In the midst of the legalisation of cannabis in Colorado, the issue of cannabis has been thrown back on the table, and has prompted debate among many. The issue of cannabis has long been a divisive and controversial one; however, it should be clear by now that prohibition has failed, both in the United States and here in the UK. This is an authoritarian, counter-productive and outdated policy, which creates more crime and undermines society even further; yes, it is absolutely time to review the draconian drug laws in this country.
Firstly, let us look at the effect it has on those currently with addiction. The law treats these troubled people primarily as criminals, rather than health concerns who need to be treated. This creates an a sense of alienation, and we risk creating a class of scarred, damaged ex-prisoners, who can find no way back into the fold of society. What a country that makes us!
Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that marijuana use in the medical arena has therapeutic and calming effects for those with cancer and other serious illness. It would provide a humane way of easing those who are in pain, and help them find solace through troubling times.
Jay Cavanaugh, PhD, who is the National Director of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC), wrote the following in a 2002 article titled "The Plight of the Chronically Ill," posted on the AAMC website (www.letfreedomgrow.com):
"Many of the chronically ill have successfully sought relief with the use of medical cannabis, an age-old remedy that now shows real scientific efficacy. Hundreds of thousands of the sick have replaced disabling narcotics and other psychotropic medications with nontoxic and benign cannabis. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Folks with spinal injuries able to give up their walkers, AIDS patients able to gain weight and keep their medications down, cancer patients finding relief from the terrible nausea of chemotherapy, chronic pain patients once again functional with their consciousness restored from narcotic lethargy, and folks once disabled from crippling psychiatric disorders and addictions, returned to sanity and society with the assistance of a nontoxic herb with remarkable healing powers."
Surely then, it would be nothing short of cruel to deny patients of a treatment that clearly soothes the emotional and mental pain of chronic illnesses.
Another key point in this debate is the fact that other drugs like tobacco and alcohol are considerably more dangerous than cannabis. As of now, there have been no reported deaths that have come from using cannabis on its own, almost six million people die from tobacco use and 2.5million from harmful use of alcohol each year worldwide ( from the World Health Organization, 2011). And yet, there is no taboo surrounding alcohol or tobacco. Does this make sense to you?
It is clear then that we need to push for a serious review of the drug laws, and for the legalisation of cannabis. When these factors are weighed up, why are we hesitating? The benefits vastly outweigh the dangers.
Cannabis legalisation, it seems, is the current cause célèbre for those who don't have consequential things to advocate. Compared with other - more urgent and more important - issues the world over, making certain substances legal seems trivial and self-indulgent. However, it is not just my job here to denigrate the question itself; I am also required to actually argue against the unleashing of this dangerous and untested drug on the public at large - which I will attempt to do now.
The first statement I shall offer is one I believe to be obvious. Cannabis is dangerous, and therefore making such a dangerous thing legal would be bad. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: the evidence for a causal link between cannabis use and irreversible mental illness is growing, and it is self-evident that legalising a drug will increase the number of people who use it, the frequency of its use and the total quantities concerned.
Legalising cannabis might not just prove to be the first nation-wide test of the gateway drug hypothesis: it might also be gateway legislation as well. I dislike the terms 'hard' and 'soft' drugs, due to the fact that this sort of classification inevitably makes cannabis look like a healthy alternative to the really bad stuff: the Diet Coke of getting high - but this is a not insubstantial point. As we all ought to know by now, such illusions are simply too good to be true.
Another irritating thing about the campaign to have this particular substance accepted by the statute books is the self-righteousness. Bill Maher, in the US, declared on his show (the modestly titled Real Time with Bill Maher) that cannabis legalisation is the new civil rights struggle - after those of marriage equality and the ever-present fights against sexism, racism and the like. His audience-in-a-can duly applauded, by the way.
To me, this remark is not only stupid: it also represents a hideous degradation of the aforementioned: the real civil rights issues. A statement such as this demonstrates the rottenness at the heart of the pro-legalisation lobby: a hedonistic bunch masquerading as martyrs. While there is real suffering, and real hardship, going on elsewhere - an apparently major concern for some people in the West is the ability to make use of recreational poisons without fear of the police getting involved. It is a parochial concern, at best. At worst, it is a deliberate desire for legalisation-endorsed selfishness.
To sum up then; Cannabis use is being increasingly demonstrated to be harmful. The harm it causes is not insignificant - with a death only this month being attributed to 'cannabis toxicity'. For that reason it ought to be banned. I'm not defending the status quo; how we control the supply of drugs has to change (although I reject the misleading use of 'prohibition' to describe the current government's drug policy), but caving in to Russell Brand or Nick Clegg's demands for 'reform' will not lead to less consumption, nor to less damage. It will only create a wider potential scope for harm, and a greater amount of actual suffering.