about the cannabis referendum next year is starting to take more concrete shape. Not only are we starting to get some kind of idea of what question is going to be asked, but we have had confirmation that the referendum will take place at the same time as the 2020 General Election. In this article, Dan McGlashan, author of Understanding New Zealand, explains the likely electoral ramifications.

In the 2004 American Presidential Elections, George W Bush’s adviser Karl Rove had the genius idea of scheduling a number of referendums to take place at the same time. These referendums all related to state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. Because this issue aroused strong conservative sentiment in the electorate in 2004, it brought conservatives to the polls, where they also voted for George W Bush.

The scheduling of the cannabis referendum at the same time as the 2020 General Election ought to have a similar effect. The sort of person who turns out to vote in this referendum will be those who would normally vote in a General Election, plus some otherwise disenfranchised demographics who didn’t previously feel an incentive to vote at all.

It’s worth looking at who those otherwise disenfranchised demographics are, because if they turn out vote in the referendum, and if they cast a vote for a party in the General Election at the same time, there might be enough of them to tip the balance of the election towards one or the other side.

The cannabis referendum will not bring out a meaningful number of extra conservatives, for two major reasons.

The first is that conservatives don’t really care about cannabis. Conservatism isn’t about being stupid, or being backwards. The average conservative is intelligent enough to have observed that many places overseas have now legal cannabis, and these places are no longer spending tax payers money on enforcing prohibition. Apart from morons like Bob McCoskrie, there’s no real appetite for continuing cannabis prohibition on the right.

The second is that conservatives already vote. As I showed in Understanding New Zealand, the correlation between voting for the National Party in 2017 and turnout rate was 0.68, which is very strong. Because there are no firm boundaries between party lines, this is unlikely to get any stronger from a referendum unless the conservatives really cared about it. And they don’t.

Who the cannabis referendum will bring out are the currently disenfranchised who have lost faith in the democratic system because of (among other reasons) its inability to deliver anything close to the public will on the issue of cannabis law. These people will come from the demographics that did not vote in the 2017 General Election.

The most obvious will be the remainder of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party’s demographic. The ALCP got 8.075 votes in 2017, and the correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and turnout rate in 2017 was -0.63. This suggests that at least another 10,000 potential ALCP votes were lost to disenfranchisement.

Whether they would vote for the ALCP is anyone’s guess, although most will realise that, if cannabis is legal, there is no reason for the ALCP to exist, and therefore they might as well vote for someone else.

Many have made the assumption that the largest beneficiaries of a cannabis law reform referendum will be the Green Party. After all, it is the Green Party who has pushed for it, and it seems reasonable that this might lead to some otherwise non-voting cannabis users turning up to the polling booth for the referendum and throwing a vote the Greens’ way.

This simple assumption is likely to be mistaken, also for two reasons.

Simply put, Green voters tend to already vote. The correlation between turnout rate in 2017 and voting Green in 2017 was 0.27 – not very strong on the face of it, but strong if one considers that Green voters come from young demographics, and the turnout rate among those demographics is very low. Green voters and supporters are not disenfranchised.

The other reason is that the demographics that truly support cannabis law reform, the ones who are adversely impacted by the current law, are not the same demographics as Green Party voters.

There is a correlation of 0.73 between being New Zealand-born and voting ALCP in 2017. The reason for this because cannabis law reform is of little interest to those who aren’t either white or Maori. Cannabis is an integral part of true Kiwi culture, and many of those who come out to vote will be nationalists. They will not have much interest in supporting Green Party policies, aside from cannabis, which they can now support without voting Green.

This strong correlation relates to the correlation of 0.91 between being Maori and voting ALCP in 2017. This suggests that a very large number of the people who vote in the General Election because of the referendum will be Maori. Maoris seem to have an aversion to the Green Party, and this probably exists because they distrust globalists – the correlation between being Maori and voting Green in 2017 was -0.14.

