Sunday, November 24, 2013

Canadians Can Grow Tobacco for Personal Use; They Should Be Able to Do the Same with Cannabis

I. Harper’s Agenda

Knowing full well the devastating consequences of America’s War on Drugs, the very same day that Washington State and Colorado legalized the recreational use of Cannabis, the Harper Government introduced “tough new mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana” - a change in the law that even the judiciary is resisting.

The government followed-up this prohibitionist agenda by “changing medical marijuana rules in Canada” so that patients would no longer be able to grow their own medicine, attacking the most vulnerable in our society by turning a health policy into a crime policy.

We won’t go into the details of how Canadians feel about this government, suffice it to say that even before the senate scandal blew up in Harper’s face, a poll from the summer of 2013 showed that 70% of Canadians surveyed wanted the Conservatives gone.

Stephen Harper promised that we would not recognize Canada when he got through with it, and he meant it. Some of the policies that have been implemented will take decades to unfold and will cost Canadians dearly:
“From the environment, to health care, to foreign policy, this is a different Canada than it was May 2, 2011, and many of the Harper initiatives may not be easily undone by future governments, or even future leaders of a Conservative government.”
All one has to do to fully appreciate Harper’s agenda is to read the text from a speech he made at a “June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing U.S. think tank.” Below are some highlights from the first few opening paragraphs of the speech as well as his closing statement. Every Canadian should read the full text, especially those who support Harper and his Conservatives:
“First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours…

“In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance…

“I'll end there and take any of your questions. But let me conclude by saying, good luck in your own battles. Let me just remind you of something that's been talked about here. As long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in schools.”

II. Tobacco vs. Cannabis

The question we should be asking ourselves as Harper hands out licenses to corporations to grow medical marijuana while prohibiting individual Canadians from growing their own supply, is that; Canadians 18 years of age or older can grow up to 15 kg of tobacco for personal use, so why shouldn’t we be able to do the same with cannabis?

Excise Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. E-14) and Excise Act, 2001 (S.C. 2002, c. 22), both of which are current to November 13, 2013, state that:
    Excise Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. E-14) - Tobacco grown for private use
    220. A person who grows tobacco on his own land or property and manufactures the tobacco into common Canada twist or cut tobacco solely for the use of himself and such members of his family as are resident with him on the farm or premises on which the tobacco was grown, and not for sale, does not require a licence for so doing, nor is the tobacco so manufactured subject to excise duty, but the quantity so manufactured in any one year shall not exceed fifteen kilograms (15 kg) for each adult member of the family resident on the farm or premises.”
    Excise Act, 2001 (S.C. 2002, c. 22) - Exception — manufacturing for personal use
    25. (3) An individual who is not a tobacco licensee may manufacture manufactured tobacco or cigars

    (a) from packaged raw leaf tobacco or manufactured tobacco on which the duty has been paid, if the tobacco or cigars are for their personal use; or

    (b) from raw leaf tobacco grown on land on which the individual resides, if
      (i) the tobacco or cigars are for their personal use or that of the members of their family who reside with the individual and who are 18 years of age or older, and

      (ii) the quantity of tobacco or cigars manufactured in any year does not exceed 15 kg for the individual and each member of the individual’s family who resides with the individual and who is 18 years of age or older.
The best way to understand Stephen Harper’s agenda is to really listen to him. The above speech in conjunction with the following short interview where he gets lost in his own circular argument trying to answer a question regarding the legalization of marijuana should send shivers down the spine of even his most hardened supporters.
“There’s lots of crimes a lot worse than the casual use of marijuana, but, when people are buying from the drug trade they’re not buying from their neighbour, they are buying from international cartels that are involved in unimaginable violence and intimidation and social disaster and catastrophe all across the world, all across the world….

“Now you know I know some people say if you legalize it you know you get the money and all would be well, but I think that rests on the assumption that somehow drugs are bad because they’re illegal. The reasons drugs – it’s not that – the reason drugs are illegal is because they are bad, and even if these things were legalized I can predict with a lot of confidence that these would never be respectable businesses run by respectable people because of the very nature of the dependency they create, the damage they create, the social upheaval and catastrophe they create particularly in third world countries….

“Well I know people have different views, I must admit myself sometimes I’m frustrated by how little impact government have been able to have on the drug trade internationally, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we somehow stop trying to deal with it it would suddenly turn into a nice wholesome industry. It will never be that. “

Stephen Harper Talks About Marijuana

So why has this war on cannabis, drugs in general, continued for so long? Noam Chomsky in a 2011 interview with ‘High Times’ provides some answers:
“Now take a look at the way the Drug War is conducted over the past 40 years. It goes back farther, but start from 40 years ago: There's very little spent on prevention and treatment. There's a lot on policing, a ton of stuff on border control and a lot on out-of-country operations. And the effect on the availability of drugs is almost undetectable; drug prices don't change on measures of availability. So there are two possibilities: Either those conducting the Drug War are lunatics, or they have another purpose….

“Furthermore, it's known, just from experience, that prevention works. Here we get to the question of what's the drug problem. Well, in fact, by far the worst problem is tobacco: Tobacco kills way more people than hard drugs, 20 times as many or some huge number. So that's a really dangerous substance. The second most dangerous is alcohol, because of its direct consequence to the user, but also because it harms others. Marijuana doesn't make you violent; alcohol does. So it contributes to abuse, violence -- drunk driving kills people. It's a killer….

“Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, made a pertinent comment a couple years ago. He said, ‘If you want to destroy coca here, then let us destroy the tobacco in North Carolina and Kentucky. It's a far more dangerous substance. It kills way more people than coca does.’ That's a joke, obviously -- the United States isn't going to let him do that. Then again, it just shows up the cynicism of the whole program….”…continue reading for some of the answers.
Canadians can grow tobacco for personal use; we should be able to do the same with cannabis.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bill Nye, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Lawrence Krauss have a brilliant little discussion on the limitations of mathematics, and its importance and relevance to humanity

Math lovers and aficionados will find the following discourse both entertaining and informative.

Below you will find the video and partial transcript of Arizona State University’s Origins Project’s Q&A segment from their ‘The Storytelling of Science’ panel discussion, featuring “well-known science educator Bill Nye, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, Science Friday’s Ira Flatow, popular science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, executive director of the World Science Festival Tracy Day, and Origins Project director Lawrence Krauss.”

The first question asked of the panel was:
Q: “If you could give us all a one word piece of advice for our own science storytelling, what would it be?”
Bill Nye was the first to reply with, “Algebra, learn algebra.” Neil deGrasse Tyson follows with, ‘Ambition’. Lawrence Krauss with, ‘Passion’. Neal Stephenson with, ‘Empathize’. Richard Dawkins states that since empathize has already been taken, he will choose ‘Poetry’. While Ira Flatow states that ”you should be able to tell it so that your mother can understand it.”

The second question asked by the audience is what kicks off the fireworks:
Q: “I’ve always wanted to be an astronautical engineer, but I am horrible at math, but I’ve got lots of passion. Can this dream ever be a reality and where do I start?”
The dialogue of the panelists was as follows:
Lawrence Krauss: “As Bill said, math is the language of science, and I think you have to be able to be adept at it.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: [interrupting Krauss] “Math is the language of the universe.”

Lawrence Krauss: “Yes, You’re right, I agree with you there.”

…audience applauds and cheers…

Lawrence Krauss: “I agree, but let me just finish. Too many people think that you have to be a mathematical wizard… you don’t have to be the best mathematician in your class, you don’t have to be a wiz. It takes all type to do science, and any stereotype just doesn’t work. If you’re interested, do it.”…

Bill Nye: “But the other thing, I would say, you say you’re bad at math, I bet you’re not that bad. And I just want to remind you that when it comes to math there is no substitute for practice. It sucked for me, it sucks for everyone. You just have to practice. So when you come to me and say ‘I’m bad at math’, I am open minded of course but skeptical. I bet you can do it whoever you are.”

Lawrence Krauss: “You know, that’s an important point. We were talking about it last night too… I like science museums because they show science as fun but science is hard work like anything, like music, like anything else to do it well, and it takes a lot of work. And if you don’t enjoy it you can’t do the work, but just enjoyment alone isn’t enough, you really got to be willing to work at it.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “I think what’s going on here is, people presume that if the math is not coming easy that therefore you’ll never learn it. And I meant it literally that math is the language of the universe, and it’s like any other language, especially a language that does not share the Roman alphabet. So, for example, if you wanted to study Chinese, it looks completely intractable at first… and you can ask the question, ‘how long does it take one to become fluent in Chinese, if you’re not Chinese yourself?’ …it can take… almost 10 years, if you never go to China. If you go to China, maybe 5 years of intensive exposure - and you’ve never done that with math - imagine that level of exposure to math, what kind of fluency you would have at the other end of that pipeline. So at least give yourself the opportunity that any person learning a foreign language would give themselves before you turn around and say you’re not good at math.”

…audience applauds and cheers…

Brian Greene: [addressing Neil deGrasse Tyson] “The question that comes to mind for me is, how do you know that math is the language of the universe?”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The universe told me.”…

Bill Nye: “It’s a first approximation”…

Brian Greene: “I was wondering, I have a question about this, could you imagine that one day far into the future we encounter some alien civilization and they say, ‘hey, show us what you’ve done to understand the universe’, and we bring out our math books with all our theorems in physics and they turn to us and say, ‘Math! We tried that, it takes you just so far! And the real way to do it is like this!’

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “I would say, that whatever that real way is it’s not manifest to us at this moment, and until that day happens where an alien tells us how backwards we are, all I can say is that the math that we did invent out of our human brain - as you [pointing to Brian Greene] surely know Eugene Wigner said the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in describing the universe - the fact that it works at all is sufficient enough for me.”

…a little chaos ensues…

Lawrence Krauss: “I want to go on record, and this is a momentous occasion, I want to go on record as agreeing with Brian. In a sense that it is fascinating if you’re a theoretical physicist to wonder when you find something fascinating - some mathematical formula that’s fascinating - whether it’s a property of our brains or whether it’s a property of the universe, and we just don’t know I think is the answer….”

Brian Greene: “Right, but let me answer your question. I find it slightly confusing because, Neil, you describe math as something that we create, so why is it the thing that we create is somehow intrinsic to the universe?...”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “I don’t lose sleep over that, I celebrate it.”

Brian Greene: “It’s a good thing, I celebrate it too.”

Lawrence Krauss: “But it is the question, there may be limitations of our understanding of the universe because of the way our brains work…”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “That’s surely the case. That’s surely the case.”…

Lawrence Krauss: “But seriously that’s an interesting question and we really have to wonder about that, and again, as some of us are on the forefront of physics, you wonder at some point when it’s going to end.”…

Bill Nye: “But, to the questioner’s question, I wouldn’t worry about the possibility that mathematics is going to turn out to be ineffective in describing the universe and use that as a reason to not keep practicing. Press on.”

…audience applauds and cheers…
The above dialogue and more takes place in the first few minutes of the following video embedded below.

Q&A Segment - The Great Debate: THE STORYTELLING OF SCIENCE (Part 2/2)

Part one of ‘The Storytelling of Science’ follows and is well worth the watch as well.

The Great Debate: THE STORYTELLING OF SCIENCE (Part 1/2)