An outline for drug law reform

The essence of the my drug law reform policy is a kind of licensing system, similar to a driver’s license, whereby users are allowed to purchase and consume drugs once they’ve passed a test.

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Outlaw alcohol advertising

Alcohol clearly causes a lot of harm in New Zealand, from violence, to sexual assault, to addiction.

I think it would be heavy handed to try outright stop people from drinking.

However, a low hanging fruit for improving New Zealand’s drinking culture, would be to outlaw alcohol advertising – which serves to normalise our drinking culture.

A drugs license

A new form of ID, like a driver’s license would be created.

Purchasing drugs, including tobacco and alcohol and cannabis, would each require a separate endorsement on the license. The license would be required to be presented when purchasing the drug.

Acquiring endorsements

Acquiring an endorsement would require sitting a test that demonstrates that the user is aware of the risks and potential harms of the drug they are seeking endorsement for.

The risks that awareness is being tested for would be fact based.

The test might be administered by a doctor.

For example, the tobacco endorsement test might involve test that the user is aware that:

  • Tobacco has a high addiction potential
  • The yearly cost of a regular cigarette habit
  • The causal relationship between cigarette smoking and illness

The test for for alcohol endorsement might involve testing that the user is aware that:

Tests for cannabis are in my impression a little hard to find risks to tests for. Unlike alcohol and tobacco and alcohol, the risks of cannabis aren’t as pronounced as the relationship between cigarettes and cancer, or alcohol and car crashes.

As mentioned before – the risks awareness is being tested for, would need to be science and fact based. The New Zealand Drug Foundation provides a helpful, though not comprehensive summary of some health effects. 

You could test for awareness of things like:

  • Cannabis can cause anxiety
  • There’s the potential that cannabis exasperate symptoms for people already susceptible to mental illness.
  • The risk of psychological addiction.

Three categories of drugs

I would put drugs in three categories:

  • Recreational consumer drugs. eg. tobacco, alcohol, cannabis

    These drugs would be free for commercial sale to anyone who has the endorsement.

    The cannabis industry would like resemble the beer industry. You would have some large commercial operations, as well as craft operations.

  • Higher risk psychedelic drugs eg. MDMA (ecstacy), LSD

    These drugs would, as well as require the user to pass a test, would be prescription only. ie. everytime a user wanted to consume these drugs, they would need to ask their doctor for a prescription. This would prevent people from taking these drugs recklessly.

    An option to consider here is that psychedelics could only be administered by an authorised medical professional. What could happen is that drugs could be administered in a controlled, research manner, even if the situation was at a festival.

  • Addictive hard drugs. eg. methamphetamine, heroin

    These drugs should be treated as too dangerous to be administered freely.

    However, for people who are already addicted, their addiction should be treated as a health condition.

    Government run distribution centers that give administer the drugs, and track how much a user is using. At least that way addicts aren’t beholden to drug dealers, and the health system has a good deal of monitoring of peoples habits.

 

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A justified cynicism as a result of the 2016 US election.

Without pretending that any democratic system is perfect and involves all parties working in what they perceive as the best interests for the country, I think many of us believe that while flawed, democratic systems make slow progress toward a better society.

During Obama’s presidency, we’ve seen cynical attempts by the Republicans to disrupt progress, notably:

  • The government shutdown in order to try stop Obamacare.
  • Refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

Before the result of the election, my opinion was that ‘Yes, these are cynical ploys, but they’re not going to work. Hillary is going to win, and Merrick Garland will be confirmed, and the Republicans will lose credibility’.

But the Republican refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing has worked. Merrick Garland will not be confirmed, and now that Supreme Court Justice pick gets to be chosen by Donald Trump.

This fills me with a deep sense of cynicism; these underhanded and cynical tactics apparently do work. 

What are the Democrats likely to do in response during the next four years? Will they similarly use these tactics?

If I’m to retain a thread of optimism, it would be that that the Republican tactics did work, demonstrates a hole in the system that needs to be patched, presumably next time the Democrats control the house.

 

 

Why I’m pro-contraception/encouraging contraception.

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I advocate measures the encourage people to use contraception, or otherwise dissuade them from having kids without considerable thought.

For example, I advocate some form of monetary incentive to take long term contraception such as depo, and IUD or a hormonal implant.

Some people instinctively recoil at this suggestion, arguing that it’s a form of eugenics, and who are we to decide who has kids or not, and that having kids is everyone’s right.