Policies like increasing the refugee quota will prove devastating for the cohesion of Maori neighbourhoods and communities, and this is widely understood. The sort of person who is most heavily affected by this kind of thing is precisely the disenfranchised voter who is likely to turn out for the cannabis referendum.

The extra voters will undoubtedly be much younger than average, because the correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and median age was -0.57. This makes them much younger than both Greens and New Zealand First voters, and only a little older than Labour voters. The young are much more passionate about cannabis law reform because they do not have the generational brainwashing that the older generations endured.

Finally, the extra voters are likely to come from the least educated demographics. The correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and having no formal education qualifications was 0.68, the highest for any party. New Zealand First was not far behind, on 0.67, but the Green Party were at the other end of the scale, at -0.56. These extra voters are not likely to be impressed by the aloof superiority of the Greens.

Paradoxically, then, it’s most likely that the timing of the cannabis referendum to coincide with the 2020 General Election won’t benefit the party that most strongly pushed for it. Gratitude is not an emotion that can be counted on. It’s much more likely that the young, disenfranchised, Kiwi-born and Maori people who come to the polling booth for the referendum will vote Labour and, perhaps unfairly, New Zealand First.

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Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan and published by VJM Publishing, is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people. It is available on TradeMe (for Kiwis) and on Amazon (for international readers).

The Case For Cannabis: God Put Cannabis Here

An uncommon argument for cannabis is that God put it here. This is an uncommon argument on account of the fact that religious sentiments are becoming rarer and rarer, but it has pull even for those who don’t follow an organised religion. As this article will explain, the argument that God put cannabis here remains a powerful one for some people.

Genesis 1:29 states: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth…”

It’s obvious from reading this, on one of the first pages of the Bible, that according to Christian belief, God created cannabis specifically for the benefit of humans. Cannabis is a herb that bears seed, and we encountered it on the face of the Earth, so therefore a Christian ought to believe that its presence here on Earth is a gift from God that ought to be cherished.

Indeed, it’s obvious why a benevolent God would have created such a thing. For someone with the kind of illness that cannabis treats, it can feel like a godsend. Many people with psychological problems have found that cannabis can make the difference between a restful night’s sleep and eight hours of torture. For such people, providing cannabis is bound to engender feelings of gratitude.

Is it not true, then, that a human Government working to prohibit this medicine, and to make it harder for people to get hold of, is causing people to suffer needlessly, and therefore is doing evil work?

Christians are fond of saying that the world is ruled by Satan, and that the Governments of the world all serve Satan. This will to serve evil is the main reason, they contend, that evil exists. Satan desires to thwart the will of God and to destroy the creation of God, and to cause God’s most blessed creation to suffer on account of his infernal envy.

Fair enough, but then why support evil by opposing cannabis law reform? If Satan tricked the rulers of the world into prohibiting a medicine that God had created, why not vote to change it back?

If one opposes legal cannabis, is that not tantamount to saying that God made a mistake by creating cannabis for human use, and that humans know better than God by making it illegal instead? From an Abrahamic perspective, this surely constitutes a grave sin. It’s blasphemy to elevate the laws of men above the laws of God.

Christians must surely believe that cannabis ought to be legal for the reason that God put it here. Cannabis is part of the natural world, and if Christians believe that God created the natural world and saw that it was good, so it must be God’s will for humans to use cannabis as needed to avoid suffering.

A reader might object here, and say that this argument is just an example of the naturalistic fallacy. This objection argues that, even if one concedes that God created cannabis, this doesn’t mean that we should be using it. After all, we don’t eat nightshade berries either, and those are just as much a part of the natural world as cannabis is.

A logical person would agree. Just because cannabis is natural doesn’t mean that everyone should necessarily be using it. However – no-one is arguing for this. No-one is arguing that anyone should be forced to use cannabis, or even exposed to it in cases where this exposure would cause suffering. To the contrary, cannabis law reformers would argue that legalisation is better for keeping it out of the hands of the wrong people.

All that cannabis law reformers want is for the Government to stand back and allow them to use a natural plant, something that appears to be just as much a part of creation as the sunlight and the rain, as well as the wheat, apples, kiwifruit, potatoes and all the other plants.

