Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Some Strikingly Weak Arguments against Cannabis Legalisation

James Snell wrote the "no" piece on this online poll. I don't know whether he's writing for pay, or whether this is actually what he believes, but the arguments are strikingly weak. What's also remarkable is that he writes for HuffPo, Left Foot Forward and so on. The political left are the authoritarians, and openly so. In the past they are always the ones who argued for liberty against the overweening, overmighty state, but now, the Gramscian march through the institutions is complete, with lefties dominating the legal profession, the quangocracy and much of the civil service, Lefties now feel comfortable advocating the state force people to behave as Fabians think they ought.

Cannabis legalisation, it seems, is the current cause célèbre for those who don’t have consequential things to advocate. Compared with other – more urgent and more important – issues the world over, making certain substances legal seems trivial and self-indulgent. However, it is not just my job here to denigrate the question itself; I am also required to actually argue against the unleashing of this dangerous and untested drug on the public at large – which I will attempt to do now.
It is not "dangerous". There is no lethal dose for THC, as there is for alcohol. Or salt. It isn't good for you, and I will come to that later, but THC isn't dangerous. Nor is it "untested". People have been smoking hemp for at least as long as they have been drinking booze.
The first statement I shall offer is one I believe to be obvious. Cannabis is dangerous, and therefore making such a dangerous thing legal would be bad. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: the evidence for a causal link between cannabis use and irreversible mental illness is growing
No it isn't. Few studies that I can find (which aren't funded by overtly prohibitionist government organisations) conclude a causal link. Most regard schizophrenia as the main potential problem, but sufferers take all and any drugs more often and in greater volume than people who don't exhibit symptoms. Cannabis use and schitzophrenia are a co-morbidity, there's no evidence Cannabis CAUSES the condition, though it may trigger the already prone, and even the evidence for that is weak. The symptoms of schitzophrenia first manifest themselves in teenage years. Most pot smokers start.... in... oh. Andrew Wakefield was struck off for concluding cause of autism by MMR vaccine on just such spurious grounds, yet the massive violence of the law is deployed on similar logic.
and it is self-evident that legalising a drug will increase the number of people who use it,
No it isn't. With legal drugs, you can have some control over who you sell them to. With illegal drugs you can't. The drug is universally available now, despite decades of draconian enforcement against suppliers.
the frequency of its use and the total quantities concerned.
All the evidence from Amsterdam, Colorado, Uruguay and Portugal seem to suggest that Cannabis is a substitute for alcohol and the vast majority of users moderate their income. The point is anyone who wants pot right now, when it's illegal, can get it. You just go to a pub, and discretely ask about. Young male bar-staff with tattoos are usually a good bet, so I'm told.

