In countries all around the world, marijuana, also known as cannabis, is being decriminalized, or even made legal. But is this a good idea? Not more than a few years ago, all we heard about this drug is how terrible it is, and what it does to its users, but nowadays, most media outlets are downplaying the harmful sides of marijuana. In this article, we will discuss why the mentality over this drug changed, and some arguments for and against the legalization of recreation use of cannabis.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Marijuana—also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. Some people smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints; in pipes, water pipes (sometimes called bongs), or in blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps). Marijuana can also be used to brew tea and, particularly when it is sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, is frequently mixed into foods (edibles) such as brownies, cookies, or candies. Vaporizers are also increasingly used to consume marijuana.”
Marijuana is being legalized on the account that most people view it as a relatively safe drug. As of now, there have been no documented deaths from overdosing on marijuana.
This legalization is also a response to the failure of the war on drugs, an attempt by the USA, Mexico and other countries to end the importation, manufacture, sale, and use of illegal drugs. This ‘war’ cost billions to no avail, as the amount of people who take drugs has not curved. This forced them to take a new approach to the problem, decriminalization and legalization of cannabis, a soft drug, to transfer the money made from this field from criminals to regularized businesses.
There are those who argue that Marijuana shouldn’t be made legal, since it is a gateway drug. They say that if it’s legalized, there will be a spike in the use of much more dangerous drugs. A 2015 study found that about 45% of lifelong marijuana users took some other illegal drug at some point. Legalizing marijuana could reinforce this trend; as more young people try legal marijuana, they might end up trying harder drugs.
But it turns out that the real gateway to drugs are cigarettes. One study showed that teens who started smoking before the age of 15 were 80% more likely to use illegal drugs than those who didn’t.
But if that’s the case, how could making more drugs legal stop the use of hard drugs?
At first, it’s important to acknowledge that people don’t use drugs because they’re legal or not. If you want to buy any illicit drug, you’ll always find someone happy to sell. The real question is why do people develop an unhealthy relationship with drugs at all? Many of these people use it as an unhealthy coping tool. Studies have shown that a majority of marijuana users had a difficult childhood, early trauma, low social status and depression, and therefore use it to escape from their problems. The truth is, drugs don’t solve any of those problems, and instead become a new problem. But punishing people for their coping mechanisms doesn’t change anything about the underlying causes either.
It is also noted that marijuana is unsafe and addictive. Around 10% of those who try marijuana at least once become hooked on the drug. However, that percentage is nothing compared to the 16% who consume alcohol and the 32% of people who try cigarettes. We know for sure alcohol affects your brain and destroys your liver, while cigarettes kill your arteries, destroys your lungs and cause cancer. 3.3 million people die from alcohol abuse each year, while smoking kills more than 6 million people and nobody is proposing to prohibit them.
Marijuana is a drug, and just like every other drug, it is not harmless. But best way to protect society from its negative consequences is legalization and regulation. Legalization doesn’t mean endorsing it. It means taking responsibility for the risks it poses and acting towards decreasing such risks rather than allowing the citizens who want the drug to buy it from criminals and drug cartels.
For information regarding the local situation and young people’s views on the use of cannabis, check out this survey conducted by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ.
Written by: Nathan Portelli