Cannabis ought to be legal because it’s a moral obscenity for humans to arrogate to themselves the power to make parts of Nature, elements of God’s creation, illegal. There is a scriptural basis for believing that God put cannabis here for the benefit of humans, and anyone who believes in those scriptures surely must also believe that God did not do so in error.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation Would Not Increase Drugged Driving Deaths

The resistance that many people have towards cannabis law reform is fear based. Like a panicky chicken, the prospect of any change at all is met with terror. One of the fears that people have at the thought of cannabis legalisation is that it will lead to carnage on our roads. As this article will examine, these fears are misguided.

As with many of the misgivings that people have about cannabis law reform, the fear of an increase in drugged driving deaths is based on a misconception about how dangerous cannabis is. This is partially based on ignorance, and partially based on the idea that being high on cannabis is like being drunk on alcohol.

The idea seems to be that perfectly otherwise normal people will smoke some cannabis and, because cannabis makes you go crazy, they will get in a car and drive like a crazy person. This perception has been stoked by sensationalist media reporting involving headlines such as “Stoned driver faces jail” when the driver in question had also been smoking methamphetamine.

The idea that cannabis legalisation will lead to more road deaths is not accurate for three major reasons.

The first is that it ignores the substitution effect (for the sake of argument, let’s agree here with the lazy assumption that legal cannabis will lead to more use). An individual driving under the influence of cannabis might not be as safe as a sober person. But evidence from elsewhere shows that, if cannabis was legalised, a proportion of incidents of drunk driving will be replaced with incidents of stoned driving, which are safer.

Research has shown that rates of alcohol use fall in places where recreational cannabis is made legal. This is because cannabis and alcohol serve as substitutes to a large extent. Because rates of alcohol use fall after cannabis legalisation, rates of drunk driving also fall, and this means that traffic fatalities also fall – significantly.

It’s better for a driver to be sober, but if they aren’t going to be sober, it’s better for them to be stoned than to be drunk. It’s a grim calculus, but if legalising cannabis would lead to twenty extra drugged driving deaths but would prevent fifty drunk driving deaths, it would be a worthwhile move.

The second is that the actual science is inconclusive as to whether being stoned impairs driving safety. Various studies have provided contradictory results. The lazy assumption is that being under the influence of any psychoactive drug, including cannabis, will make a person worse at driving. The reality is that stoned drivers take a variety of measures to reduce their risk of crashing.

Part of the problem is that unregulated cannabis contains a great variety of various cannabinoids, and these cannabinoids can be present at a great variety of frequencies. Studies appear to be clear that high doses of THC impair driver safety, which follows logically from the fact that THC is known to have a psychotogenic effect, but there is no such evidence suggesting the same about high doses of CBD.

It also appears to be true that, unlike alcohol, cannabis tolerance has an effect on whether it impairs driving performance. For many cannabis users, cannabis is merely a background substance that quietens distracting thoughts. All these reasons mean that, although no responsible person would advocate driving after using cannabis, a person who has just smoked it is not necessarily unsafe to drive.

The third is that it is irrelevant. Like with many arguments against cannabis law reform, focus on the specifics misses the bigger picture.

Not everyone trusts the Government when it says that cannabis is a substance that isn’t safe to drive on. As the linked articles above demonstrate, there are indeed instances when a person who has consumed cannabis is not safe to drive. But why would a person trust a Government public safety notice on the subject, when they have previously lied about cannabis full stop?

Over recent decades, governments all over the world have denied that cannabis was medicinal. But because people all over the world knew that it was medicinal, the end result has been decreased trust of governmental pronouncements, particularly when they relate to cannabis. So if the a government would give the perfectly reasonable advice to avoid driving within two hours of smoking, it might well be ignored.

If cannabis was legal, and if the Government spoke to the public honestly about it instead of lying, users might trust them when giving intelligent and prudent advice about smoking cannabis and driving. This would save many more lives in the long run than could possibly be saved by putting cannabis growers and users in prison.

