Rosemary McLeod: Does it make sense to legalise cannabis because it's no worse than booze?
OPINION: It's only natural that over the holidays, when people unwind, they puff on weed and dream beautiful dreams, like making fortunes out of selling the joy without the risk of jail, and becoming as rich as booze barons.
Thus Melissa Reid of Herb.co, reportedly the world's largest cannabis-dedicated website, said the other day that, "We're pushing away the stigma around marijuana and the stoner culture". The site drew 90 million page views in the last year, we're told, and if they had a dollar for every one of them they could be high for ever.
New Zealand entrepreneurs Dan Crothers and Lucas Young dreamed up the genesis of the scheme 10 years ago when they were, "getting blazed and … started coming up with crazy munchie ideas", in a flat in Taranaki, Crothers says, and aren't those stoner ideas brilliant at the time? I've heard so many.
The Stoners Cookbook was the result, which led in turn to the website. Reid, its managing editor, says she finds it frustrating watching the American cannabis boom, in which some New Zealanders are key players, while "similar opportunities [are] being missed in New Zealand".
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This was a story for the business pages really, what with the possibility of weed delivery services and cannabis-related massage clinics, she says, to which I would add cannabis cookies, cannabis shampoo, cannabis bath oil and cannabis tea for starters, rejuvenating the provinces with paddocks of the stuff needing local stoners to weed, pick and harvest it, albeit slowly. Reid sees profits going to the problems of homelessness, unemployment, education, and (my addition) world peace, as they say happens in Colorado.
Yes, I'm cynical, especially so when I see the jargon of capitalism emerging from advocates who are quite naturally all about their own interests, while professing to be benefactors-in-waiting. They are new to this, but the booze barons have it down to a fine art, which is where the cannabis lobby has a point – but it works against them just as much.
Booze underwrites much of this country's misery. It brings out the killer in people, and liberates violence from otherwise dull individuals. It fuels crime, as well as traffic deaths and injuries, drives domestic violence and child neglect, and underwrites the drunken male sports culture. But it doesn't do this on its own, and people remain responsible for their actions.
Many drink without ever being a nuisance, many become mere pontificating bores, and others descend into crotch-snatching and such high-toned pleasantries. We put up with it because it's been around for so long, and we know prohibition didn't work.
On balance, booze probably does more harm than good, as when a party got out of hand in Huntly last weekend, young partygoers hurling brick and wood at police, who had to put on riot gear to disperse them.
As for cannabis, its reputation is as a kind of harmless sedative that gently saps motivation while delivering peace and love, and making boring music sound vaguely interesting. It's been around in our part of the world for less time than alcohol, and is often used in combination with it, which confuses information on its effects.
The Dunedin long term population study has suggested heavy cannabis use from early adolescence leads to IQ decline in middle age, which is debated by other academics, as are possible links to psychosis.
I guess the question here is whether heavy alcohol use does the same, but even then, does it make sense to legalise cannabis because it's no worse than booze? Surely the pro-cannabis lobby has a duty to prove positive, provable benefits from cannabis other than big bucks for investors and fewer people in jail for selling the stuff. It seems it's using the softening of attitude to medicinal cannabis to open the door to wholesale legalisation.
It makes sense to let people grow enough weed for personal use if they like it so much, leaving fewer gang-linked dealers, and to police big suppliers. I can see pot plants doing service in retirement homes, since older people are advised to take siestas to keep their fading brainpower ticking. All cannabis ever did for me was make me grin inanely and fall asleep, which is why I wonder what all the fuss is about.
I'd rather complain about Big Bertha, the monster long reach digger picking apart a quake-damaged Wellington car park. Why do big, ugly machines like this always get female names when this could just as easily be called Big Barry? There ought to be a law against that sort of thing.
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- The Dominion Post