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In this blog post we will be responding to an opinion piece written by James Snell. James refers to himself as a ‘journalist and blogger for the Huffington Post UK’. But it’s a stretch to say that this particular article constitutes journalism. In fact, its full of so many dirty tricks and ridiculous arguments that it’s hard to know whether or not the author is even being serious. We will rebut his claims and point out some of the dishonest techniques he uses to spread lies to his readers.
He opens up his half of the article with the sentence: "Cannabis legalisation, it seems, is the current cause célèbre for those who don't have consequential things to advocate".
Immediately he is planting a seed in the reader’s mind, encouraging them to see any advocate of cannabis legalization as essentially ‘a person with nothing better to do’. So the first line of attack is to reduce the entire issue of legalization down to something novel and silly. But let’s assume he is right for a second: that all advocates of cannabis legalization have nothing better to do with their time than to hassle the government to be afforded the basic respect and decency of being treated like responsible adults. I still don’t see how this is an argument? Do I need to be really busy talking about other issues before I’m allowed to openly argue for the legalisation of cannabis? Am I just looking for something to whine about? If I’m not already busy advocating ‘consequential things’, Am I disqualified? None of it makes any sense! That’s because he is leading the reader to dismiss the idea through ridicule, rather than reason.
He goes on; "Compared with other - more urgent and more important - issues the world over, making certain substances legal seems trivial and self-indulgent".
Now it may very well be the case that the legalization of cannabis is not the most urgent and pressing concern facing us as a species, but again, so what? It is still an incredibly important issue for millions of people all over the world. -Also, this perspective does seem a little rich coming from someone who spends the first paragraph of his article indulging in what appears to be some kind of intellectual self-grooming process. He begins with quotes like "it is not just my job here to denigrate the question itself" (admitting that a large part of his job is simply to debase the question rather than engage with it sensibly) and "I am also required to actually argue against the unleashing of this dangerous and untested drug on the public at large - which I will attempt to do now." But again, the only thing he is ‘attempting’ to do here, is manipulate his readers by use of adjectives and insults, as opposed to enlightening his readers with arguments and facts.
The article continues and the author actually makes what is quite a persuasive argument: that we would be wise to ignore everything he has ever said anywhere, ever. He writes: "The first statement I shall offer is one I believe to be obvious. Cannabis is dangerous, and therefore making such a dangerous thing legal would be bad".
His language is ambiguous for a reason; when he says he ‘believes his statement to be obvious’, that’s another way of saying he can’t prove his statement. The reality is that there are academics on both sides of a very nuanced health debate when it comes to cannabis. However, the blanket assertion that cannabis is ‘dangerous’ is not only incredibly vague, but is also quite ridiculous. In fact, researchers who have tried to determine the toxicity of cannabis were unable to, because cannabis was not toxic enough in any dose, to kill a single animal exposed to it. (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/mj_overdose.htm) This makes actually makes cannabis LESS dangerous than chocolate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobromine_poisoning)
I think it’s worth pointing out just the degree to which this article rests on the shaky foundations of fear, ignorance and superstition. No facts are being given. Compromises aren’t even considered. In fact, the entire problem of criminalisation is completely glossed over and drowned out by cheap shots and fear-mongering. To James it seems, the only thing stopping the sky from falling is the long arm of the law. Now before we move on, here is an article by MSNBC which talks about the considerable drop in crime rates in Colorado since cannabis was legalized. (http://www.msnbc.com/all/does-marijuana-lower-the-crime-rate)
Snell goes on to say: "the evidence for a causal link between cannabis use and irreversible mental illness is growing”.
For years there has been a weak correlation drawn between cannabis use and the onset of schizophrenia. This link has repeatedly been used to deem cannabis a ‘danger to mental health’. However, more recent data shows that this is because the genetic markers found in schizophrenic patients seem to actually play a causal role in cannabis use. So rather than cannabis directly causing schizophrenia, it seems there are genes that increase a person’s likelihood both of having schizophrenia and smoking weed. (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/06June/Pages/Cannabis-use-genetically-linked-to-schizophrenia.aspx) It’s also worth mentioning that there is a growing body of evidence now showing that ‘CBD’ (another active compound found in some forms of cannabis) may actually halt and reverse the onset of psychosis, due to its anti-psychotic properties: (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/16/new-strain-cannabis-treat-psychosis-schizophrenia-gw-pharmaceuticals-david-potter)
The quote continues: "and it is self-evident that legalising a drug will increase the number of people who use it, the frequency of its use and the total quantities concerned."
It’s really quite impressive; seeing just how wrong he can manage to be every time he states how obviously right he is! Again, this assertion comes from a place of complete ignorance, and Snell seems utterly oblivious to the weight of evidence against his claim. Rather than waste my time rebutting another one of his baseless assumptions, here is an article from NORML which looks into this subject in more detail: (http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana/item/marijuana-decriminalization-its-impact-on-use-2) Needless to say, he was wrong again.
James puts forward another gem when he writes: “I dislike the terms 'hard' and 'soft' drugs, due to the fact that this sort of classification inevitably makes cannabis look like a healthy alternative to the really bad stuff”.