The idea that cannabis legalisation will lead to a spate of fatal traffic accidents is fearmongering. It’s the same kind of fearmongering that claimed that legalising homosexuality would lead to everyone dying of AIDS. The experience of overseas territories that have legalised cannabis shows that these fears are little more than hysteria.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: Quality Control

Libertarians like to complain about government regulation, claiming that it leads to stifled innovation and more expensive products. Although this is true of mature markets, regulation for emerging markets of any good or service usually keeps cowboys out of the industry. An argument for cannabis law reform is that it would maintain a certain level of quality within cannabis products.

The black market means a lot of things. It means shady characters, violence, turf wars, unbelievable amounts of bullshit and prison sentences. It also means a variable quality of product – and this has a number of adverse consequences for people’s health.

Black market alcohol still regularly kills people in places like Norway, where legal alcohol is extremely expensive, because it doesn’t have the same quality controls as the commercial product. As a result, the person making it often has little idea of how strong their product really is. Sometimes it’s as strong as absinthe.

Despite the fact that legal alcohol still kills a lot of people, most people can understand the quality control argument against alcohol prohibition. Although legal cannabis would be much less likely than alcohol to kill people, there is still a quality control argument to be made for cannabis law reform. If one approaches the subject of cannabis law reform from a harm reduction point of view, then legalisation makes a lot more sense than prohibition.

When growing cannabis, there’s not too much that can go wrong. It’s called weed for a reason. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to grow buds that have mold on them, especially because of the fact that they are often grown indoors in moist environments, or grown outdoors in places where the rainfall can’t be controlled. This mold can easily lead to lung conditions if the bud containing it is smoked.

Much worse is that sometimes black market cannabis is sprayed with various substances that make it appear more sticky or provide more of a “hit”. This can be anything from legal highs to fly spray. It might be hard for some people to believe that anyone selling cannabis could be so unscrupulous, but that’s what people are exposed to when cannabis is on the black market. It’s complete chaos.

None of these things would happen if cannabis was commercially grown, at least not any more often than you’d buy moldy bread from the supermarket. If it ever did happen, it would trigger a review of quality control procedures at the place of manufacture, and new procedures would be put in place to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Quality control is not simply a matter of physical safety. The more science advances, the more we are coming to appreciate how many active cannabinoids there are in the cannabis plant, and how different amounts of various ones can have entirely different effects to others.

We’re starting to learn that cannabinoids like delta-9 THC, while immensely enjoyable in the right context, are not necessarily helpful from a pain relief perspective. We’re also learning that cannabinoids like CBD have a wide range of medicinal uses, but that it’s difficult to gather useful scientific data about how to prescribe them, because it’s hard to get hold of accurately calculated doses.

A regulated cannabis industry would allow for manufacturers to create products that had precise and known amounts of each ingredient cannabinoid. This would make it possible for doctors to prescribe a regular supply of the right cannabinoid at the right dose. In this context, the right dose means a dose that is strong enough to achieve the desired therapeutic effects without being so strong that it causes other problems.

Neither is quality control simply a matter of health.

Perhaps the worst examples of a lack of quality control can be found in the various ripoffs that occur on the black market. There are many elderly people who are desperate to get hold of cannabis medicine for conditions that cause them to suffer, and for who legal medicines are unsuitable. These elderly patients are then forced into the black market, and often get tricked into giving money to someone who supplies a substandard product – or even no product at all.

That vulnerable people can get ripped off to the tune of thousands of dollars by clowns who don’t know how to manufacture quality cannabis products, or by criminals who are happy to supply rubbish that doesn’t work, is one of the cruelest outcomes of cannabis prohibition. Some of these people are trying to find solace to deal with the pain of the last days of their lives, and cannabis prohibition leaves them exposed to the most exploitative elements of the black market.

