Posts by BenWilson

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Neil,

    Those social reasons are themselves based on dopamine release and are follwed by a depletion period where peolpe are less pro-social. It’s the dopamine release people after and the downside comes on Tuesday.

    That's one theory, based on the idea that dopamine chasing is 100% of human motivation. Which is bunk, IMHO. It oversimplifies why people do things, and possibly conflates cause and effect too.

    Yes, there is a dopamine response to doing a number of things, many of which do not even involve putting chemicals into your body. You can get it from watching a movie, or talking to friends. Do you talk to your friends just for the dopamine? Or do you do it because you like it, and that's why the dopamine releases, because you anticipate the reward of something enjoyable.

    Cannabis probably works directly on the dopamine, via an indirect pathway, and the brain compensates by slowing its own production down if the cannabis use is continual. In other words it balances out and stops being much of a motivator, other than that you do want more cannabis to get back to balance. This depression of your natural production is pretty much temporary - addicted users who stop basically return to normal balance after some time.

    But is that imbalance the only reason the user is addicted? I don't think it's the whole reason - they may use, say, daily, because they like being high, and the removal of a dopamine low is something of a bonus side effect, psychologically.

    You might say that "liking being high" and "being addicted to a dopamine uptick from that drug" are the same thing, but I think that is not true. Being high on cannabis is being in a state that is not just "feeling good because dopamine is in balance", it's also got it's own quite signature effect on your consciousness, which some people for whatever reason just really like.

    I think it can be enjoyable in different ways for different people for different reasons. In my own case, the times I've had it, I've enjoyed that it slows my brain down (which ordinarily goes way too fast) and makes unusual connections that I would not ordinarily have. It can sometimes be "inspirational" in that way, particularly if I've been working on a problem for a while and hit a wall. It is rarely useful like that, but it certainly has occasionally happened.

    At other times, the temporary disruption of short term memory (which is clearly strongly adversely affected by cannabis when you are actually high) leads to a peculiar state of experiencing only the moment, because you can't really hold onto the moments before. This is a very, very enjoyable state to be in when engaging in an activity that requires concentration without memory - like playing an intense video or sports game, or listening to (or playing) music, or just watching a film or even just watching a view.

    I do, of course, still enjoy listening to music, or watching films, or playing sports, without it. Almost all of the time. Like Danyl, my interest in it decayed as I got older - although I would not say that had jack shit to do with the joyless state of dopamine reduction that he was talking about. Unless he was a very heavy user I would be surprised if it affected him either.

    I can be honest that my decay in interest is IMHO a function of the transition into middle age, with the increase in the burdens of responsibility and the decay in general health simply leaving no time for it. When you have to look after children, and hold down your job, and do quite a lot of complicated things in your non-work time too, and you are driving a car a lot, often with many people in it, you just can't afford to be high. It's dangerous and inappropriate, so you don't. In the precious moments of release from responsibility that you do get, a drug that will probably have the side effect of lethargic hangover is not something I felt like having.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What almost everyone is missing…, in reply to Neil,

    The biggest problem is the building industry itself which is at best dysfunctional and at worst corrupt. Throwing money at it is only going to benefit the unscrupulous, not first home buyers.

    I'd say that the problem is well beyond one bogey, even though you are right that construction of housing in NZ costs more than it should. The goals that were initially set seemed basically fantastical to me. Now they have a much better idea of what is achievable, and since it isn't hundreds of thousands, it's not even in the thousands, I can't see it having very much impact on the overall housing problem here.

    So much for the supply side, I really did think it was a pipe dream to think supply could be ramped up the several orders of magnitude required - the cost of doing so is huge. Good on them for trying, sometimes you have to prove the obvious.

    Controlling demand is a much less costly thing, probably, requiring only legislation and enforcement, rather than paying hundreds of thousands of people and buying tens of billions in materials. Essentially restricting who can buy puts an instant damp on prices. It doesn't necessarily do the whole job, because nothing can do the whole job - this is still a whole economy problem.

    There are other levers to alleviate the effect of the housing crisis too, namely making sure people have enough to pay rent with, making sure that what is rented is up to standard, etc. This problem was decades in the making and it will be at least decades in the unwinding, particularly if National rolls everything back the moment they get back in power.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    Sorry for the glibness but having gone through the Danyl reading now, finally, it proved to be exactly what I first thought it would be (having long experience of his writing style), a segue to some literary fiction analysis, ending in a rumination that simply states his feels on the matter without any real argument, and chucks some digs at middle class liberals, the drug users which with he has spent the most time.

    While I agree with him that a referendum is probably not perfect, the idea it's the exact wrong way to go about deciding on something that is as much a matter of personal moral opinion as it is about all the harm evidence and harm reduction theory that is dominating the debate, is exactly wrong, IMHO.

    I feel like a referendum cuts right through all this harm slice and dice shit and just asks bluntly "look, if you think it shouldn't be against the law for whatever reason, how about you just say so?". Because sometimes moral choices are that simple. You don't have to sit at the tail end of a giant scientific research programme to know right from wrong. We don't need wise technocratic institutions to decide for us. We live in a damned democracy, and I know the hypocrisy surrounding cannabis prohibition is Wrong As.