Except of course the very ill people, who might benefit from the drug's powerful effects on appetite and chronic pain. They can't get the drug. They must live in unnecessary pain.
Legalising cannabis might not just prove to be the first nation-wide test of the gateway drug hypothesis: it might also be gateway legislation as well.
The Gateway drug hypothesis is absolute bollocks. How many people smoked pot at university? 60%, 70%? How many of those ended up smack-addled derelicts?
I dislike the terms ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs, due to the fact that this sort of classification inevitably makes cannabis look like a healthy alternative to the really bad stuff: the Diet Coke of getting high – but this is a not insubstantial point. As we all ought to know by now, such illusions are simply too good to be true.
Is there an argument there? If there is I can't see it. Cannabis is, according to people without a stake in the status quo, like professor of pshycopharmacology, and former UK Government drug Czar, David Nutt regards Cannabis as significantly less harmful than alcohol.
Another irritating thing about the campaign to have this particular substance accepted by the statute books is the self-righteousness.
...Absolutely no "self-righteousness" from prohibitionists. No sir....
Bill Maher, in the US, declared on his show (the modestly titled Real Time with Bill Maher) that cannabis legalisation is the new civil rights struggle - after those of marriage equality and the ever-present fights against sexism, racism and the like. His audience-in-a-can duly applauded, by the way.
The US locks up millions of (mainly black) people for non-violent drug offences. Black and White teenagers are roughly equally likely to smoke pot, but Only black people are likely to suffer gaol time for doing so. To suggest (and by a lefty no less) that this isn't a civil rights issue is telling. We might not be quite as egregious in punishing people for getting high on this side of the pond, but there are still distinct racial differences in the likelihood of incarceration for drug offences. It is a civil rights issue.
To me, this remark is not only stupid: it also represents a hideous degradation of the aforementioned: the real civil rights issues.
I think I've demonstrated why it doesn't....
A statement such as this demonstrates the rottenness at the heart of the pro-legalisation lobby: a hedonistic bunch masquerading as martyrs. While there is real suffering, and real hardship, going on elsewhere – an apparently major concern for some people in the West is the ability to make use of recreational poisons without fear of the police getting involved. It is a parochial concern, at best. At worst, it is a deliberate desire for legalisation-endorsed selfishness.
What a vicious, bigoted, small-minded argument, which pre-supposes the state's right to legislate behaviour which harms no-one else, and may even be a substitute for less harmful "poisons" like alcohol. Why is getting high on pot any more "selfish" than getting pissed on wine or beer? Why allow one, and not the other.
To sum up then; Cannabis use is being increasingly demonstrated to be harmful.
No it isn't
The harm it causes is not insignificant.
Yes they are, and many of the "harms" are caused by prohibition, not the drug itself.
For that reason it ought to be banned.
Even if you accept the harm argument, it doesn't follow that it ought to be banned. The aim should be to minimise harms. If cannabis, which is widely, nay universally, available despite viciously-enforced laws against it, causes harms aside from the law-enforcement effort, then these may be better mitigated at lower cost in a situation where the drug is legally available.
I’m not defending the status quo; how we control the supply of drugs has to change (although I reject the misleading use of ‘prohibition’ to describe the current government’s drug policy), but caving in to Russell Brand or Nick Clegg’s demands for ‘reform’ will not lead to less consumption, nor to less damage. It will only create a wider potential scope for harm, and a greater amount of actual suffering.
The status quo is indefensible. Not one single argument used in the rest of that summing up stands up to any scrutiny at all. The habit of prohibition is so ingrained in some minds that the illegality and the harm have been bound together. It is, or should be, clear to any graduate who smoked pot at university that "harm" from cannabis use is rare, and concentrated in people already prone to mental health issues, who often tend to be multiple substance abusers. Is cannabis a cause or a symptom to these people? Most harm is caused, not by the drug, but by prohibition.

In any case, harm is no reason to prohibit with the full violence of the law. People do things that are "harmful" but fun, from skiing to horse-riding. They take the risk of harm on board, but people derive utility from these activities. Horse-riding like smoking pot, is fun.

No increase in crime and disorder has been associated with decriminalisation or legalisation experiments. Often quite the opposite. And consider the opportunity costs of the money currently spent policing supply, and interdiction; money which could be better spent dealing with the small number of problem users. Instead of paying for policing, users could be taxed to pay for any externalities.

Finally and most obviously, James fails to deal with the potential medical uses of Marijuana. My late Grandmother had multiple sclerosis. Cannabis helped her. It appears to be excellent at mitigating chronic pain, and for cancer sufferers counteracts the appetite-suppressing effects of chemotherapy. Any stoner, jonesing for cookies would be able to attest the latter. Yet BECAUSE it cannabis is illegal, what little research is allowed into the medical uses, has focussed on separating the enjoyable from the medicinal. Does no-one else think this absurd, because to me it sums up the utter perversity of the whole damn system.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Well said, Jackart.

I am married to a chronic pain sufferer, who constantly worries that he could acquire a criminal record for using the only non-addictive drug which can relieve his pain. He has been offered opiates on prescription, but has been advised that because of his relative youth habituation could lead eventually to them being ineffective without upping the dosage to dangerous levels.

I find it ridiculous that people in his situation can be prescribed ever-increasing dosages of opiates, but never the so-much-safer cannabis.

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