Little to say for myself

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Dope on a rope

I know I'm not saying anything new here, but don't you find it bizarre that it should actually be illegal to cultivate and consume a particular plant? If a sane adult were to grow some of this stuff in their own greenhouse, harvest it, and add it to their food in much the same way as they might do with a chilli or a sprig of rosemary, they'd be breaking the law. If they persist, they could actually be carted off to prison or forced to pay large sums of money to the state, even though they're not impinging in any way on anyone else, and arguably doing themselves less harm than if they had accompanied their meal with a bottle of wine or lit up a post-prandial ciggy. Or even just pigged out at McDonald's.

And before you start listing the many health risks associated with the stuff, there's a huge difference between something being inadvisable and it actually being illegal, but people always seem to confuse the two. I know the arguments are all well worn, but I've never really seen the issue tackled in a logical way. It's always emotional. How can someone argue logically that it should be illegal to inhale one lungful of smoke from a joint, but only inadvisable to drink four bottles of scotch?

Most objections to de-criminalisation or legalisation suggest the following:

  1. it is a precursor to hard drugs;
  2. it is harmful to health;
  3. there is evidence that it is addictive; and most ludicrously of all
  4. it draws people into criminal activity.
There are lots of variations on these, but that's basically it.

The ripostes to the above are usually:

  1. no more than are cigarettes and alcohol (C+A), or breast-milk for that matter;
  2. but less so than C+A;
  3. but nowhere near as much as C+A;
  4. Isn't this an argument for legalisation?
It frustrates me that most proponents of the status quo concentrate on the harmful effects of smoking it [I remember a lovely rabid article in the Daily Mail which listed reasons for maintaining its illegal status, and one of them actually said that smoking it could be harmful because joints often contain tobacco, missing the irony that it was the legal ingredient that was doing the harm], and on the fact that it brings people into contact with suppliers of more harmful substances.

What about my home-grower who cooks with it? Can't we claim some sort of constitutional "innocent until proven guilty"-type argument in defence of such use (applied to the substance, rather than the consumer)? In other words, put the onus on the prosecution to provide evidence for the supposed harm being done, either to the individual or society?

What about a system of licensing (like for firearms) to control private use? Or are we saying that an ounce of cannabis resin is more dangerous than a shotgun? Surely there are smarter ways of going about this than applying a blanket ban on all forms of use.

Ever the intellectual, I read Ben Elton's High Society recently, and I find it very difficult to argue with the main character's views about legalisation (of all drugs for recreational use), apart from the problems associated with it being legal in one country but not others.

I'm still waiting for a grown-up debate about this - and in the meantime I can't even soothe my nerves without resorting to perfectly legal substances that do me all sorts of chemical harm.

posted by Plig | 16:46 |

Comments: Post a Comment
Forget the sentimental notion that foreign policy is a struggle between virtue and vice, with virtue bound to win.
Forget the utopian notion that a brave new world without power politics will follow the unconditional surrender of wicked nations.
Forget the crusading notion that any nation, however virtuous and powerful, can have the mission to make the world in its own image.
Remember that diplomacy without power is feeble, and power without diplomacy is destructive and blind.
Remember that no nation's power is without limits, and hence that its policies must respect the power and interests of others.
Hans Morgenthau

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts
Bertrand Russell

The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one
Albert Einstein

When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative
Martin Luther King Jr.

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man
Bertrand Russell

I think it would be a good idea
Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun
Pablo Picasso

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others
Groucho Marx

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it
Mahatma Gandhi

Always make new mistakes
Esther Dyson
blogs I like
The look of this blog owes much to Mena Trott, but everything posted to it is my copyright, unless I say otherwise. If you want to use or quote any of it, please do the decent thing and let me know.