Legalise It | Opinion

History’s progression has seen a steadily narrowing scope of self-determination. When once self-determination was thought of as the right of states, it has become in practice a right of individuals. Some of the fruits of this narrowing scope have been the abolition of slavery (and its pursuit as an evil), the enfranchisement and liberation of women, sexual liberation and free inquiry. The scope of self-determination is getting smaller and smaller, abandoning the state and wrapping itself around the individual.

So the time has come for the legalisation of cannabis, yet another narrowing of self-determination. In the following weeks, I will elaborate on each of the “magic wand” proposals one by one.

The principles behind my position are these two: every individual has the right to make his own decisions (if they do not directly harm others); and that the law should do no harm.

Morally speaking, the best people to make decisions about what one does depends on who is involved. If an intended action leaves only yourself to live with the consequences, whether you accept them or not, then you should by rights be able to do it. Nothing is ever black and white, of course, but this is how we should regard other people – as individuals with autonomy. Using cannabis does no harm to those not directly involved. If you believe that humans are autonomous with rights, you should also support legalisation.

Legalisation is also just humane. A WHO Health Survey in 2008 found that 41.9 per cent of adult New Zealanders had tried cannabis at least once in their lifetimes. A smaller proportion within that number use it regularly and a smaller number therein abuse it. For those suffering from abuse, help is fairly easily administered. Those using it responsibly are at risk of a criminal record, and those at risk of abuse shy from help because of the stigma. Let’s not forget the dangerous criminality added to the drug with its illegal status.

I’ll leave you with words of Mr X (aka Carl Sagan) in an essay featured in Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) because they do sum up the madness of the present legal situation:

“I hope that [legalisation] isn’t too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilisation of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
This article first appeared in Issue 24, 2013.
Posted 1:47pm Sunday 22nd September 2013 by Guy McCallum.