The Case For Cannabis: One Person Who Smoked Cannabis And Went Crazy Is Not A Pattern

If one talks to many prohibitionists, one argument that comes up over and over again is the argument from personal experience. They will tell a story about how they knew a person who was doing great, until one day they smoked cannabis and just went crazy. This article explain why this is not a legitimate reason to keep cannabis illegal.

It’s a familiar story by now. The straight-A student, the hard-working businessman or the devoted mother, all living amazing lives until they had a smoke of cannabis and then – boom, total mental collapse. It’s a story familiar to anyone who has seen the film Trainspotting, only it doesn’t really happen that way with cannabis.

It’s true that the use of cannabis often occurs at the same time that a person becomes a psychiatric casualty. Inevitably, however, further examination of the lives of these people show that things aren’t as simple as use cannabis, go crazy.

Psychosis isn’t normally something that just breaks out from nowhere. Usually it’s something that develops, quickly or slowly, over a period of time, during which the person becomes more and more agitated. In most cases when psychosis is preceded by cannabis use, there are multiple factors at play, in particular lack of sleep, anxiety, adrenaline and job, health or relationship stresses.

When a person hears about someone they know using cannabis and then having a psychiatric event, what they don’t also hear about is the surrounding life circumstances. Almost always, the supposedly “healthy” person was either starting to feel overwhelmed with the pressure and stress in their lives (which is what turned them to cannabis) or there was a pre-existing psychiatric condition that wasn’t known about and which was exacerbated by cannabis use.

More academically, it is said that the plural of anecdote is not data. Knowing that one person who had a psychotic break happened to have used cannabis at some point leading up to it is one thing. It is not, however, evidence that a wider pattern exists of perfectly healthy people using cannabis and then becoming psychotic.

Even more academically, arguing that cannabis should be illegal because you knew one person who smoked it and went crazy is an example of the fallacy of composition. This is a logical fallacy that states that something that is true of one member of a group (such as one cannabis user) is true of the entire group (all cannabis users).

In other words, even if was true that there was one person who did become psychotic purely on account of cannabis use and no other factor, it wouldn’t make it possible to generalise this experience onto all people who use cannabis. One example is just one example, and it requires many further such examples before one can conclude that using cannabis inevitably leads to psychosis.

However, it’s entirely possible that using cannabis can contribute to psychosis under certain circumstances.

The first common way is that it can bring up traumatic memories. A large number of people, perhaps even a majority, have some kind of suppressed memory. Usually this relates to an early childhood trauma, with violence and sexual assault being the most common. The percolating effect of cannabis on the thoughts can cause such repressed traumas to bubble to the surface, and often in contexts where the user is not prepared for them.

Many people have been forced to suppress these memories in order to have a chance at an ordinary life. So when they suddenly face them again, the stress of this can lead to an episode of mental disturbance. This is particularly true if the memory cannot easily be suppressed again.

The second common way is that it can bring the user into spiritual realms of thought that they may not be prepared for. As discussed at length elsewhere in this book, cannabis is a spiritual sacrament. The dangerous side of this is when people use it expecting a high, and instead find themselves confronted with deep existential or spiritual questions.

It’s normal for people to avoid thinking about the fact that they’re going to die one day. One of the most common ways to break this habit is to have a smoke of cannabis and find one’s mind drifting to unusual places. The deconditioning effect of cannabis can have a greatly beneficial effect on creativity, but push it too far and you can lose touch with the bonds tethering you to collective reality.

Neither of these common ways can be helped by making cannabis illegal. Pushing cannabis underground has only had the effect of making people unaware of the real psychological effects of the substance, and this lack of proper awareness has caused more damage than cannabis itself.

In any case, given the large numbers of people who do use cannabis in New Zealand, and the large numbers of mentally ill people in New Zealand, it’s not surprising for someone to know a person who is in both of these categories. If someone did know a person who used cannabis and later became mentally ill, that’s not indicative of a wider pattern.

Furthermore, this argument ignores all the people who use cannabis and don’t go crazy. If 11% of the population has used cannabis within the past 12 months, that’s a huge number of people. It means that the average person probably knows a couple of dozen cannabis users. If this is the case, then it’s notable that they only knew one person who seemed to have a psychotic episode linked with cannabis 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.

The Case For Cannabis: A Criminal Record is A Disproportionate Punishment

Cannabis possession or cultivation are currently crimes, which means that a criminal record is a common result from being arrested for a cannabis offence. Our justice system, however, is supposed to operate on the principle that “the punishment fits the crime”. This article will argue that getting a criminal record for anything to do with cannabis is grossly disproportionate, considering the severity of the crime.