This is the kind of sentence that sounds reasonable until you actually think about what is being said. The existence of classifications like ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ don’t make cannabis look like a healthy alternative to harder drugs; cannabis IS a healthier alternative to harder drugs and is therefore classified as ‘soft’ accordingly. To deny that cannabis would be a healthier alternative to say, crystal meth, is beyond ignorant and barely worth dignifying with a response. Also, what would James suggest we do about this problem of classification? Pretend that all substances are equally dangerous? Does that seem wise when you look at these numbers? (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/chapter/causes_of_death)
He moves on to write about his irritation towards the "self-righteousness" of the legalization movement (for some reason he singled out Bill Maher in particular) for calling the legalization of cannabis "the new civil rights struggle". Again, rather than putting forward any kind of robust, logical criticism, he simply falls back on the argument from the adjective. To him, it’s “stupid” that we might have a problem with being abducted and thrown into a jail cell for the cultivation and consumption of a harmless plant. It is a “hideous degradation” of what he calls “the real civil rights issues” for cannabis users to legally make use of the appropriate channels and campaign to have this miracle herb legalized.
I would pay good money to see Mr. Snell tell the parents of epileptic children who have found cannabis to be an effective treatment for managing their child’s condition, that the fact they have no legal right to treat their child’s disorder is not a civil rights issue.
Such a statement is revolting to the informed reader. It is also a “hideous degradation” of countless individuals whose lives have been completely ruined as a result of this legislation. It is also an insult to those who have sadly lost their lives in needless confrontations with the police, who have to risk their lives to enforce such unnecessary and destructive laws. (Look up the tragic case of Zachory Hammond, a young man who was shot and killed recently by American police. His crime was being in a car with his girlfriend when she had a small bag of weed.)
He goes on to paint the legalization movement as “a hedonistic bunch masquerading as martyrs.”
I assume this is because, to such a perpetually terrified person, everything new and interesting appears ‘hedonistic’, and anyone willing to make sacrifices for a just cause does so out of a sense of grandiosity. He seems to believe that all he needs to do is describe the legalization movement as something negative, rather than actually having to prove that it is.
“While there is real suffering, and real hardship, going on elsewhere” continues Snell, “an apparently major concern for some people in the West is the ability to make use of recreational poisons without fear of the police getting involved.”
Now let’s examine this point step-by-step. Firstly, yes, bad things are happening elsewhere, but to quote Martin Luther King Jnr: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Just because bad things are happening elsewhere in the world, does not mean we should not do what we can to rectify other injustices closer to home. Taken to its extreme, by his line of reasoning, he should have never written this article, given that his time would be better spent addressing the AIDs epidemic, or the current crisis in the middle east, or one of the millions of more pressing problems afflicting humanity right now. This is why his argument fails the moment he makes it.
Secondly, yes, it is a major concern for myself and others like me that I might be violently dragged away from my family and friends, locked in a cage and have my name and reputation sullied as a ‘low-life’ simply because I had the audacity to sprout a cannabis seed, or relax with a joint. It is also of major concern to me that the same could happen to someone I love or care about.
Lastly, simply calling something a ‘poison’, does not, in fact, make it poisonous.
Snell ends this disgrace of an article by citing one single death which was oddly attributed to ‘cannabis toxicity’.
Now first off, it’s worth noting that at least 30 people on average die every year in the UK from lightning strikes, that means that even if this death was caused by ‘cannabis toxicity’, smoking cannabis in your living room is still at least 30 times safer than simply standing in a field on a rainy day. Does that mean we should pass a law against hiking now too? (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/28/venice-beach-lightning-death-15th-this-year)
The article which he cites actually says itself very clearly ‘It is thought she may have suffered a cardiac arrest triggered by the drug.’ Meaning that her use of cannabis may have triggered a complication in a pre-existing condition (e.g. heart disease). But similar things have happened to people during exercise, does that make exercise a dangerous activity which should be avoided? Of course not. As tragic as her death is, it was not caused by cannabis, in and of itself. In fact, it would seem that the only real danger that is associated with cannabis, is being caught in possession of it by the state.
Now to wrap up this blog post, I think it’s worth looking at the other side of the coin. Understandably (because it serves his position) Snell expertly avoids mentioning any of the problems caused by the criminalization of cannabis.
From the marginalization and criminalization of the everyday citizens who enjoy this wonderful plant, to the countless people with life-destroying conditions who do not have access to the safe and effective treatments provided by cannabis. From the millions, it costs the taxpayer to enforce these destructive laws, to the economic losses and environmental costs that the criminalization of cannabis has had worldwide. Cannabis seeds alone are an incredibly healthy source of plant-based protein that can be grown easily in many environments. Cannabis has hundreds of uses besides recreational drug use and has the potential to save lives, reduce CO2, and maybe even aid in the treatment of cancer.
We take for granted how incredibly lucky we are to even know about this priceless plant in the first place. We forget that we currently have access to an incredibly diverse, worldwide collection of unique cannabis seeds and strains. There has never been a more exciting time to explore the potential social, medical and environmental benefits that the cannabis plant might yield, and yet bloggers like James want us to feel scared and disempowered? Good luck with that!
For more cannabis facts and research please visit: Cannabis Research A-Z