Archive for January 9th, 2014


“This … is an economic land grab. It is the process of taking a criminal industry away from criminals.”        – Hugo Riffkind

In between the investigatory series on the War on Drugs it’s time for another Ball, Rolling round-up of interesting things that have happened in the last few days. So in no particular order:

When the levee breaks…
"We can't stop here..."I commented before that one of the really noticeable effects on journalists of the ballot legalisations in Colorado and Washington is that lots and lots of people are suddenly writing articles they’d never have dared write before, and getting them published in places that would never have offered them a platform prior to 2011. Apparently this kind of combination of a trail-blazer with a tipping-point in popular politlal cover applies to states and nations:

But Mujica reminded that Yans did not say a word about the US states of Colorado and Washington, which also legalized marijuana.

“Does he have different rules: one for Uruguay and other for the world’s strong countries?”

The Torygraph continues to take an interest, doing a brief survey of the state of play in the US of A. And it’s not all bad news in the UK press, either: there’s an attempt at a cannabis cafe in Manchester. We’ve got an interesting review of changing attitudes around the world, and an update on the polling numbers in the US. Big Pharma is interested in Uruguay, and China wants to play. The celebrity chefs have joined the brave new world: even the Swiss are catching up.

And from the world of Science…
cannabis-caduceusIt’s been a good week for real data. We have a better idea of why cannabis does not in fact cause insanity, criminality and death. We already knew that cannabis helps kill cancer but this is useful confirmation. Mainly, though, I wanted to draw people’s attention to one aspect of the medical science on cannabis, which also interacts with the social science and with the enormous, lucrative and vigorous corporate opposition to ending the War on Drugs. You see, cannabis may repair the brain damage already done by alcohol. This is one of many reasons that scientific authors since the 70s have been arguing, successfully, that legalising pot would reduce alcohol use by up to 25%, and problem alcohol use by potentially a great deal more than that. I’ll address why this causes big alcohol conglomerates to fund prohibition later on in my ongoing Prohibition series.

In more detail…
A couple of particular entrants into the debate in the UK press have caught my eye for closer investigation. I did wonder about writing a rebuttal to John Rentoul’s rather bumbling Indy piece, but I didn’t feel I needed to. This will be read by a lot more people than my hypothetical piece anyway, and is quite good. But it does perpetuate one mistake made Rentoul and many others:

I think there is quite a lot of evidence suggesting a link between heavy cannabis use among teenagers and mental health problems, particularly schizophrenia. I remember being convinced of this even before much of the recent evidence emerged – one of my best friends from school, a heavy cannabis user, was Sectioned at 17 and has been in and out of ‘sheltered’ accommodation ever since.

For one thing, and I quote Jason Schiffman [1]:”The onset of schizotypal symptoms generally precedes the onset of cannabis use. The findings do not support a causal link between cannabis use and schizotypal traits.” To go on with, findings of schizotypal symptoms associated with heavy cannabis use in non-schizophrenic teenagers are temporary, not permanent, and cannabis does not erode your brain: “They concluded that the heaviest users may have a decrease in their ability to learn and remember information, but that this effect was so small as to be ‘acceptable’.”

By contrast, Hugo Riffkind’s piece in the Spectator is pretty good throughout. My niggles are small (why do several journalists seem to think Uruguay started this ball rolling, when the whole point is that Mujica needed the political cover provided by Colorado and Washington to act?) I mostly wanted to highlight a couple of priceless quotes:

Our media, for obvious reasons, often seems to give the impression that the great evil of the criminal drugs trade is the way that it makes some middle-class kids do unexpectedly poorly in their A-levels. […] a worse evil is the way it makes into criminals people who would otherwise not be.

Well, indeed. And I’ll finish with this one:

If you want to end the war on drugs, the only real solution is to find a way to stop fighting it without surrendering to the bad guys. The triumph here is that people have finally made a more sensible assessment of just who the bad guys are.

[1] In “Symptoms of Schizotypy Precede Cannabis Use,” published Mar. 30, 2005 in Psychiatric Research.


January 2014
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith