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Smokescreen: The Legalisation of Marijuana Explored

Nico Trompetas debunks marijuana myths and explores the recent wave of legalisation

23rd Oct 2016

Wiz Khalifa is certainly not one to hid away from the blunt

In order to gain the most out of what you are about to read, you’ll need to try and remove from your mind pre-conceived notions of the word ‘drug’. Drug has become a generic wide-ranging word.

There is a huge difference in the effects and damage of different drugs, for example the deadly effects of heroin compared to the comparatively harmless effects of cannabis. One justification for the abandoning of the word ‘drug’ is that both alcohol and tobacco are also drugs but are widely accepted and consumed by society with little consideration that they still fit in this bracket. The key difference between alcohol and tobacco compared to cannabis when it comes to how socially accepted they are is that cannabis is illegal in most countries. I am not going to argue that cannabis has no negative effects on people, I am going to explore the positives of the legalisation of Marijuana and why the positive outweigh the negatives. A few of these benefits include a reduction in crime, a potential boost to the economy and actually safer consumption due to increased transparency.

War On Drugs?

First up - crime. It is really simple. Gangs run off money. The vast majority of that money is drug money. Establishing a legal business for cannabis would severely damage the income of drug money for gangs. The illegality of cannabis doesn’t force people to be criminals, but it does make absolutely ideal conditions for a life of crime. With less financial incentive, they are much less likely to join gangs. Less opportunity to make money will hopefully mean less gang activity. Right now there are far too many gangs on the streets of the UK and by reducing the financial incentives to join gangs then then crimes outside of drug trafficking will also fall. These crimes include common culprits such as assault, murder and extortion. It’s a step in the right direction, If the government legalised drugs such as cannabis, many street gangs would feel the pinch and legitimate businesses would take their place.

’It’s the economy, stupid!’

This leads to the next advantage of legalisation. If we legalise some or all drugs we will have legitimate businesses selling them. Just like with alcohol and tobacco this means that governments can make significant tax revenues. Colorado raised a staggering $70 million from tax on cannabis in one year. That’s on one drug, from an area with a population of 5 million (compared to the UK’s 65+ million). More businesses opening mean there are more jobs available and this will hopefully lead to more economic growth. Once we factor in the huge savings for our police force legalisation is undoubtedly economically advantageous. If we can delineate from the cultural shroud surrounding cannabis, it is clear that it’s legalisation has so many positive economic benefits. We could also consider the economic benefits of tourism as exemplified perfectly by the Netherlands who attract millions of foreigners a year who take advantage of their relaxed drug laws and tourist friendly environment.

Let’s also debunk some of the rubbish rhetoric thrown around against legalisation. That legalisation will massively increase consumption of cannabis. Again in Colorado where they recently legalised cannabis there was no spike in drug use according to The Independent. No one thinks that cigarette smoking is encouraged despite its legality, let’s educate and discourage people from taking drugs and then let them make their own choice. Is cannabis a gateway drug? Perhaps this is true, but only because right now it is illegal. We have to remember that cannabis is a natural product, cocaine for example is synthetic. The methods of consumption are completely different. But when people do something illegal and it seemingly has no consequences, they are more likely to try something else illegal. This is the world of illegal drugs, someone tries a bit of weed and they become a criminal. Channel 5’s controversial series Gangland showed us the reality of the claim cannabis is a gateway drug, it’s only a gateway for dealer, the vast majority of dealers start by selling small amounts of cannabis and then they move onto harder stuff being attracted by the larger profits.

The Myths – Debunked

Again I will reiterate that I will not claim that cannabis is not bad for you. The links with schizophrenia are real. However, it is not as simple as ‘its bad for you so you shouldn’t do it so it should be illegal’, if we applied that, naturally alcohol and tobacco would be illegal, but so would fast food and sugar, in fact we could make a society with no cars, sports or food other than broccoli, to ensure there is no danger in our lives. Of course it is reasonable to have limits to how dangerous legal substances can be. However, many studies show that cannabis is much safer than alcohol and tobacco.

In the US there are 435,000 annual deaths from tobacco (for another time, the power of the tobacco lobbies needs to be looked at), 85,000 from alcohol and 0 from cannabis according to The Independent and The Guardian. This alone is surely strong evidence for cannabis not being as dangerous as these two legal substances. There is also the claim that cannabis makes people lazy. This is a case of correlation not causation as in general it is those who are less motivated to succeed who break the law. In fact, many successful people have smoked cannabis; from Steve Jobs to Barack Obama as well as successful athletes like Usain Bolt and notably Michael Phelps. While this does not disprove the claim that it makes you lazy, it does show that individuals can still be immensely successful and consume cannabis.

If we legalise cannabis, we can make it safer, firstly by educating people about safer ways to consume it and encourage them to do so in safe amounts, as we do with alcohol. And secondly by doing what we do with literally every substance that is legal and regulated. Through the application of Science, we can try and improve the substance and lessen the harmful effects of it in addition to cutting out any of the stuff cannabis is mixed with when sold illegally which is potentially more harmful.

With both the US and now the UK’s governments admitting that there are potential health benefits of cannabis, for example for people who undergo leukaemia and lose their appetite, cannabis can make them hungry again (ever heard of the munchies), it is clear that we should take cannabis out of the hands of dealers, and put it into legal, safe and regulated conditions, allowing adults to make their own choices, as we do with tobacco and alcohol, and start deciding how we are going to spend the money made from taxation and savings in police spending.

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