Having a criminal record makes a person’s life a lot harder. Many employers will filter out applicants with criminal records before they even seriously consider them. This is true of almost every job that requires any real responsibility. This means that a future of poverty, or at least severely limited economic opportunities, is a common consequence of getting a criminal conviction.

Of course, having a criminal record is supposed to make people’s lives harder. A criminal is a person who has declared that they are unable or unwilling to abide by the rules of decent society, and it’s fair that they’re marked as such for the safety of other people. We’re not allowed to chop people’s hands off anymore, so there’s no other way to clearly mark a person as a member of the criminal class other than to give them a record.

The problem is that cannabis use isn’t a crime like a real crime is. Real crimes have victims. It’s fair that a criminal record marks a person who has acted with gross disregard or malice towards life and towards suffering. But a person who grew some medicinal cannabis plants has not shown any callousness or ill will. If anything, they should be rewarded for taking actions to alleviate suffering in the face of discouragement from the law.

Becoming unemployable because of a criminal record is one thing if you are a murderer, rapist or fraudster. In cases like these, it’s probably fair for the vast majority of employers to rule such people out from the beginning. But a person who used cannabis, even if they grew it, has not done anything to warrant being placed in the same class as those who have callously brought harm to others.

In any case, that’s not where the punishment ends. Most fair people can agree that it’s unnecessarily brutal for a person with a cannabis conviction to have trouble finding work for the rest of their lives, but it’s also extremely hard to travel with a criminal conviction. Many countries – Canada and America among the most notorious – regularly refuse to let people in if they have a criminal record, reasoning that they have failed to demonstrate sufficient good character.

These two punishments tie in with each other. Many jobs nowadays involve international travel, and this pattern looks set to continue as the world continues to globalise and integrate. This means that, in order to be able to perform an increasing number of jobs, one needs to be free to travel internationally. A person with a criminal conviction preventing them from travel is effectively disqualified from all of these jobs.

Forty years ago, when the War on Drugs was just ramping up, the sort of person who got a cannabis conviction probably wasn’t likely to travel overseas anyway. But in 2019, being restricted from overseas travel for life is a heavy punishment indeed.

It’s worth noting here that a criminal record also affects the wider family. An adult whose employment and travel opportunities are restricted will have trouble providing not only for themselves, but also for their families. So the children of people who grow up with cannabis convictions are also punished.

All of this constitutes obscene cruelty, especially when it is considered that cannabis is a medicine, and that most people who grow it do so to alleviate suffering.

It was once – falsely – believed that cannabis caused a lot of harm. When it was thought that cannabis was a dangerously addictive drug that destroyed peoples minds, then giving someone a criminal record for cannabis may have made some vague kind of sense. Now that we know that cannabis prohibition was built on false premises, it is apparent that giving someone a criminal record for dealing with it is unfair.

In this case, the correct thing to do is to formalise this state of affairs, and as soon as possible, by repealing cannabis prohibition. We can no longer, in good faith, argue that giving someone a criminal conviction is a punishment that fits the suffering caused by the supposed crime.

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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: Law Reform Would Bring Sense to Workplace Drug Testing

One of the worst things about cannabis prohibition is not that it gives people to opportunity to mistreat each other, but that it coerces them into doing so. The fact that cannabis is illegal means that people are essentially forced into taking particular measures when they come into contact with it. These measures often unfairly impact a number of people, which is another reason why the cannabis laws ought to be changed, as this article will examine.

Right now, in many places across the West, there is a common but extremely cruel phenomenon taking place. It is that of all of the people losing their jobs because of being forced to take a urine sample at work, and having it turn out positive for cannabis.

The logic goes like this. Many jobs, in particular those involving the operation of heavy machinery, cannot be performed safely by those under the influence of drugs. This goes for not only alcohol and cannabis but for many other substances. These jobs require a sober mind, because anyone not sober could easily kill themselves, someone else, or do millions of dollars worth of damage.

Fair enough. But because it’s not always possible to rely on a person to come to work sober, some insurance companies, as a condition of granting insurance, make it necessary for the company seeking insurance to perform drug tests on their employees so that they can remove the ones who are working under the influence of some drug, thereby making the workplace safer.

