Peter Hitchens recently set forth in his blog his arguments against the legalisation of drugs in general and cannabis in particular. These are so hare-brained, so monumentally stupid, so hideously wrong and so asininely arrogant that I’m unable to resist countering them. Here are a few quotes from his rant.
…my fear that the general legalisation of mind-altering drugs produces passive and easily manipulated citizens.
Really? Perhaps he doesn’t remember all those ‘passive and easily manipulated’ citizens protesting the war in Vietnam whilst under the influence of cannabis?
How sad that the only thing about modern Britain that makes the cannabis lobby angry is the continued existence a few individuals like me, who wish to deny them their dope.
Who does Hitchens think gives him the right to deny anything to anyone? Adult human beings have every right to decide for themselves whether or not to take cannabis, or any other drug. What makes him think he (or government) can make those decisions on their behalf? Perhaps he thinks he’s more intelligent than they are? Not judging by the incoherence of his so-called arguments, he isn’t. Hitchens’ holier than thou attitude is reminiscent of the inquisition or the pogroms of the Stalinist Soviet Union.
There is without doubt some correlation between the use of cannabis and permanent, irreversible mental disturbance.
Yes, there is considerable doubt. A possible correlation has been found between heavy cannabis use and the incidence of Schizophrenia, but this is disputed and a causal link has yet to be conclusively made. Here is the summary of the study linked.
“SUMMARY:From the evidence that exists, it appears that the above view is unlikely and that cannabis may even have benign effects on brain structure, not producing deleterious damage. Its neurochemical interactions with the dopaminergic pathway, however, may, particularly in genetically vulnerable individuals, have adverse consequences.”
There is some evidence pointing to the possibility that cannabis use may actually alleviate depression.
Nothing of lasting value or importance would be lost if Cannabis disappeared from our society.
Because of their illegality research into the possible medical applications of cannabis and other drugs is hindered; there may be many medicinal uses that we don’t yet know of, in addition to the ones we do (insomnia, glaucoma, nausea due to chemotherapy, some tumours react favourably, etc.). What if it were found that some or other ingredient found in cannabis were a cure for some dread disease? Would that not count in Hitchens’ world as something of value and importance?
I believe Thalidomide was quite effective in its main role as a suppressor of morning sickness among pregnant women. But who cares? Its other effect, resulting in children missing limbs or otherwise harmed, simply cancels this out. The danger of severe and irreversible mental illness may not be precisely comparable to the effects of Thalidomide. But it does not seem to me to be that much less important, especially having seen these effects at first hand.
Oh, good grief! Anyone who could possibly think that cannabis and Thalidomide are in any way comparable is not only stupid, but quite possibly insane as well. Cannabis has been used by human beings for millennia, it is not a new pharmaceutical product recently released onto the market. We are quite certain that it does not have effects as deleterious as Thalidomide, and any suggestion that it does (or may do) is just foolish.
Most cannabis users don’t find it such a marvellous experience that they’d be prepared to risk six months at hard labour for a second offence of possession (my suggested minimum penalty, the first offence being dealt with by a genuine ‘caution’, whose condition would be that the cautioned person never subsequently committed the same offence). Permitting premises to be used for its use would also be treated in the same way. This (as with the smoking ban) has the effect of turning every householder or owner of commercial premises into an ally of the law.
Perhaps Hitchens has never heard of the disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition in the USA from 1920 to 1933? He should read up on it; criminalisation of any substance leads inevitably to criminality, and the harsher the penalties, the more criminals leverage the situation for profit.
I have no doubt that, among dope-smokers as in the rest of society, there would be quite enough informers willing to earn money or favours from the police to ensure that all users had a lively fear of being caught and prosecuted.
Hitchens would have us spying on one another and informing on our parents or children to the police? One regime springs to mind that had that sort of thing down to a fine art: the dear old unlamented German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, where citizens were encouraged to inform to the Stasi, or secret police, in exchange for various favours. Is that the sort of society Hitchens envisions? It seems so.
By the way, I’m not, as Mr Wilkinson characterises me, an ‘opponent of nannying, interfering government action.’
The first true thing written in his rant. Hitchens certainly is not an opponent of the nanny state–if he had his way he would be an absolute dictator and we would all have to bow to his will. Or else.
I have to state here that I just don’t understand the mindset of one who seeks to control others, one who seriously believes that he is right and everyone who dares disagree with him must be wrong, and must be punished for being wrong. Peter Hitchens is one such. Why does he get his knickers in such a twist over what other people do with their own bodies and their spare time? I have set out my reasons elsewhere for my standpoint that all drugs should be legalised; the decision whether or not to take them must rest with the individual, not with some self-appointed zealot like Peter Hitchens.
Oh, by the way I must state for the record that I am not, apart from alcohol in moderation, a drug user.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License