Regime change in the government of consciousness

Further to my post yesterday about the remaining moments before the storm hits New York City, I had a flash of understanding this morning about what’s happening.

The entire conceptual foundation of drug control, which is to say mind control (which is to say controlling/restricting the scope of the thoughts and perceptions a human can experience), is wrong, at least as applied to cannabis. The conceptual foundation of the dominant form of drug control is opiate regulation. That is true simply as an empirical historical matter, I believe, but also as a matter of thought structure.

The newest model of cannabis market regulation is what we saw in fine form in New Jersey and what is being reprised in New York: instead of explicit statutory prohibition it’s death by over-regulation. In NJ, the statute had already been enacted when Christie came in so when he killed the market it was infanticide. In NY, Cuomo was able to kill the market prior to birth so it was abortion.

It is a model of a substance that is, yes of course, crucial to saving life and alleviating ruinous discomfort – but it is so dangerous that there must be an artificial market of scarcity. That’s how opiate regulation works. Opiates were a miraculous appearance during the American Civil War, allowing Union soldiers to have their wounded limbs amputated (to avoid gangrene) while they were under the influence of something more effective than the Bourbon whiskey available to the Confederates. However, you can also die from too much opiates. You can reach the “lethal dose,” i.e. the measurement of the dose of opiate that will kill a person or animal by suppressing its cardiovascular functions. And when people start taking it, they can’t stop. It’s a nightmare image. The consequence is lockdown: it is necessary to keep opiates literally behind lock and key, behind multiple levels of gatekeepers under the watch of a specialized police force.

My understanding is that cannabis has no “lethal dose.” It can’t kill you. It got caught up in the dragnet in the decades when the federal government first began prohibiting psychoactive substances, first opiates then alcohol. Unlike both opiates and alcohol, cannabis prohibition is absolute: no one may ever use cannabis legally under federal law for any purpose [fn].

We live in a narcocracy, a government of the drug police, whose guiding ideology and methodology date back no less than one hundred years to 1914, the year in which the US passed its first federal psychoactive “drug” law, the Harrison Narcotics Act that criminally-controlled opiates.  Cannabis is the cutting edge of a different model of psychoactive substances. If you will indulge me, cannabis is actually a low-intensity psychedelic (hence the name of this blog).   Opiates are well-integrated into our society. They are the pain relief of choice. There is a long history of regulation by European authorities – indeed wars were fought over its supply dating back to the 1800s. However, (a) the psychedelic model differs from the opiate model and (b) the integration of psychedelics into industrialized, post-Enlightenment “Western” civilization stopped no later than 1970. (Rick Doblin has dedicated almost thirty years of his life to resurrecting it.) The current dominant paradigm is characterized by the artificially-induced absence of psychedelic therapy. In other words, we are in a “pre-psychedelic” stage of civilization.

New York just passed a cannabis “legalization” statute that has no relationship whatsoever to the guiding principle of medical cannabis law, which first appeared in caselaw from the 1970s-1990s in which DC and then state criminal court judges recognized medical necessity as an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution on cannabis-possession and -cultivation charges. In a basic sense, all that Californian voters did in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215 was to make that defense part of the statutory law of their state. The CCA turns that idea on its head: it extends the right to cultivate to corporations and gives nothing to patients until such time as the state, which operates in an opiate-control mentality, gets it together to pass some regulations – with a minimum of participation by patients (we don’t need an advisory committee, thank you) – that will allow them, in a year and a half, maybe, to apply for the right to buy cannabis, which they and their designated caregivers could grow easily enough themselves, perhaps with some help from professionals, from a handful of stores operated by huge corporate interests at prices set by the state.

All indications are that a cannabis legalization statute, the MRTA, will be introduced in the New York state legislature again this coming session. Cannabis legalization is part of a regime change, a supplanting of the narcocracy. The bureaucracy that comes next should be rooted in local community government to the greatest extent possible. Because this is regime change in the government of consciousness, it is necessary to understand it deeply. The current discourse in the media is insufficient because it does not address why this area of the law is so subtle and therefore why what Cuomo did to the CCA [fn 2] and likely will do in response to the MRTA is so wrong.

Some people don’t like regime change. Some people do.

FN 1. Except for the four surviving members of the federal government’s Compassionate IND program, to whom the federal government provides cannabis directly for medical purposes (while maintaining that it has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States). 

FN2.  In fairness to Cuomo, the sponsors of the CCA ceded the individual right to cultivate several years ago, so the bill was already badly-compromised when it reached him in June. He just finished it off.

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Author: Noah Potter Law

I'm a commercial litigator based in New York providing provide legal research, writing and strategic analysis as an independent contractor to other attorneys. I have unusually long experience with drug law and policy generally and with cannabis in particular dating back to my time as an undergraduate political science student at Columbia.

4 thoughts on “Regime change in the government of consciousness”

  1. I'm afraid that if a “legalization” statute ever gets traction in the senate it will wind up as far from the current policy in CO as our “compassionate” care act is from functioning MMJ policy. Who has been helped by our current decriminalization besides the errant assemblyman? if you can't grow it in your back yard or enjoy it with others like you can with drinking it's not worth calling legal IMO.

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  2. I consider cannabis a low-intensity psychedelic but also the “gateway” to the other psychedelics. I would characterize ibogaine as one of the more advanced realms one can reach after going through the cannabis gateway. Cannabis can be a gateway to realms of substances other than psychedelics as well. Ibogaine's unique characteristic is that it can assist physiologically people who have gone into sedative and stimulant realms, whether instead of or after the psychedelic realms, with negative consequences.

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