I just watched this BBC Horizon programme, about cannabis.
Many who favour the legalisation of cannabis base their case on the claim that cannabis is less harmful than is widely assumed. It is less bad than you think, they say, in fact very good. For me, the case for legalisation does not depend on any claim about riskiness or lack of it, but rather on the idea that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves about the risks they take, and about how pleasurable the pleasures are that they take these risks to enjoy. Not myself having any plans to take cannabis, I have tended to remain rather ignorant of the details of the riskiness argument, because I just do not think that this is what matters, any more than I favour denationalised washing machine businesses (which I do), because of and following long years spent studying the internal workings of washing machines.
But being a libertarian, I inevitably come across screeds about cannabis, of which this splendid rant (linked to from here yesterday by Johnathan Pearce) is a fine example. Spurred on by this rant, I watch the BBC show. I dozzed off during some of it, but still learned quite a lot. For me, the most interesting bit was about how cannabis contains several different ingredients, rather than just one key ingredient that makes cannabis cannabis, so to speak. There is THC, which stands for … whatever THC stands for. But, there is also CBD, and according to this, lots of others besides, all of which seem to sound like television news organisations. And CBD, unlike THC, is anti-psychotic, according to this bloke that they ended up talking to on the telly, growing masses of cannabis courtesy the government, at an undisclosed location. The harm done by modern drug-dealer type cannabis is that it contains lots of THC, and very little CBD, if any. Interesting. (I seem to recall Dan Ayckroyd getting a stern lecture from a policeman about the evils of THC in Changing Places.)
I do have one prejudice about cannabis, which applies also to alcohol, and also to baked beans and to computer games, and in fact to just about anything, which is that different people react to the same things in often very different ways. This commonplace notion, strongly confirmed by this programme, often seems to be lost on the medical profession, and in particular on the more strident sort of medical amateur. Some people are clearly helped by cannabis, getting, for instance, otherwise unobtainable pain relief from it. (They did some filming in California.) Others get hours of innocent pleasure from it. Others go mad and hear voices, voices that they might in due course have found themselves hearing anyway, but perhaps not.
Judging by the size and splendour and apparent respectability of that huge but secret cannabis farm, it looks like cannabis may soon be legalised, but simultaneously nationalised. A bit like the Church of England with religion. This is the other way to discourage things, when outright banning has failed. As an agnostic about cannabis, I favour outright legalisation on libertarian grounds. As an atheist about religion, I have rather a soft spot for the Church of England.
The bloke doing the programme ended by saying that in his opinion the harm done by cannabis was not its dramatically bad stuff, like turning a few people into psychos, but in the form of all the lethargy it spreads. Because of cannabis, lots of people just loaf about doing very little, giggling inanely, he said. I do not really need the BBC to tell me that.
Besides which, I think the real encouragers of loafing are the Department of Social Security, or whatever they call that this year, and the Inland Revenue (ditto). They pay people to loaf about and do nothing, and fine them for working. If people suffered much more economically for doing nothing than they do now, and made much more dramatic gains from working by keeping almost all (all is my preferred arrangement) that they made, cannabis would not be nearly so popular as an encourager of negativity. It would still be used to achieve other benefits, such as pain relief, and for calming down after a hard day at the office. Just not for making a life spent doing nothing somewhat more pleasurable.