Last Friday night I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a friend's place. The main was a delicious moussaka, followed by tiramisu for dessert.
As the dinner went on, the conversation became more animated, the stories
It was a great evening, the kind that makes life worth living. At 10.30 we said our goodbyes and walked home.
We weren't just high on good spirits, we used a stimulant to help create a jovial mood.
We got the amount about right — too much and things can get silly.
The stimulant we used is allowed by the law. In my case, a couple of APA beers, a glass and a half of Australian red wine, and a highland whiskey late in the evening.
Across town in Hikurangi, maybe, there were a group of friends gathered in the lounge listening to Bob Marley, eating pizzas and smoking marijuana. A great night was also had.
The friends felt close to each other as they appreciated the music, the cheesy pizzas and the calming effects of the tetrahydrocannabinol in the cannabis leaf.
Whether this scenario actually took place in Hikurangi, I don't know. But I'm sure something similar occurred on Friday night in New Zealand somewhere.
As I see it, these two evenings are much the same. Motivated by the same desire to spend time with friends and use a mind-altering substance to relax our social behaviours.
Humans have been doing it for tens of thousands of years. There's even the thought that our ape ancestors may have evolved to like the alcohol in rotting fruit, because in moderate quantities it boosts the immune system.
There are some heavily ingrained biological and social factors which has us looking for some form of drug on our dietary menu. We need to accept this about ourselves and deal with it pragmatically.
Alcohol and cannabis do similar things to our brains. I can't speak authoritatively (as I'm only a user of one of them), but Healthline lists the same effects for both drugs: delayed reaction times, increased confidence, impaired judgement, drowsiness and giddiness.
Despite the similarities, using one of these substances might land you in trouble with the law. The other is sanctioned, indeed heavily promoted, despite the dangers of misuse and overuse (various life-shortening cancers linked to alcohol use, for instance).
You can line up all the negative health impacts of heavy alcohol and cannabis use, and they cancel each other out. There's no rational comparison that can categorically say that over a lifetime, one drug is more harmful than the other.
The continued criminalisation of cannabis simply discriminates against one group of drug users.
A law that discriminates is unjust. The speed limit is the same for everyone, it doesn't vary because of the type of car you drive.
Many of the aversions to cannabis use stem from its illegality. Make something desirable illegal, and it will attract criminality plus ideas of social rebellion.
Legalise cannabis, and the criminal element will be sidelined (maybe even its rebellious connotations).
Most of us aren't going to be impacted by the proposed Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill. A significant minority, however, will continue to be discriminated against if we don't vote for controlled legalisation of cannabis in the current referendum.
People will continue to be imprisoned for possession or supplying cannabis to others. Some young people will unfairly carry a criminal conviction around their necks for the rest of their lives.
Let's deal with the health and social issues caused by inappropriate and excessive alcohol and cannabis use. Let's protect young people from the dangers inherent in both substances.
But if you're a regular user of alcohol, like me, vote for cannabis legalisation. Allow other people the right to the buzz of their choice. To not to do so would be hypocritical.
Because cannabis has been illegal for so long, and historically associated with rebellion, alternative lifestyles and society drop-outs, you may feel uncomfortable ticking "yes".
Overcoming that feeling, however, is the right thing to do. Discrimination and hypocrisy shouldn't have a place in our country's laws.
• Northern Advocate columnist Vaughan Gunson writes about life and politics.