This is fair-ish, but where it truly crosses the line into unfairness is the fact that instead of testing for cannabis impairment, the urine tests test for the presence of certain metabolites that are present in the urine if the person has used cannabis at some point in the recent past, perhaps even 30 days (or more). So the urine test can only determine if you have used cannabis recently, not whether you’re impaired at the time of the test.

This means that “failing a drug test” has got little to do with whether or not your ability to do your job safely was impaired. Many people who get fired for failing a drug test are not even impaired at the time the test was taken. So a lot of people are getting discriminated against, unfairly, on account of cannabis use that probably isn’t even affecting their ability to perform their work duties safely.

In many cases, the employer is perfectly fine with this arrangement. Any employee who uses cannabis is more likely to be a freethinker and therefore disobedient, or more likely to demand a higher wage. A urine test that reveals both a tendency towards freethinking and evidence of having committed a crime is a perfect excuse to fire someone, but the option shouldn’t be available.

If cannabis became legal, some things would change with regards to this arrangement. Of course, cannabis law reform wouldn’t suddenly make it legal to go to work stoned. Every workplace would still be obliged to meet the same health and safety standards as before. The most likely difference is that it could become possible that any employer drug testing their staff was legally mandated to use swab tests to test for impairment, and not urine tests to test for the presence of metabolites indicating use within the past 30 days.

Generally employers prefer to do a urine sample because it’s cheaper, but if cannabis were legal, an employee might be able to bring a case for unfair dismissal to court if they were fired for the presence of metabolites in the urine. Such a case might well rule that, if cannabis is legal, such an action constitutes unfair dismissal, and therefore the employer is obliged to use a swab test to test for impairment instead.

It could be argued that employers would actually benefit from this policy as well. In the modern workplace, finding staff is harder than before on account of the increased need for training and education. If a person wants to work, there’s no reason why the fact that they smoked a bong two weeks ago should prevent them. The reality is that they’re probably safer than someone who is hungover.

It would be better for everyone for the law to change so that some sanity could be restored to the issue. If cannabis were legal, than the workplace standard would be a swab test for intoxication, not a urine test for the presence of metabolites. This would mean that it was possible to make a distinction between stoned people, who shouldn’t be in certain workplaces, and people who have used cannabis recently, who are no less safe than anyone else.

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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 Rates of Cannabis Use

A common prohibitionist double-whammy is to argue that cannabis should remain illegal because, if it were made legal, people would use it more, and because its use is harmful, legalisation would therefore lead to more harm. This article will not argue whether cannabis is harmful (this is done elsewhere), but will simply summarise what the evidence suggests: that legalisation will not increase rates of cannabis use.

It seems intuitively obvious that making cannabis illegal lowers the rate of cannabis use. After all, the whole point of making it illegal was to make it harder to get, and if it were legal people would be able to buy it from shops.

Fair enough, but the statistics show a different story.

The truth is that cannabis cultivation is so common (believed to account for 1% of electricity consumption) that pretty much anyone who wants to get hold of it can, except for times of unusually high demand. This means that the cannabis market is already saturated – and this can be demonstrated with reference to real-world examples.

The most obvious counterpoint to the argument that legalising cannabis will increase rates of use is the fact that rates of cannabis use are not higher in places where it is legal.

In the Netherlands, 8% of the adult population has used cannabis at some point in the last 12 months. This rate is lower than in Australia (10.6%), where cannabis is illegal, and much lower than in New Zealand (14.6%), where cannabis is also illegal. In countries such as Israel and Ghana, the rate of cannabis use is higher still. Cannabis might not be technically legal in the Netherlands, but in practice anyone who wants to buy it from a shop can do so.

If legalising cannabis will inevitably cause rates of use to increase, how can it be possible that rates of use are lower in a place where it is legal, where getting supplied is as simple as walking into a shop? If the link between cannabis being legal and higher rates of cannabis use is so certain, we could expect to see higher usage rates in all the places where it is legal, and lower usage rates in all the places where it is illegal. In reality, any such correlation is hard to discern.

The truth is already known to anyone who has ever been to the Netherlands. Cannabis is easy to get hold of, yes, and the Police won’t harass you for it, that’s true, but the bulk of the population would rather drink alcohol anyway. Cannabis law reform didn’t turn a large number of non-drug users into cannabis users – a small number of alcohol users became cannabis users, and the rest stayed the same.

The absence of a correlation between the legal status of cannabis and the rate of use within a jurisdiction is not the only place that statistics disprove the idea that legalisation will lead to more cannabis use.

A poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health found that cannabis use rates declined among teenagers after legalisation, with rates of teenage use in Colorado lower than the American national average. Another study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, supports the idea that teenage cannabis use rates actually declined after it was made legal.

In fact, the latter study suggests that teen cannabis use rates declined in the majority of states that recently made cannabis legal. It may be, as some have suggested for decades, that the Government lying about the effects of cannabis and exaggerating its dangers was what led to many young people becoming attracted to it. Had there never been an unjust law prohibiting cannabis, it’s possible that the rebellious section of society would never have felt obliged to defy it.

At this point it could be countered that, even if teenage usage rates of cannabis go down, and even if this was the most important thing, adult rates of cannabis use might still increase if cannabis were legalised, and that this might lead to more harm. Leaving aside the fact that this argument has already been countered in the first part of this article, it doesn’t even apply here.

There is little doubt that some people will replace recreational alcohol use with recreational cannabis use if it were legal to do so. Technically, this would mean that the rate of cannabis use would increase, but the rate of recreational drug use would remain the same. Moreover, the rate of harm caused by recreational drug use would decrease if some people replaced boozing with cannabis, on account of that alcohol is more harmful.

Ultimately, the argument that cannabis legalisation would lead to more suffering through increased rates of cannabis use is in error, for multiple reasons. A review of the statistical data shows that cannabis use is not higher in places where it is legal, and also that rates of teen use have declined in American states that have made it legal.

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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 Makes the Police Less Effective

Of all of the side-effects of cannabis prohibition, one of the most insidious is the suffering caused to the population by decreased bureaucratic and institutional effectiveness. This occurs across a range of Government agencies, but none as severely as the criminal justice system. As this article will examine, cannabis prohibition makes the Police less effective and less able to do their jobs properly.

A lot of successful Police work depends on input from the community, because the Police frequently rely on tips from people who know about crimes. Criminals aren’t always tight-lipped, and sometimes they talk about their crimes when they shouldn’t (especially to women). Many more crimes get solved as a result of someone who knew the perpetrator ratting them out than as a result of detectives finding clues with magnifying glasses.

This is why reports of crimes in the media frequently come with an appeal from Police to witnesses or anyone who knows the perpetrator to come forward. Realistically, this is the best that the Police can do in many cases. It’s easy to see, then, that policing depends on having good relations with the community, and a sense of mutual trust.

If cannabis is illegal, then any individual cannabis user is going to be very wary of the Police, and for good reason. They will be highly averse to having officers come to their house, and will be highly averse to making contact with the Police. After all, they are criminals themselves.

It’s easy to imagine this from the perspective of a cannabis user. Why would a cannabis user who has just witnessed a crime call the Police, when doing so greatly increases the risk that said cannabis user gets arrested themselves? If the Police want to talk to them, then the cannabis user is going to have to present themselves with no sign that they use cannabis, or risk getting arrested.

This makes the Police less effective because they can no longer rely on the voluntary co-operation of cannabis users. Prohibition shifts people who use cannabis from the set of potential Police allies to the set of Police opponents.

This also isn’t the only way that cannabis makes the Police less effective.

A British study showed that one million manhours of Police time was spent every year on enforcing cannabis prohibition. This accounts for all the arrests, all the time spent booking and processing people and the following up of tips. Adjusting for the size of the country, that suggests that somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 manhours are wasted in this manner every year in New Zealand.

The fact of the matter is that the general Police budget is limited, and the manhours used to enforce cannabis prohibition come out of that general Police budget. So 70,000 hours spent harassing people for cannabis is 70,000 hours not spent following up burglaries, assaults, thefts and the other petty crimes whose enforcement depends on general funding.

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, it emerged that shooter Branton Tarrant had never had his firearms licence checked by the Police. He had come to New Zealand with an Australian firearms licence and used that to purchase weaponry, and at no point was it ensured that he had his firearms safely locked away, or even that he was in a sound mind to own them.

This is not to argue that the Christchurch mosque shootings would have been prevented if cannabis was legal. The point is that Police effectiveness is a matter of correctly apportioning their limited manhours to enforcing the laws of New Zealand. Should they decide that a certain amount of spending is necessary to enforce cannabis prohibition, then they cannot escape the opportunity cost of not having the funding to fully enforce certain other areas.

Cannabis prohibition should be repealed for the sake of making the Police force more effective. Not only would this allow for a decrease in the mistrust held by sections of the population towards the Police, but it would also allow the Police to expend their resources more efficiently, by freeing up at least 70,000 manhours currently wasted on enforcing cannabis prohibition.

