Nice writing; not nice, the life on the street- thanks for sharing your wisdom Six :-)
Hi again Russell,
I am still curious why you deign my contributions to this discussion thread so unworthy of a considered response as to why we can't divert some (more) of the MOJ budget towards compassionate responses for drug users rather than punishment?
Perhaps my contributions were worded poorly as it was the last few days before our 2nd child was born on 17/11, so I may not have been as coherent as I should have been?
Here's a good article from Scoop that spins a similar cut of story:
Cannabis can help us understand violence as it encourages compassion (in the 'right' set & setting) in most people, so if we can move through the paranoia, into metanoia, then everyone is a winner.
I'd be interested to hear a well thought out response, rather than the blunt response you've already given; as below:
'What you describe sounds both ghastly from a human rights perspective and unworkable on a practical level. How many lives would the state be directing? Who would decide which activities and causes were worthy? Who would keep this ledger of “behaviour”? How many officials would be employed making sure each citizen got only the quantity of drugs warranted by his behaviour?
Surely all the various peoples administering the existing MOJ bail conditions, periodic detention, community service requirements, etc, are doing just the same thing essentially...why can't it be tweaked towards monitoring actively conscious compassionate acts? Whats to lose?
Thanks I hope.
Some more thoughts lingering that felt would be good to share in this forum...
Firstly, the cannabis debate is only part of the cruel & unnecessary ‘War on (some) Drugs’, a.k.a. the 'War on Consciousness'. I could go into length about this 50+ years of futility which has often slid into downright sadism, & finally over the last 10 years, has descended into utter farce, however, the source of the term(?), Graham Hancock, is extremely eloquent in his TED talk linked below.
Graham also VERY honestly summerises his own self described ‘24 year relationship with cannabis’ which, in his own words, developed over time from use into abuse, & any of us who have over-used the herb will likely easily resonate with his heartfelt admissions, if we are also honest with ourselves I suspect. I think 'you' will agree upon viewing, that the talk & his various proposals are both stimulating & creatively stretch the imagination about 'what could be':
*Graham’s conception on consciousness is apparently so controversial, that TED actually censored & deleted the talk from their website* (along with another by the biologist Rupert Sheldrake which is also well worth listening to) until there was such an objection from global netizens, TED were forced to reinstate it, as per 2nd link below.
Secondly, I’d like to voice something I have pondered on a long time, but never attempted to write down before, so thought I’d take the opportunity to finally have a go…
I noticed something fairly early on in my 35+ year journey as a student of altered states of consciousness, indeed even perhaps from the 1st remembered time; as a 9 year old on champagne at my uncles wedding in Gisborne.
There is a commonly felt perception, whilst being so-called drunk/stoned/high/etc, that most who have chosen to tread this path will be familiar with on occasion, & it is one of the primary reasons why many people I have spoken with cease experimenting with different mind realms...*paranoia*.
Paranoia, I believe all would agree, is a less than desirable state of being, & if extreme, can lead to all sorts of tragic, even terrible behaviour, the evidence for which is legion.
The Wiki definition is quite good:
That this state arises especially commonly with novice cannabis users is well known, but can also occur unexpectedly at any time (whether stoned or straight) in our lives. However when one is already in an altered state from the very narrow confines of 'consensus reality', it can rock your ability & confidence in navigating 'the moment' in a very serious manner.
Having suffered from this ‘curious’ state more than occasionally for a number of years, in the company of both friends & strangers, I decided to investigate it intentionally back in the late 90's whilst living in Darwin, Australia.
At this time I had been a recreational MJ user, occasional abuser, for some 10 years, however from about 5 years of usage, I had tentatively begun to inquire into the nature of the states I was experiencing with growing interest especially in the spiritual 'messages' I was receiving, for I had until then been a dedicated atheist since my mid-teens.
Now, as you may imagine, its one thing to have paranoia hit you spontaneously, but it's quite another to actively seek it out!! I didn't seek it out every time I was high, however, when I did an interesting realization became apparent over time.
Initially, the going was tough & indeed I had some near nightmare experiences, however a break-through occurred when I decided after a couple or 3, or 7(??), 'sessions' to specifically voice to the company I was keeping (regardless of whether they were also high or straight), that:
"I am feeling paranoid & scared right now if you are wondering why my behaviour is weird".
This admission was the clincher to change because it affirmed the potent fact that we were sharing different energy states from each other.
To be specific, one of the most interesting points to learn about paranoia was the fact that very often when I was feeling paranoid, so too others were feeling the same/similar paranoia themselves, or more correctly, the ‘space between’ us was crackling with an energy that was ‘je ne sais quoi’, but definitely noticeable to most, uncomfortable for many, & distressing for some.