This has been a common occurrence on various FaceBook groups, where old people are given a small amount of CBD oil as a sample and then asked to pay thousands for a low-grade oil that confers no therapeutic advantage. Because cannabis is illegal, these old people have no chance of getting justice through Police action. Of course, the scammers are fully aware of this, because prohibition is a criminal’s best friend.

Cannabis should be made legal so as to make sure that the cannabis that people use, and which they are going to use regardless of the law, is of an adequate quality. This will not only avoid the occasional physical illness that comes from buying black market cannabis, but it will also decrease the suffering caused by criminal activity in the cannabis market.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: It’s Easier To Stop Using Cannabis If It’s Legal

Many people take an overly simplistic approach to cannabis law reform and assume that cannabis prohibition leads to less use and less desire to use. In truth, much like the fact that people don’t use more cannabis in places where it is legal, cannabis prohibition doesn’t even help addicts. As this article will show, it would be easier for people to stop using cannabis if it was legal.

The logic appears to be that making cannabis illegal will make people decide to stop using it. If it’s not possible to openly grow and sell cannabis, some people reason, then it won’t be as easy for a person to maintain a cannabis habit, and therefore people will be incentivised to quit.

Many people who support this theory seem to assume that cannabis users, many of who are using the substance for medicinal reasons, will just sit and mope for a while and then go and do something more productive. Not only does this ignore the obvious fact that it’s easy to get hold of cannabis pretty much anywhere in New Zealand, it also ignores human psychology.

The reality is, thanks to the wonders of something called variable interval reinforcement, prohibiting cannabis actually makes addicted cannabis users more addicted. Under prohibition, because a person can never be sure if they can maintain a supply, they come to cherish cannabis a lot more when they do get it. So when they do use it, the reinforcing effect is much more powerful.

There are two major reasons why legal cannabis would make it easier for those who are cannabis addicts to quit.

It might not be easy for the average educated, middle-class person to appreciate, but not everyone trusts their doctor or mental health worker. Just because the average Normie considers their doctor to be an intimate confidante doesn’t mean that the average cannabis user feels the same way.

Attitudes have changed sharply compared to some decades ago, but there’s still a lot of distrust on the part of many cannabis users towards health professionals. So if they are honestly advised to quit cannabis for good reasons, they are less likely to pay heed, because they can’t be sure if the advice is coming from a place of honesty or is a formality due to the law.

It’s not easy for a doctor to say that cannabis would be beneficial if it is not legal. For one thing, they don’t want to get a reputation for being the local cannabis doctor. For another thing, there are potential professional consequences. None of them want to explain to a professional board why they recommended an illegal drug to a patient.

If cannabis were legal, it would be possible to trust your doctor if they would say that you wouldn’t benefit from using medicinal cannabis. As it is, if your doctor does not recommend medicinal cannabis, it’s impossible to know if they say this because they believe cannabis would be harmful, or if they believe cannabis would be beneficial but are afraid of potential professional or legal consequences for saying so.

The second major reason is that legal cannabis would make it easier for a user, who accepted that they were addicted, to taper down their use with the intent of stopping.

This relates to the reinforcement schedules referenced above. In the same way that it’s better to use variable interval reinforcement to strengthen a response, it’s better to use fixed interval reinforcement to weaken one. This is because it leads to a gradual weakening of the craving, rather than taking it full force and risking a relapse.

Anyone who has tried to suddenly stop using tobacco or alcohol knows how difficult it is to just make a clean break with it. In most cases, if there is not an immediate threat of death, a person will be advised by their doctor not to quit cold turkey but rather to taper down over a few weeks or a month. As mentioned above, this is partly to avoid relapse, but it’s partly because this is less painful.

People who were interested in stopping their cannabis use could, if we had a sane system, get a prescription for a fixed amount of cannabis with a view to tapering off. They could be given a number of joints and told to smoke x for the first week, x-1 for the second week, x-2 for the third week – or whatever worked.

This would prevent the disaster scenario familiar to people who have tried to stop smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, in which one sits there while the craving for the drug rises and rises, until one finally caves, at which point using it feels like a divine gift. As mentioned above, this variable interval reinforcement only makes it much harder to quit.