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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 Will Not Lead to A Black Market

One of the fears of those who are against cannabis law reform is that a legal system would lead to the growth of the black market in cannabis production. Therefore, it would be better to keep cannabis illegal. As this article will examine, this reasoning is based on at least two major errors.

The logic goes like this: it costs X amount of dollars to buy an ounce of cannabis – let’s say 300. Cannabis is likely to be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol, and alcohol taxes are reasonably hefty, so let’s assume at least a 20% sin tax on cannabis, plus 15% GST – this is already over $400 an ounce.

This could mean that legal cannabis will cause so much tax to be added to the cost of an ounce that black market operators will be able to undercut it. Since cannabis growing will not be cracked down on because of its new legal status, large numbers of people will be able to grow and to enter the black market at no risk.

This reasoning is false in two major ways.

The first is that is doesn’t account for economies of scale. On the black market – which is currently where all cannabis is sold – producing cannabis isn’t cheap. As mentioned elsewhere, home cannabis grows suck up as much as 1% of the electricity production of nations such as America and New Zealand. These are incredibly inefficient compared to warehouse grows.

Moreover, cannabis sold in a legal market, from dispensaries, would not carry the risk premium associated with a product sold on the black market. The risk premium is very high in the case of cannabis, because a lot of product gets intercepted by Police action before it ever gets sold, and the losses from this have to be balanced against finalised sales.

Taking both of these things into account, we can see that the production cost of legal cannabis, manufactured by the ton and distributed to pharmacies without interruption, is going to be a fraction of what it is currently. This means that it will be possible to put GST on it and a sin tax on top of that, and still sell cannabis for $200 an ounce, or less.

No black market producer could compete with this and still make enough of a profit for it to be worthwhile. So, if anything, legal cannabis would sooner wipe the black market out completely by undercutting it. This was a principle understood in Uruguay when they made cannabis legal in 2013 – they set the price of cannabis at $1 a gram.

The second major reason why we need not be concerned about a black market is because we have the capacity ourselves to more-or-less set the final cannabis price through taxation.

There are really two kinds of prohibition: hard prohibition and soft prohibition. What we have right now is hard prohibition, where the Police will physically smash anyone in possession of cannabis, or cultivating it. This is hard because it uses the full power of the state, and will go as far as killing you to enforce it, or putting you in a cage for several years. We are simply not allowed it and no correspondence will be entered into.

But making something legal, and then taxing it to the point where it’s almost impossible to afford, is a kind of prohibition. The New Zealand Government is currently employing soft prohibition of tobacco, in that it has been raising the tobacco taxes every year, with the stated intent of forcing tobacco cessation through making it unaffordable. This it believes is in the greater good.

Soft prohibition shares many of the drawbacks of hard prohibition. In the case of cannabis in New Zealand, we can see that black market tobacco has made a comeback, to the point where trade in it is believed to cost the New Zealand Government tens of millions is lost taxes every year. So we can see that high taxes on legal cannabis is a bad idea, if the black market is to be discouraged.

If cannabis legalisation was done intelligently – which is to say that it was done with an entirely different mindset to how prohibition has been done so far – we would set the level of taxation such that the transition to a legal cannabis market was a soft transition. In other words, we could calculate what the expected average production cost of an ounce of cannabis should be, account for profits, account for GST, and tax that total at a rate that would still allow it to beat the black market. This would achieve all major objectives at once.

Not only would cannabis law reform not lead to more cannabis being sold on the black market, but it would be the best thing to fight the black market. Cannabis law reform would allow legal sellers to undercut the black market through economies of scale and the removal of the risk premium, driving criminal gangs out of business.

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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.

Why Vaccination Should Never Be Made Compulsory

25 people have been infected by a measles outbreak in Canterbury, and one could predict from the degree of anti-anti-vaccination hysteria that there will soon be a social movement to make vaccination compulsory. Many people are calling for it, and the rhetoric demonising the anti-vaxxers is growing. This essay discusses why compulsory vaccination is the wrong approach.

The joke goes that under totalitarianism, everything is either banned or made compulsory. The panic-based hysteria that fuels the various moral outrages that lead to totalitarianism can be seen in places like this thread on Reddit. Many New Zealanders are apparently happy to force compulsory medical treatment on others, despite it being a violation of Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Compulsory vaccination would be a grossly draconian abuse of state power. But that isn’t why we should avoid it.