The outcome of this semi-conscious realization was that a feed-back loop between myself & the other person/s I was sharing the space with arose (as it normally would), but that when I was ‘altered’ & did not acknowledge any fears I developed, it very often resulted in energy shifting, noise increasing, more & more of ‘the unknown’ manifesting, communication degenerating, & frequently the parting of company, if it – the energy - became too difficult to bear.
Why did this occur I wondered?
Paradoxically, once I started to explore this question, the question began to answer itself.
In a nutshell, we are all energy beings & usually resonate with each other in the consensus energy reality we share easily enough when we communicate together. However, when the energy is altered, we are less easily able to mirror each other’s energy, as it is of a different power charge, or frequency, that our society doesn’t value so clearly. This is worsened by the fact that this behavior is illegal under the War on Drugs/Consciousness.
As Graham explained in his TED talk above, our Western scientific materialism culture values, even glorifies, the “alert, problem solving state of consciousness”, but only some types of ‘problems’ are acceptable to solve.
If the problem is the massive shortcomings of the obsession with ‘the alert problem solving state’ itself that we exist within, then we are less able to discuss it easily. This state of consciousness struggles enough already in consensus reality, but if reality is altered, paranoia may occur & we may start to become stressed, fearful & anxious. This feeds on itself & the negative loop between strengthens.
The reflection in the space between the mirrors becomes distorted, & the connection often shatters.
However, if you lucky enough to find a brave soul who will continue the discussion (i.e. discussing why I/we felt paranoid), what near inevitably arose for me was a flowering of our conversation into a deep heartfelt connection, & indeed frequently I found I/we came away from the experience each time no longer paranoid, but a little more healed within from the wounds that we all carry.
The feeling shared was now “I’m not the only one who felt this way” & indeed almost everyone feels this way sometimes.
When ‘you feel the fear & do it anyway’, near instantly you are able to begin to re-connect, move back into a positive loop of communication, & relationship begins to build once again.
The paranoia, the fear, was ultimately about ‘the unknown’; the unknown was the energy noise of the evolving ‘altered state’ that had to be harnessed to turn into a new tune between us, to make new music, & create a fresh resonance to share once more.
Since humans greatest fear, or at least that of our over-controlling ego’s, is the fear of the unknown, admitting to this & proceeding to work with it, can be a profoundly liberating experience.
What I ended up unconsciously doing was transforming the paranoia into an experience of metanoia; a word I only discovered several years later from my, by that time, quite detailed readings of Carl Jung:
You need to support each other to move through the paranoia, so that it can spiral up into the next level that the fear of the unknown often stops us from entering, because from the Western “alert, problem solving state” point of view, that ‘next level’ is yet another altered state, especially from our limited ego’s control-freak perspective.
More connectedness, relationship, unity is of only very limited appeal to the ego as it threatens that same supposed raison d’etre; ‘control’. However like the cliché says, usually the only way to get past a problem, is to go through it.
It didn’t, & still doesn’t, work taking this approach every time, but with practice it gets easy & easier.
That gradual realization was the tipping point for many fascinating encounters & eventually the self-teachings that came out of that opening were the seed that ultimately had me (re)embrace the relationship, connectedness, & spirituality that then naturally arises out of shared empathy & compassionate understanding for the fear & suffering of oneself/others.
This brief essay itself is a minor exercise in moving through the mild paranoia of explicitly admitting online (for the n’th time) that I am a ‘criminal drug user’ according to the narrow linear letter of the law, when in reality I had re-discovered an ageless natural medicine that can help us all to return to wholeness in heart & mind…metanoia is in a sense really the re-enactment of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ of the wounded healer, & the act of sharing via writing this all, also supports it.
Finally, over the years I came to realize a broader, very important subtle difference between paranoia & metanoia; one that separates us human animals from other animals, & indeed is part of the bridge between the material & spiritual realms.
It is not just the fact that humans are self-conscious, apparently a (near) unique attribute in the animal kingdom that is a gift from the Universe; it is that we humans are ALL differently self-conscious from each other; we are all in altered states of consciousness from each other…very obvious, & yet also so easily forgotten.
Be it altered by drugs, genetics, diet, religion, culture, fear or love, the combinations are all different.
Non-human animals, on the other hand, living on ancient instinct & limited learned behavior, have very little alteration in consciousness between each other within their own kin & species, but are very different to other species of animal, to whom they can easily react with fear. Whereas for humans, we are blessed with a mind that is for all intentions & purposes able to imagine, & subsequently manifest, infinite varieties of states of being if we are only brave enough to allow it to be so, & then ‘just do it.’