I think this position indicates a kind of blase regard for human life. Having a kid appears to be treated like having any other commodity, like owning a house, or or travelling the world, without regard for the bundle of feelings that is entailed in producing a new life.

Mine is a ‘life is suffering’ argument; I think that for most of us, life, while totally awesome, also contains a great deal of suffering and difficulty.

We should be taking great care, and with a sense of great responsibility when we talk about whether new life should be coming into the world or not.

Often I think, when people argue for the rights of people to have children, they’re prioritising the feelings of those people who want to have children, over the feelings of those children that will come into existence.

I recognise that most of us likely have a biological imperative to have children, and have strong feelings urging us to have children. My argument isn’t to dismiss these feelings, but to rationally put in incentives to offset these feelings. After all, we often think or act irrationally, and I’m all for macro-policy that helps guide us in the right direction.

Some people might argue that my argument puts too much emphasis of the unpleasant aspects of life, and would instead make the argument that ‘life is a gift’. I think this is a bit pie in the sky and doesn’t reflect the depth of human experience.

A more substantive rebuttal would be that I’m making an implicit judgement about what people are capable of raising children who are able to have a good life, and who isn’t.

I think this is a reasonable argument, and I’d stress that I’m not seeking to create a perfect formula about what makes good parents. What I’m really seeking to do with this post, is to combat the attitude that ‘having children is everyone person’s right’. I think we should be far more considerate when deciding whether someone should come into the world, and put the feelings of that potential person first.

Quitting is underrated.

I think there’s an often unhelpful cultural attitude that stigmatises quitting.

Quitting is seen as indicative of a bad work ethic, or laziness, or a lack of grit. Quitting is seen as worse than failure – at least someone who fails has the follow through to see the thing through to the end.

The attitude that is encouraged for facing a difficult situation is to grit up, to grin and bear it, or to be creative in finding a solution to the problem. There’s the promise that going through the hardship will more rewarding in terms of practical experience and character building, than quitting would.

There’s a fear that if one quits now, they’ll develop a habit of quitting, and quit whenever things become more difficult, or they’re put beyond their comfort zone.

I agree that there’s something to be said for persevering in the face of challenge, but only if the project as a whole is worthwhile.

When the main reason for carrying on, is the value of perseverance or avoiding being a quitter, then it’s time to quit.

The risk of continuing with something that you’re not getting value out of, is that the stress of carrying on can spill over into the rest of your life. For example, if you’re in a job that you hate, they you may be preoccupied with the job when you’re at home too. Or on the other hand, if you’re in a bad relationship, that may affect your performance at work.

I think people are most motivated when there’s a big picture goal, that they value, and they can see how what they’re doing is helping achieve that goal.

When it’s apparent that what they’re doing doesn’t achieve that big picture goal, or that the value of what they’re doing is several layers abstracted from that goal, one’s whole life can start feeling meaningless.

The danger is when there appears to be no end in sight, and the thought is ‘Even if I do my best work now, my situation is going to be the same in six months, one year’s time’.

Doing good work involves grit and discipline. It require concerted effort. If that effort is, at least in the person’s mind, not going to have any real reward, it’s reasonable to see how one might instead opt for shortcuts or immediate gratification.

I would propose a model of stress tolerances, whereby each individual has a certain ability to tolerate stress – whether that’s dealing with difficult people, learning new technologies, getting their head around logical problems, being bored, and so on.

It makes sense that people should prioritise their ability to deal with stress, to those activities that provide the most value to them. Activities that are not providing much value, should be abandoned, in an act of simplifying their life.

I’ve recently simplified my life in a few ways:

  • I broke the lease on the apartment I was renting, so I’m no longer responsible for chasing flatmates up for rent, finding new flatmates, and paying bills.
  • I found a new job, and quit my current job which I felt no sense of recognition in.
  • I quit drinking alcohol.

As a result, I feel like I’m floating. I feel much much better, and I can see the value in the things that I am doing.

I still have activities that provide stress, or warrant the application of grit.  Writing this blog for example, requires a concerted effort to sit down and write the words. Exercising requires grit to get out and start doing it. But these are both activities that I can clearly see the value of, especially in a context of a job where my career with be progressing, and living situation where I can relax.

In conclusion, my advice for people is to look at their life, and question what things are in it that are providing unnecessary stress. Remove them. After that, you can do the mindfulness and meditation tricks and deal with the things that you really value.