Let’s lay it out: vaccination is a good idea. Vaccination is a great idea, especially if the extremely minor side-effects are weighed up against the costs of being infected with measles, rubella, polio, whooping cough or the like. Some of these diseases are capable of crippling people for the remainder of their lives, leaving them in ghastly pain, or just killing them outright. Their presence as part of the human experience was a curse, and eradicating them would be excellent.

Vaccination is such a good idea that a parent ought to listen to their doctors when those doctors recommend vaccination. So if the necessary trust isn’t present in that relationship, something is wrong, and we ought to determine why.

The usual response is to call anti-vaxxers “nutters”, “loonies”, “schizos” and the like, and to attribute their lack of trust to an aggressive paranoia that can only be present on account of moral failure. But the responsibility isn’t on them to become more trusting. The responsibility lies on the Government and on the medical community to earn the trust of the population. It’s not merely an ideal that the population ought to trust that what their doctors is telling them is true – it’s a necessity.

The anti-vaccination movement is particularly strong in Nelson, which has been attributed to our unusually high proportion of nutters, loonies etc. The reality is that Nelson has a high number of anti-vaxxers for the same reason that California does: we were one of the first to understand the medicinal value of cannabis, and thereby one of the first to understand that the medicinal community was lying to us about it.

People know that they’ve been lied to about cannabis. We know that doctors have not been fully honest about the medicinal benefits of this substance for decades. Those who have done the research know that these lies are mostly the result of pressure from Government, disinformation from pharmaceutical companies pushing their product and the usual Kiwi slackness when it comes to doing your job properly.

So how do we know that we’re not being lied to about vaccines? Given the experience with cannabis, it’s entirely possible to suspect that Governments are putting pressure on doctors to ignore the risks of vaccination, or that the manufacturers of the vaccines aren’t honest about their side-effects, or that doctors simply haven’t bothered to research any side-effects.

Given that doctors have been lying about these things when it came to cannabis, it’s only natural that the trust that people had in them has sharply declined among some demographics. This is the error that needs to be corrected, and compulsory vaccination is a ham-fisted solution to something that can be achieved more elegantly.

Introducing compulsory vaccination is a foolish and short-sighted approach that will not only spur more suspicion and paranoia, but which will also help to justify future Governmental abuses. A much braver and wiser move would be for the Government and the medical community to earn back the trust that they have lost.

The best way to achieve this would be for politicians to make a frank and full apology for their parts in misleading the country about cannabis. They would have to not only admit that cannabis was medicinal, but that it was known to be medicinal and previous governments lied about it for whatever reason.

If the politicians would admit that many doctors only withheld the truth from their patients for fear of punishment from the Government, they would help to restore the faith in those doctors necessary for the more sceptical to get their children vaccinated. This is what needs to happen, not compulsory vaccination.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation is Better For the Environment

Recent studies suggest that the future prospects for Earth’s environment are poor. The situation is dire enough that, finally, an awareness is growing that certain measures will have to be taken if the human species is to survive – and soon. This article explains how cannabis law reform is one of those measures (if a minor one).

Many people labour under the idea that cannabis prohibition stops people from using cannabis. Therefore, they assume, cannabis prohibition prevents it from being grown and used. The truth, of course, is that evil laws don’t prevent actions, because human nature is to defy evil laws, and so people grow cannabis everywhere anyway. In any case, cannabis is a medicine, and people will not simply go without a medicine because of the law.

Because of things like Police helicopters that go searching the hills and forests for outdoor grows, a majority of people who grow cannabis do so indoors, and most of these grows are simple setups under a 400 or 600 Watt bulb. These generally cost somewhere between $70 and $100 a month to run, and can produce several ounces of weed over a eight- or ten-week cycle.

This is a great outcome for an individual cannabis user who doesn’t want to deal with the black market, but it’s not the best outcome for the environment.

A study by American scientist Evan Mills found that indoor cannabis grows use up to 1% of America’s entire energy supply. If a similar proportion holds true in New Zealand, it would mean that indoor cannabis grows in New Zealand suck up electricity equivalent to that used by a city the size of Nelson every year. This represents some $60 million worth of electricity, every year.

Another way to put this is that a four-plant grows uses as much electricity as running 29 fridges. It’s a lot of energy being used for something that doesn’t really need to happen. After all, these grows are only done indoors for the sake of evading detection.

Legal cannabis would mean that cannabis growers could simply put a plant outside and let it grow in the Sun, without fear of being spotted by Police helicopters. There would be no energy requirements at all, and the cost of grow nutrients and the like would be minimal on account of that the plant would just be allowed to grow as large as possible.