Legal cannabis would be much better for those addicted than prohibition is. It would encourage addicts to trust their doctors when they suggested that cannabis had no medicinal value for them, and it would enable those doctors (or psychologists) to provide a schedule of decreasing fixed reinforcement that would allow for a relatively painless transition to sobriety.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: It Doesn’t Matter That Awful People Support Cannabis Law Reform

Some people – whether they’re honest about it or not – don’t support cannabis law reform because of the sort of person who does support it. Because many unpleasant and dangerous people think that cannabis prohibition is a bad idea, some others have gone as far as to conclude that it must really be a good idea. As this article will show, it doesn’t matter that awful people support cannabis law reform.

Indeed, demographic analysis shows that the sort of person who supports cannabis law reform isn’t the same sort of person who is doing the best. According to Dan McGlashan’s Understanding New Zealand, the correlation between voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017 and net personal income was -0.48, meaning that ALCP supporters were among the poorest in the nation, about as poor as National voters are wealthy.

Voting ALCP in 2017 had a correlation of 0.66 with being a solo parent, 0.68 with having no formal academic qualifications, 0.79 with being on the invalid’s benefit, 0.82 with being on the unemployment benefit and a whopping 0.89 with being a regular tobacco smoker. This suggests that being a cannabis supporter is correlated with just about every measure of low social standing.

Clearly, cannabis isn’t a drug for people who are doing well in life. Fundamentally, cannabis is a medicine, and therefore it appeals primarily to people who are sick in some way. This is obvious from the strong correlation between voting ALCP and being on the invalid’s benefit, because many of those people have discovered cannabis in their desperation. It’s not surprising, then, that its supporters are generally people who aren’t doing well.

None of that matters when it comes to determining the fairness of cannabis law reform.

Many people don’t like to use objective, intellectual reasoning when they make decisions. As was understood by Edward Bernays, people often rely on the consensus opinion of the herd when they choose what car to buy, or what political party to vote for. More specifically, they rely on the consensus opinion of their peer group.

People who are in this category, and whose peer group are prejudiced against cannabis users, tend to be prejudiced against cannabis as well. Their reasoning follows the logic that, because the sort of person who supports cannabis has a low social standing, they can’t have devoted any real honest thought to the issue. However, this entire argument is based on a kind of snobbery. It’s little more than looking down one’s nose at another person.

In fact, it’s a classic example of an ad hominem fallacy. Just because an argument for cannabis law reform comes from a person who isn’t a highly upstanding member of the community doesn’t mean that the argument is false in any way. The logical validity of the argument for cannabis law reform has no relation to the social standing of the people promoting it.

Variations of the ad hominem fallacy have been used to oppose most other kinds of reform. Women’s suffrage was opposed by those who characterised its supporters as spinsters and shrews. Homosexual law reform was opposed by those who characterised its supporters as AIDS-riddled degenerates. In more recent times, capital gains tax reform has been opposed by those who characterise it as expropriation and its supporters as communists.

It’s also a circular argument to say that cannabis should be prohibited because criminals use cannabis. If cannabis is illegal, then of course only criminals are going to use it. So a person cannot then turn around and argue that, because only criminals use it, this is justification for keeping it illegal.

People who use this argument tend to portray cannabis users, and cannabis law reform proponents, as brutally immoral degenerates. Dealing cannabis is viewed not as bravely supplying a medicine in the face of a tyrannical political system, but as maliciously destroying other people’s brains for life. Cannabis dealers are equated to child molesters in terms of the suffering they bring.

Even if this absurd caricature was true, it wouldn’t matter. In much the same way that neo-Nazis have a fair point when they talk about the effect of mass immigration on social cohesion, and in the same way that ecofascists have a fair point when they talk about the effect of vehicle exhaust pollution on the world’s ecosystems, all those members of society’s underclass who support cannabis law reform have a fair argument to make.