Animals distrust change & the unknown, it stresses them, causing the ‘fight or flight response’ that is the essence of the ‘paranoid state’.
Paranoia very much comes from our animal side.
Most non-human animals don’t have the ability to move beyond this. It appears it is a kind of biological imperative of the absence of self-consciousness, & unfortunately most humans are also barely aware of being able to transform it into something greater.
The exceptions are those rare few naturally (over) enthusiastic people you occasionally meet who have managed to both avoid being medicated/self medicating & still stay sane, the artistic community, & the truly loving compassionate spiritual souls amongst us, that we all have the capability of becoming.
Metanoia is the uniquely human opportunity to transcend our purely animal state & embrace the immanence of the embodied spiritual potential born within us that we are destined to share with the world outside of us, & leave behind our own petty self-obsessions.
This is very well expressed in this brief essay, ‘Are you a Gorilla or a God?’ linked below:
One family’s effort to respond to this ability & their efforts to become responsible for themselves within this paradigm is examined in this wonderful little doco:
We have perhaps evolved randomly in a Darwinian manner to become human.
Now, however, we have the choice to remain in the state of chaos from which randomness arises, or to evolve through the noise holistically to the next level;
Conscious Evolution…our future is calling us!!
However, we will struggle to make it if the preposterous notion that some of nature itself is illegal, so the War on (some) Drugs/Consciousness, must cease, so we can move more easily into the far better future that await us.
Guess that’s way more than enough Saturday evening ranting for now &, in conjunction with my earlier ‘comments’ that this spiel arose out of, goes far beyond my intended response to Russell’s original post.
Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, it ended up being much longer than I thought it would, but it’s been fun to share & helpful to myself, if no-one else. Hope it makes sense!
Peace & love.
"You know, when real trouble comes your humanity is awakened. The fundamental human experience is that of compassion."
Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey, p. 223
I agree...for a bit more context see my answer to Rich Lock.
"Hey presto" was certainly overly flippant I admit...the usual rigorous genetic testing & strict ethical standards should apply.
Having said that, using myself as an individual example, if I got tested & were found to have the gene variant linked to psychosis, I would likely think fairly seriously about whether I wished to risk my very sanity just to get temporarily high; would you??
Personally I have never met someone who *wanted* to go insane...
If one were already suffering psychological addiction, that is another question, & the usual medical model/s, orthodox, &/or alternative would be available to apply.
If there really is a genetic link to cannabis psychosis, then with some earnest study the science boffins should be able to I.D. the specific gene/s, (if they haven't already) & then hey presto, get yourself tested for the gene variant before using cannabis; if you have it, then it's obvious cannabis is not the drug for you- problem solved.
Gosh - point blank 'No'...a fairly definitive reply Russell...!!
Perhaps we should expand our discussion into some other possibilities, considering my initial post was just written 'on the fly.'
For a start, addressing the bureaucracy required to monitor our human rights; we don't want to cost people their jobs if we can avoid it do we?
How about we progressively redirect the 'criminal punishment' dept of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) towards the new 'compassionate action' dept & instead study & write reports on how people who are inspired to build healthy relationships with each other & will willingly be monitored to build a better, more inclusive, egalitarian society.
The outcome can only be positive all around...humans are emotionally & spiritually built to connect with others on a heart level, so we should not be shy in investing money on improving societal outcomes.
For starters, by redirecting some of the resources discussed below:
"Every year there are two and a half thousand convictions of people aged 25 and under for possession and/or use of an illicit drug or drug utensil in New Zealand.
Between 2007 and 2011, there were 12,895 convictions in this age range. Over this period, New Zealand has spent more than $59 million imprisoning those who are convicted of minor drug offences and have to serve custodial sentences. This money is spent on imprisonment costs alone – *it does not include costs to Police, the courts, treatment or probation.*
With an average cost of over $18,000 per person imprisoned for minor drug offences, we have to start asking, what is the cost of convicting young New Zealanders?"
*It does not include police, courts treatment or probation* so shall we conservatively guesstimate probably an additional combined figure of $60 million odd perhaps? Criminal justice does NOT come cheap.
We now have a hypothetical budget over 4 years of $120 million just for the under 25 year olds...!!
Yes...we definitely should investigate it seriously is my answer to your 'No'.
I do understand that some people have problems on some drugs.