Not all indoor cannabis growing could immediately be switched to outdoors. Many people simply don’t have the appropriate facilities. However, the vast majority of it could be, on account of that people would rather buy cannabis from a shop or get it from a pharmacy than grow it themselves, for a greater cost, and have to worry about watering, spider mites, replacement bulbs, buying potting mix, getting ripped off etc.

So legal cannabis would mean that companies would be able to build entire outdoor cannabis farms, and these farms would be much better for the environment than the current arrangement, in which everyone has a home grow operation because they can’t buy it legally and they need to avoid getting arrested. All of those highly inefficient home grows can be wound down in favour of commercial operations that achieve economies of scale.

The tricky thing about this argument is that the sort of person who cares about the environment already knows that cannabis should be legal. In much the same way that anyone who has bothered to look at the climate science knows that changes need to be made, anyone who has bothered to look at the science behind cannabis knew that cannabis prohibition should have been repealed 20 years ago.

The sort of person who genuinely believes that it’s a good idea to put people in cages for growing or using cannabis are, almost inevitably, the same kind of people who don’t care at all about the environment or what the state of it might be after we are gone. The characteristic feature of such people is an absence of empathy for others, and an inability to consider their suffering to be real. So the environmental argument will convince few who are not already convinced.

However, the fact remains that cannabis law reform is a better move for the environment. It would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the cannabis cultivation industry, as well as reducing the amount of wastage in other areas. Given the pressing need to consider environmental impacts in all areas, we should make it legal for individuals to grow cannabis outside at home.

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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.

Did Cannabis Prohibition Doom Humanity to Extinction?

Were the hippies right all along? The counter-culture that arose in response to the Cold War championed many things that made them hated: free love, a return to Nature, a rejection of materialism – and cannabis. This essay examines the possibility that we would have survived if only we had listened, and that cannabis prohibition doomed the human species to extinction.

A recent scientific report on climate data paints a grim picture for humanity’s future. Titled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy”, the paper lays out the stark fact that we have polluted the planet so badly that future chaos is inevitable. The truly baffling thing is we knew this all along. The science that explained what would happen to the planet if we continued to burn fossil fuels was established in the 90s – the 1890s.

So why didn’t we listen?

For the vast majority of human history, we lived in a close enough balance with the environment to not destroy it. Although there were certainly cases of localised destruction – the firestick farming method of the Australian Aborigines being perhaps the foremost – it was only recently that humanity developed the capacity to destroy the environment of the entire planet.

Somewhere along the line, we lost touch with the rest of the biosphere. Perhaps what initially kicked it off was following Descartes’s belief that only human beings were truly conscious. Maybe it was even further back, to Aristotle’s injunction that humans occupied the highest place on the food chain. In either case, what really pushed our ignorance into critical territory may have been the prohibition of cannabis.

Although the idea is commonly laughed at nowadays, cannabis is a spiritual sacrament, and has been used as such for thousands of years, particularly by the common ancestors of the Indo-European peoples. Evidence that ancient Scythians hotboxed tents with cannabis smoke predates writing in the area, Hindu and Vedic culture is replete with references to it, and even ancient Taoist alchemists considered it a major plant medicine.

An example of the kind of insights that people come to from cannabis use is that all creatures are part of one collective consciousness, which is more fundamental than time and space and is not constrained by them, and which is therefore eternal, and all of the other spiritual ideas that people nowadays consider to be mental illness. We’ve lost touch with these insights in the pursuit of ever more material wealth.

The real mental illness, it could be better argued, is on the part of those who don’t use cannabis.

It is the non-hippies, who don’t use cannabis, who buy expensive toys that are just plastic hunks of shit, and who drive around in enormously polluting vehicles, and who spend tens of thousands remodelling their house just for social status, who have wrecked the environment. A civilisation that destroys its own environment in pursuit of producing trivial, fleeting material pleasures could correctly be said to be insane.

If one understands that cannabis is a spiritual sacrament that used to keep humanity in touch with the natural world, and that this loss of contact with the material world has caused a climate crisis that may prove to doom us all, then it can fairly be argued that cannabis prohibition led to the destruction of humanity. If we’d just sat around smoking weed instead of working hard and aspiring to own ever-larger piles of crap, the planet might have survived.

If we had never contracted the disease of workism, we never would have thought it a good idea to drive miles to work, burning fossils fuels all the while, just to make three times more money than we actually need, and that just so we can buy piles of plastic crap and home improvements that never get used. We would have learned to appreciate the natural world more, instead of seeing it as something to be consumed on the road to economic growth.

Any hippie could tell you that the philosophy of eternal growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. You don’t need an ecology degree to understand that an organism or group of organisms cannot keep growing indefinitely and stay in their niche. Either they stop growing or they expand into other niches. The ideology of eternal economic growth was inevitably going to hit its limit in one way or another.

If that hippie was of the more thoughtful kind, they might be able to tell you that such philosophies arose because people started to become afraid of death. Because cannabis has been a spiritual sacrament for our ancestors for so long, its prohibition in the early 20th century had the effect of, quite literally, separating us from God.

It’s possible that, if cannabis had never become criminalised, we never would have lost touch with Nature enough to even think about such a thing as building a strategic naval force that spanned the entire globe, sucking up enormous amounts of coal and oil as it did so, to the point where the biosphere collapsed. Ironically, if we had lived as the filthy, lazy, crazy hippies had suggested, we’d have had a better chance of passing through the Great Filter.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Case For Cannabis: Law Reform Is Not A “Slippery Slope”

The case for cannabis prohibition is essentially based on fear, in particular fear of the unknown. Prohibitionists and other doommongers like to give the impression that cannabis law reform is a “slippery slope” to widespread social decay. As this article will show, cannabis law reform will not be a slippery slope to selling heroin to schoolchildren, or anything like it.

The slippery slope argument is used so often that it has become a formal logical fallacy. In short, this logical fallacy is when a person argues that a certain action must not be allowed, because if it is allowed, it will lead to worse actions also becoming allowed. To prevent those worse actions from coming to pass, we should keep the status quo, because to make even a small change is to step onto a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to disaster.

When we wanted to make it illegal to hit your children, we were told it was a slippery slope to those children beating up their parents. When we wanted to legalise prostitution, we were told it was a slippery slope to Weimar Republic-style child prostitution on the main streets. When we wanted to introduce a capital gains tax, we were told it was a slippery slope to the Government confiscating properties from those it deemed too wealthy.

None of these feared outcomes occurred, which is why the slippery slope fallacy is a recognised fallacy.

The slippery slope argument, then, is wheeled out almost every time someone tries to change any law. So it’s not a surprise that it also gets wheeled out in response to proposals for cannabis law reform. The problem is that we’ve had cannabis prohibition for so long now that almost no-one can remember life from before it was brought in, so we’ve forgotten that prohibition has done more damage than legal cannabis ever could.

The old form of this argument was that cannabis use is a slippery slope to heroin use, and therefore we have to keep cannabis illegal to protect people from getting sucked into heroin, because they’re all some form of “dope”. Nowadays, almost everyone knows that the sort of people who use cannabis have very little in common with those who use heroin, and don’t generally move in the same circles.

Cannabis prohibitionists warn us breathlessly that liberalising the cannabis laws will lead to “THC-laced confectionery” being sold to schoolchildren. The New Zealand media has shown images of gummy bears that are purported to contain 30% or more THC, and the implication is that a small child might gulp down a couple of dozen of them thinking they’re sweets. Ignoring the fact that eating two dozen cannabis-infused gummy bears would still be safer than eating two dozen paracetamol, the argument fails for at least two major reasons.

For one thing, most of the arguments about harm don’t apply to other drugs. It’s fair and reasonable to argue that cannabis causes less harm than alcohol; it’s neither fair nor reasonable to make the same argument of crystal methamphetamine. Neither has anyone ever argued that heroin or methamphetamine was a spiritual sacrament.

Where those arguments do apply, then it’s fair enough to consider them on their own merits. The War on Cannabis is, indeed, one front in the wider War on Drugs, and just because the case for drug law reform is the most obvious in the case of cannabis doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in the case of other drugs. It happens to also be true that the law against psychedelics is as ridiculous as the cannabis one, if not more so.

The other major reason is that we are entirely free to recriminalise cannabis, should we reform the current laws and then decide the change isn’t working. The people who have looked at the evidence and the previous experience of places that have relaxed their cannabis laws almost all believe that this won’t happen, but it might. If we do decide that cannabis law reform doesn’t work, we will be free to change it back.

The argument that legalising cannabis would be a slippery slope to various kinds of social decay is not valid. Cannabis prohibition is, and never was, a wise move – prohibition is itself the experimental condition. In any case, relaxing the law is not a move into permissiveness but finally having the courage to correct an error that was made generations ago.

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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.