Australian Independent Media Article
‘Excuse me sir.’ I had fallen asleep in a park, under the cool shade of a huge fig tree and I was being shaken awake by a policeman. Apparently, the park was closing and I had to leave. So, I stood up, gathered up my stuff and turned towards the entrance.
‘Is that your cannabis, sir?’ The policeman was now pointing to a small wooden bowl and a clear plastic packet, sitting by the side of one of the buttress roots of the fig. At once I felt a familiar rush of adrenaline. I had been half-asleep, now I was suddenly wide-awake.
However, the copper was quite evidently just concerned that I had forgotten my weed. I laughed and thanked him profusely. It was only a small packet of ‘Blueberry Haze’, but it was an unforgettable toke and I would have been upset to have lost it.
No – this is not a fantasy. This happened to me only a month ago; in Thailand.
If this same had happened in Australia, the policeman would not have been as polite and I would have been unlikely to have had a pleasant afternoon. But, as I was in Thailand, I immediately felt safe. In this instance the policeman was actually trying to help me, not destroy my life. This is because, seven months prior to this encounter, the Thai Kingdom had entirely legalised cannabis use.
As I am extremely interested in cannabis law reform, I have been following the development of this entirely laissez-faire approach closely, as this represents the first time a large country has approached the regulation of cannabis in an appreciably rational fashion. As I write, in Thailand, if you are more than twenty years old and are not pregnant or breast feeding, you can grow, buy, sell, and consume as much cannabis as you want. There are virtually no other regulations.
The authorities in Thailand looked at all the available information regarding cannabis and decided that there was little or no harm associated with cannabis use. In other words, they were brave enough to acknowledge the facts. And since the only appreciable harm associated with cannabis seemed to be caused by its either being illegal or difficult to obtain, instead of setting up a huge administrative and regulatory apparatus to oversee a legal market in cannabis, the Thai authorities simply removed all the criminal penalties and left it to the commercial marketplace. Just like any other largely harmless product.
Seven months into this experiment in actual (not phony) legalisation, I arrived in Bangkok to tour the industry and search for any ‘harms’ that might be evident. After all, in dozens of western world countries, governments have been expending huge amounts of taxpayers’ funds on protecting the public from the danger of an unrestricted marketplace in cannabis. But now, in Thailand, there was at last a jurisdiction that could be compared to these many other highly restricted marketplaces. Consequently (I reasoned), if cannabis is now freely available in Thailand, then surely all of the ‘harms’ that we in the western world are being sheltered from would be in evidence.
Which is to say, if the moralists and anti-cannabis crusaders in the west are correct, now that there is an unrestricted marketplace of cannabis in Thailand, there will have been a huge rise in instances of mental illness, also a massive tidal wave of immorality and illegality. Additionally, the youth in the Kingdom will have begun flocking to cannabis cafes in flagrant disregard of the law, probably losing their religion along the way. So, I had arrived in Thailand to document all of the ‘harms’ that had befallen the country due to the free availability of cannabis.
As I am an academic, I wanted to make sure that I was talking to a representative sample of Thai citizens, so I designed my research project to ensure that this was the case. The ‘20/20 Project’ project asked the same twenty questions about the cannabis marketplace in Thailand, but asked a range of different people, including policemen, shopkeepers, health professionals, government officials, as well as growers, smokers and sellers of weed.
So, what were the many undesirable outcomes that were reported?
Nill. None. Nada. Zilch.
Not a single person who was approached and asked about the cannabis marketplace in Thailand could identify a single appreciable ‘harm’ that had resulted from the change in the law. Whereas they reported many appreciable benefits. The commercial sector has been boosted. The police have far more money to spend while policing a populace who have far more respect for them. In later reports I will discuss these many benefits in close detail, but for the purposes of this short article all that needs to be noted is that there were no appreciable harms.
So why is our government (amongst other western world governments) proposing to spend a fortune in restricting access to cannabis and suppressing a free marketplace in the herb? What ‘harms’ are these people protecting us from?
It is no longer feasible for a politician to argue that cannabis is dangerous or that a free marketplace in cannabis has deleterious effects. We have been lied to by the authorities for decades. Authorities that continue to argue that they have to deem cannabis illegal and spend a huge amount of taxpayer funds in restricting access to cannabis FOR OUR OWN GOOD. This is a blatant lie and can no longer be tolerated in the public forum.
It is time to end the hypocrisy. It is time to simply no longer tolerate all the lies being told in the public square. Cannabis is harmless. Cannabis is fully legal and available elsewhere in the world and there has been no break down in morality. There have been no negative health or social effects reported – period.
Stop spending my money on protecting me from imaginary harm. The only harm associated with cannabis is the unwarranted meddling of the police in lives of otherwise happy people and the expenditure of huge amounts of money for no apparent reason.
If you don’t want me to smoke weed then I will agree – as soon as you ban all other recreational drugs. Until then you can take your hypocrisy and shove it where the sun don’t shine.
Free the weed: VOTE #1 LCA (Legalise Cannabis Australia).