Most of the problems are firstly with alcohol, secondly P, & even some dependence on cannabis; of course. We are only talking about cannabis in our discussion here & I don't know what % of the Drug Foundation figures in the article above are for drugs other than cannabis in recent times.
I do however know that convictions for cannabis use made up 92% of all drug convictions in NZ in 1999 & it's likely not changed a great deal since, notwithstanding the media beat-up on P & synthetics, etc...so it's a fairly big whack of that $120 million we could dedicate to cannabis it would seem to me.
Source is 2.8 in table of contents: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/publications-archived/2000/publication/prosecutions-and-convictions-for-all-offences#2.8
As to ongoing monitoring with cannabis usage, people with problem behaviours linked to their consumption would be spotted fairly early on in the program, (& there WILL be some), whilst the largest proportion of others would be of no concern, as proven by their statistics over say 5 years.
Why not reward the 'no problem' people for their monitoring by having a 'compassionate cup' type competition annually & celebrate the remarkable benefits of these altered traits that compassionate action has encouraged & that our society now enjoys?
In this way the 'no problem' people are weeded off monitoring (no pun intended) after say 5 years, whilst those who need to remain monitored do remain so.
I suspect those who are no longer monitored after 5 years, will have had their 'altered traits' well established by then, & if they fall on hard times, well they have seen the benefits of compassionate monitoring, so hopefully will have no problem seeking assistance once more. We are now dealing with voluntary supported mental health initiatives, not unlawful behaviour after all.
Why stop there? Another idea...
Now that the stigma of cannabis use is eliminated by removing the 'criminal association', we can encourage it's further beneficial use by setting up 'creative clubs' in various fields, science, agriculture, computing, psychology, transport, etc, etc, to harness the newly developing field of studies that is concerning 'cannabis & hyperpriming'.
Some studies on cannabis users with judicious & limited usage are showing strong associations with divergent or creative thinking across a multiplicity of topics & god only knows that the ONLY way we are going to get out of the mess us humans have created on this poor suffering planet is by huge amounts of applied creative thinking...!!
Google: 'hyperpriming in cannabis users' & see what you find.
Just a few bones to pick over for you there Russell; time for me to hit the sack now.
Cheers for your reply & stimulating the discussion...will check in again in a few days to enjoy your thoughts on mine.
A MODEST IDEA TO TAKE TO THE CANNABIS & HEALTH SYMPOSIUM
If you want to change personal thru societal health outcomes, it's not because this or that legal/illegal substance is available to obtain that will cause people to change their behaviour, its how you incentive them.
We have long been obsessed with sticks from fines to prison sentences, & are continuing to experiment with more carrots, such as restorative justice (which is great), however, what we really need is to actively & directly link positive personal/societal outcomes to positive behaviour whilst under the influence.
"The goal of spiritual life is not altered states, but altered traits," said Huston Smith back in the 60's with regards to the use of drugs to 'enhance' spiritual practice & it has long been known that some drugs are particularly good at opening people to spiritual pursuits, especially cannabis (& the other classic psychedelics).
It seems to me that a great way to encourage the spiritual life of the community, is to link approval & permission to use of 'a substance' with an actual record of how much each person gives directly back to the community.
Whether it is a state monopoly of supply, or legalised for private profit, what we should do is not only plow a very sizable proportion of monetary profits, say 50%(?), back into harm minimisation on the back end, but on the front end we should only allow people to purchase substances who are actively recorded as participating in positive outcome community charitable activities, even giving them the option of say a website/blog to publicise their good works.
For example...I want to buy a $50 baggie of herb.
No problem, but in addition to forking out $50 for the drug, I have to FIRST give $50 equivalent of my time to a worthy cause from planting tree's, to clearing rubbish from beaches, to volunteering in soup kitchens, to assisting elderly people with manual labour, to cultivating community gardens, to assisting with a positive political campaign such as reducing harms from alcohol & gambling...the list is endless; you get the idea. Then AFTER volunteering, I get my $50 baggie of herb to relax with as reward to help with the afterglow of my good works.
Likewise, poor behaviour means, progressively restricted access to chosen substance; simple.
People often use substances to 'escape' from reality, & when they come down again, they are once again faced with what they wanted to escape from...more often than not the desire to 'escape' is at it's root an attempt to find ' healthy relationships' in a meaningful way with other individuals & community's in our modern fractured society where emotional & spiritual intelligence are in short supply, & oh so desperately needed.
In this way Huston Smiths intention of a transition from 'altered states to altered traits' would be actively encouraged & supported with every use of the herbal medicine, so that it is truly, positively, medical marijuana in the widest sense of the meaning.