Drugs : Cannabis Laws
Being Kiwi
Offensive Language
The Government
The Internet
The Y2K
Odd Blogs


Cannabis Laws

Let me say one thing about cannabis from the outset: I believe it is a dangerous drug.

Let me say another thing: I don't believe that cannabis possession should be a criminal offence. I have a number of reasons for thinking this.

(1) There is a gross hypocrisy about our drug laws. Whereas alcohol abusers are encouraged to seek help, cannabis abusers are sent to jail. The level of punishment associated with criminal offending is far out of proportion to the perceived "wrong" which has been committed.

(2) Making cannabis (or anything else) illegal creates a black market, which leads to all sorts of trouble. The price of the product skyrockets, creating a huge incentive for the only potential suppliers: people who are prepared to break the law. Hence the association between cannabis and criminal activity.

When you see a news item about drug dealers defending their patches with guns, it's not because the drug is "bad", it's because the drug is illegal. If cannabis was legal and music was illegal, then gang houses wouldn't be concealing hydroponic dope patches, they'd be concealing CD copiers.

(3) Cannabis policing and prosecution is outrageously expensive, and the end result is often sending people to jail so they can learn to be better criminals. The resources which go into this exercise are staggering - enough to buy a whole lot of drug education and rehabilitation.

(4) The purpose of making something illegal is to prevent a minority of individuals from behaving in a way which is not acceptable to the majority. I don't believe that a majority of New Zealanders disapprove of moderate cannabis use. My evidence may be largely anecdotal but it's strong enough to convince me. Throughout my adult life, I've found that responsible cannabis use is extremely common. That's not surprising given that much of my time has been spent associating with musicians and other stereotypical druggies, but I've also worked with doctors, lawyers, accountants, television presenters, and people from many other "respected" professions. It's everywhere.

Of course, television presenters are far less likely to publicly support cannabis law reform than are unemployed musicians. The fear which goes with admitting to drug use prevents many people from speaking their minds. Consequently, when you see a rally for decriminalisation outside parliament, you don't see many lawyers in the crowd. You see people from a completely different socio-economic group. This, unfortunately, reinforces the stereotype of the "druggie".

Some other myths about cannabis:

  • It turns you into a mindless, apathetic zombie. There is certainly evidence which suggests a correlation between long-term cannabis abuse and amotivation, but to say that smoking dope will lead to a semi-vegetative state is naively simplistic and untrue.
    By the way, long-term alcohol abuse can give you a number of fatal disorders. Nicotine will kill you far more quickly than dope. Long-term Coke abuse rots your insides, and long-term red meat abuse gives you bowel cancer. Anything is bad if you overdo it.
  • If cannabis is decriminalised, it will run rampant. Hello? It's already rampant. Anyone can buy it easily. Decriminalisation is unlikely to alter the current level of use/abuse.
  • Cannabis makes people violent. In all my years of exposure to cannabis use, I've never seen it make a person turn violent (unlike alcohol).

Some other observations:

  • Cannabis can assist creativity. It seems to be a guilty secret of our culture that we owe much of our artistic history to chemically-altered states of mind.
    I also appreciate the danger here, though. I've had artistic friends who've become reliant on cannabis for inspiration. As I said, it's a dangerous drug.
    The arguments against chemical creativity are predictable: "Drugs can't give you good ideas... it's only what's in your mind already... people only "think" the drugs are helping them be creative... blah blah blah...." I can't be bothered arguing this point right now but I might get back to it later.
  • There are those who argue that, with legalisation, we could introduce more effective drug counselling/rehabilitation services. I think that this idea has some merit although I would like to see more evidence. Of course, as long as something is illegal, it's hard to study.

What to Do Then?

I don't actually think that cannabis should be legalised immediately (if at all). I think it would make more sense to proceed with caution and begin by de-criminalising it. It would still be illegal, but without the terribly unfair punishment of a criminal offence.

The bottom line is that prohibition doesn't work. It didn't work with alcohol and it doesn't work with cannabis.