Cannabis

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Cannabis – Philosophy for Everyone: What Were We Just Talking About?, edited by Dale Jacquette.

Since this book was issued in 2010, the circumstances of cannabis prohibition in the US have changed considerably, but not so much as to obsolete any of the issues that it treats. (Following the consequences of the relevant 2016 referenda, marijuana possession and consumption–without medical sanction–is now legal in eight states, including the entire Pacific coast, and accounting for a majority of the US population, although Federal prohibition remains in effect.) The volume collects essays by an assortment of authors with different intellectual specialties, treating a variety of concerns, such as phenomenology, ethics, aesthetics, psychology, and sociology. The trend overall is toward a somewhat favorable view of moderate cannabis use, but the mix of perspectives includes at least a couple of pieces that condemn it.

More than one of the papers notes the mystery involved in the origins of the US-cum-global cannabis prohibition of the 20th century, but none provides an adequate explanation. Mitch Earlywine, whose “Pot Politics” piece does a good job of raising the question, only goes so far as to note the suspicious coincidence of the end of the alcohol prohibition and the start of the Federal marijuana ban. None of the papers note the significant racist component of US drug policy, evident in both the origins of laws against marijuana, and their later selective enforcement as a conscious anti-civil-rights strategy directed at the non-white population of the US.

Still, political science is not the book’s center of gravity. Several of the papers include a component of psychological and psychiatric literature review, and most, in keeping with the title, attempt to address basic dilemmas or obscurities of cannabis use. I especially appreciated the chapters on escapism and “weakness of will.” Gilbert Shelton’s famous comics freak notoriously quipped “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope,” and the adage is cited in this book. The writings collected here make a decent case that getting stoned is a better conundrum for philosophy than philosophy is for stoners. [via]

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