    Everyone knows lots of cannabis users. Literally everyone. Most people would not be happy with all the criminal convictions that those people should probably have if prohibition were something that wasn't really mostly for brown people. A very large number, at least in the hundreds of thousands, would like to be able to consume without any fear of the law. A very much larger number again, possibly even a majority, know that they did smoke in the past and are thus hypocrites if they oppose it. A very much larger number again, certainly a majority, know they drink alcohol occasionally, and would miss the right to do so, and it is a much more harmful drug than cannabis from a harm perspective. They drink it anyway, because they like it.

    Sure, there are harms. Sometimes weighing up those balances is a matter of personal conscience, and sometimes the way to weigh up those balances across society is to take the total weight of all those balances of personal conscience. Sure, I wish our elected representatives could have the courage to do so, but that's a failing of representative democracy. Fortunately, we also have a direct democracy option and this is exactly the kind of issue it is meant for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    Cannabis is incompatible with human happiness because capitalism. These are the takes that led to the over-stimulation of my mesolimbic system when reading Danyl, and the resulting anhedonia has long since worn off since I quit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Neil,

    I've got no issue with the government formulating better plans for acute inpatients, but I can't see that as any kind of deal breaker for cannabis reform if they didn't manage to get that sorted out before the referendum.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Neil,

    What I have a problem with is that last bit – it assumes this is relatively straight forward. But it’s not and I can’t see anyone bringing this up.

    I'm not sure the assumption is that it's straightforward, it's just that they're not left completely unaddressed. We do have mental health services and they already are empowered to deny drugs, illegal or otherwise, to people under some circumstances. Removal of freedom due to mental illness is a huge curly issue, of course, far wider than cannabis access. It's too fraught for it to be practical to make the resolution of it any kind of blocker to how the vast majority of people who are of sound (enough) mind are allowed to access cannabis. Otherwise it can be used to block public access to practically anything that people with mental health issues could misuse. Which is practically anything.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Neil,

    If this is about harm reduction then attention should be paid to those most at risk of harm.

    Sure. But it doesn't overpower the attention paid to very, very much larger numbers of people who are at less risk. It seems to me that specialized legislation for those groups is what you're after, which they already have in the acts that relate to the removal of freedom from people who have serious mental illnesses. Perhaps they need revision, I don't know - they already have extraordinarily restrictive laws applied to them, and it could just be that mental health needs more resourcing to do its job better. But I don't see this highly exceptional case as really putting much more pressure on our general will to legalize or decriminalize than perhaps adding some clear labeling requirements, which is how we deal with substance that could be very harmful to some very small and unlucky group already.

    Peanut traces, for instance, can kill a small proportion of the population, but making peanuts illegal is not the solution. You just have to make it clear when peanut traces are present.

    I'm aware that the mentally ill are very much not the same in the way they make choices, so it's not clear that they could be trusted to voluntarily avoid cannabis products, but that's where the removal of their volition comes into play. They also can't be trusted already to not go to an illegal drug dealer (of which there are a great many, and they would surely already know some), or even have them smuggled into the care facility. So I can't see that this special case comes to bear very much on the question of generalized change to cannabis legislation - it seems like much more of a mental health care policy and funding issue. Perhaps legislation that is extremely strict on people who smuggle into the facilities is a prohibition that does make sense - in which case it's about much more than cannabis anyway. Cigarettes, booze, cellphones and razor blades need to also by covered by those kinds of changes.

    I feel like the role that the people you are talking about have in this debate is to make the point very clearly that cannabis is not universally harmless. Certainly people who believe that are basically completely wrong. But those people hold an extreme position that doesn't take this debate anywhere - they are easily sidelined as cranks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to andin,

    Thats quite a specific problem.

    It sure is. I don't see it bringing a great deal to bear on the question of legalizing cannabis for the general public, that acute mental health units can't currently stop illegal drugs being brought in. Perhaps the solution to that doesn't involve taking away the rights of everyone else who isn't in an acute mental health unit, and instead involves better security in those specific places. Or something that isn't automatically everyone else in the whole country's problem.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to simon g,

    National’s position on this is not smart politics.

    It definitely is not. I don't think it matters much. Their leadership is a sideshow to their bloc popularity - even their own supporters don't take Bridges seriously.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Joe Boden,

    I’d be happy to support a well-regulated legalization scheme, if we could achieve it, because I believe it would deliver the best results. I’m just skeptical that we will achieve it.

    I'm skeptical but I think it's what we should aim for.

    If we do end up getting a referendum, the support of the various political parties do not vote as blocs. NZ First voters will vote on their own recognizance, as will National Party members. It doesn't matter that Simon Bridges is a prohibitionist, there is no way the country has the high levels of support for legalization that it does without a lot of that support coming from National voters. This is hardly surprising - I know a lot of National party voters who smoke bud. They probably don't admit it freely, being illegal and the kind of thing that could end up being a workplace bludgeon, but it's simply a widely appreciated thing in NZ, and this is obscured by the mantle prohibition draws over truth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

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