Monday, August 26, 2013

Liberty and cannabis

Go ask Alice.

Quite by chance, while flicking through the many TV channels in search of something, anything, that wasn't cheap drivel, I stumbled partway through a BBC This World programme, "America's Stoned Kids", presented by addiction expert Professor John Marsden. He was looking at Colorado's experiment in legalising the growing of cannabis plants for medical use, and the development of THC-infused products.

Showing him around a factory that manufactured a confectionery-like edible dose that packed the drug punch of a dozen joints into something that resembled a little coconut pyramid, the owner boasted that the company's capital value had just soared by $200 million. He was most put out when the professor asked him why the medicine had been made to look so attractive to children, but (unless it had been edited out) didn't hasten to repudiate any such intention.

There was also a soft-drink-like bottle that contained the equivalent of something like 24 spliffs. The official line was that it was a multi-dose product to be consumed over several days, but the MD easily agreed that many would drink it all in one go, and some would have more than one bottle at a time.

The last section of the programme featured a visit to a rehabilitation camp for teenagers, out in the mountains, and despite the self-knowledge gained from their months-long stay, it was obvious that a number would relapse shortly after returning to mainstream society. They understood that the drug was their enemy - it had started as an occasional joint, and inevitably progressed to one every two waking hours - but they weren't going to be able to hold out against opportunity, social pressure and the internal emotional turmoil that was looking for quick temporary relief.

The desire to indulge ourselves leads to much twisted argument. For example, some say we should legalise cannabis because of the suffering caused by criminals in the drug trade, but for those who are so compassionate the obvious direct solution is not to consume the drug. Others try to limit discussion of the potential harm, to the likelihood of psychosis or cancer or whatever, glossing over the damage caused to youngsters by their losing energy, initiative and clarity of mind in the very years when they should be finding their economic place in the adult world, not to mention forming social relationships.

Libertarian hardliners will take the absolutist existential line about being essentially free, and deny the philosophical implications of addiction, the subconscious and the conflicting drives within us. They will say that what they choose to do has nothing to do with anybody else, even though there are indeed wider social and financial consequences of an individual's decision to gratify himself.

I have tried before now to sketch out a map of liberty. The kind for which (for example) Americans fought the War of Independence, or the struggle against the Nazi menace, or Greece's liberation from the Ottoman Empire (and her resistance to the current subjugation by the new European Empire) has very little to do with consumerist self-addling. In my view, liberty is in danger of being trivialised by the aggressively slack-willed and self-ignorant, rationalising their weakness, selfishness and lack of self-control.

On the individual level of freedom, I find the Buddhist analysis persuasive. We can spend our entire lives fighting to break out of our attachments - I do - and those that succeed spend the rest of their time trying not to fall back into the traps, as well as helping others who want to escape. This would be a worthier (and less self-deluding) mission for the libertarian.

Will there be any reply from the Toking Taliban?

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A K Haart said...

For me, the problem with prohibition is what comes next. We seem to have embarked on a piecemeal programme to narrow the range of human behaviour based on the entirely admirable grounds of human compassion.

The consequences of not being socially compassionate are obvious, but unfortunately the insidious collateral damage of taking away personal responsibility is much less obvious and, horrors of horrors, not predictable.

I feel we are becoming addicted to predictability though. Maybe opting for it is a survival trait and so not surprising. Predictable even!

Sackerson said...

I agree that the issue is not easy and that there are questions of power relationships involved in prohibition.

However, if something is already prohibited then legalising it is an active choice and the case for doing so needs to be made as well. Peter Hitchens says (and I think rightly) that we have had de facto legalisation by wilful neglect of the law, and that is not the right way to do things.

But the other aspect I want to stress is that some libertarians focus on external prohibition and ignore their own compulsions, which are at least as great a threat to the personal liberty they claim to value. It seems to be a big blind spot for them.

Paddington said...

Solve two problems with the same stone - subsidize booze, cigarettes and dangerous sports for the over-60's.

Sackerson said...

Make the first two duty-free for that age group. Apart from anything else, they'll suddenly find they have lots of younger friends.

eyeofwisdom1 said...

Cannabis may well be illegal,
however it is completely LAWFUL.
when people talk about legalise this and legalise that,it means to me that they have been brainwashed
by the whore, the real whore not being the Vatican,as every conceited prick likes to speil as if its some great wise knowledge,
but the biggest whore,the Vatican is merely a bordoir for the rentboys to the madam of the goyim pigs,the whore I refer to is ...commerce.
speiling legality renders you a ZERO,and I will bet you don't even know the difference between LAWFUL and LEGAL? even the police (uk) are moronic zeros executing policy
without questioning the validity or morality, ive asked loads and they are as thick as the rest of society... ...

I will leave something of real value to all who are confused

whats "lawful" is lawful
whats "legal"is unlawful

p.s. cannabis is the primary ingredient of the oil used to anoint people into a "Christ" like
state,in reality Christ is not a person but a state of mind.The Vatican personified this in order to control and rob you of everything inc your personality and mindset... want more? ask away