Although it’s true that the strongest support for cannabis law reform comes from society’s underclass, individuals within that underclass aren’t necessarily there because they are evil or immoral. Most of the people who use cannabis are doing badly because they are ill, either physically or mentally – cannabis is ultimately a medicine, before it is anything else.

So just because a person is poor, or a criminal, doesn’t mean that their arguments in favour of cannabis law reform can be dismissed. To the contrary – it is often people like this who are at the front lines of the War on Drugs, and understand and accounting for their experiences is crucial if we are to set the world to peace and order.

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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.

The Case For Cannabis: It Doesn’t Matter That High-THC Strains Now Exist

A prohibitionist argument beloved of the Police is that cannabis should stay illegal because it now contains much more THC than it used to. This is commonly employed as a counterargument to imply that, even though the dangers of cannabis use have been massively exaggerated, it should still be illegal, because the warnings have become accurate over time. This article explains why this argument is false.

This BBC article is a good example of the ridiculous propaganda that people have been exposed to over the years. It claims that “high-potency cannabis or skunk” is a completely different form of cannabis to the herbal cannabis that people usually smoke. This is done in an effort to make people think that the threat posed by legalisation is categorically more extreme than it was in the past.

It’s true that some cannabis strains today are much, much stronger than what used to exist, despite the nostalgic recollections of old hippies. Breeders have had decades to experiment with these strains, and some of them have cultivated varieties that are much higher in THC than anything that could have existed previously.

Because a high-THC strain will offer more of a buzz per unit of volume, it naturally makes for a superior product from a criminal point of view. The greater the buzz per unit of volume, the easier it is to transport, to hide and to smuggle. Black market dealers can charge more if their product gets a reputation for being superpowered, and all of this has caused high-THC strains to dominate the market in many places.

Although it’s true that a high-THC strain of cannabis can create unwanted reactions, particularly by producing a more intense experience than desired, this is only a problem if cannabis is sold on the black market. Like many of the arguments for cannabis prohibition that appeal to the harms of cannabis, further investigation shows that the harm is caused by prohibition and not by cannabis itself.

A high-THC strain of cannabis can get a person stoned faster than a low-THC strain, and perhaps also more heavily, but this is not anything close to a legitimate argument in favour of cannabis prohibition. The safest way to protect people from getting a more intense buzz than they wanted is actually to legalise cannabis, for two reasons.

Legal, properly regulated cannabis means that whatever a person consumes must be clearly labelled with a cannabinoid profile. This means that the user will know what they’re getting. If a person is inexperienced with cannabis they might want specifically to avoid a high-THC strain or to use a high-CBD strain. Even if they are experienced, they might want to know they’re using a high-CBD strain.

As mentioned elsewhere, only legal cannabis can make this possible, because only cannabis produced by legitimate white market professionals will be tested and analysed to determine its precise cannabinoid profile. Therefore, only legal cannabis can ensure that the user knows what they’re getting and can take the appropriate measures.

This approach synergises with having honest education about cannabis use at high school level. In the same way the high schoolers are educated about sex, driving and alcohol, an honest approach would see them educated about cannabis as well. Part of this approach would involve being told that high-THC strains can provoke effects that are more powerful than intended.

The second reason is that regulating cannabis makes it possible to pass a law, as has been done in some American jurisdictions, so that the recreational cannabis being sold in shops must contain a minimum percentage of CBD. This is done with the intent of minimising psychotic responses, as there is evidence that the CBD in cannabis has an anti-psychotic effect that balances that psychotogenic effect of the THC.

Regulation means that the circumstances in which people use cannabis can be controlled with a view to preventing adverse outcomes such as overdoses on super high-THC skunk. Even if it was not deemed necessary to legislate for a minimum CBD level for all cannabis, it could be ensured that the cannabis consumed publicly in cafes had such a limitation.

Prohibiting cannabis because of the fear of high-THC strains is like prohibiting alcohol because absinthe exists. It’s a dumb move that just leads to more suffering in the end. It would be much better to legalise cannabis so that people both knew how to use cannabis properly and also the chemical makeup of any strain they may wish to use.

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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.