The Future of Legalization of Marijuana and “Cognitive Liberty”
Jason Silva’s latest episode of Shots of Awe, his YouTube channel, tackled the “The Future of Marijuana Legalization” with a linguistic surge of verbiage about the herb’s history as a sacrament and its latest commercial and legislative triumphs.
The episode starts off with a quote from Carl Sagan’s proponent essay about cannabis, written for Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) and penned under the pseudonym “Mr. X”:
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”
The full essay can be found here (and in a bonus video Carl Sagan discusses medical weed). At the time of the writing Sagan thought it prudent to conceal his membership in the cannabis club from the public. But, as always, Sagan demonstrates an ability to qualitatively translate the quantitative and, in this case, perhaps difficult-to-express subjective experience with prose that borders on poetry rendered in such a way that resin-ates. His account of early marijuana highs are enjoyable and worth reading (one details his discovery of a Volkswagen in the shadows cast by a house plant; another the appearance of a cloaked and hatted Spanish gentleman at the center of a candle flame).
Silva’s 2-minute talk, though, is also worthwhile. It draws on concepts from past politicians and celebrity substance advocates alike—such as Abe Lincoln on prohibition (purportedly) and Timothy Leary’s notion of “set and setting,” that by changing a user’s expectations and intentions (set) and social or physical surroundings (setting), the experience and marijuana effects might change.
Of course Leary was referring foremost to LSD.
But Silva’s point is well taken, less so concerning the idea of marijuana as a sacred sacrament, and more when it comes to the ideas of “cognitive liberty” and “cognitive freedom.” The rights to legal cannabis full legalization of marijuana imply a more deeply rooted human right: to live autonomously without the harming of others. The strongest and most compelling arguments for legalizing weed are more about this right—to decide for oneself—and live synergistically (or not) with a plant proven to be non-toxic and contain many beneficial health effects.