Drugs: A Logical Step Towards Legalisation

I’ve written a few posts on this blog relating to drugs and my opinions on them and for those who have read them before, you’ll know that I stand very much on the side of legalisation. Very little infuriates me quite as much as being categorised as some gutter-living criminal just because I think drugs have many potential benefits (physically, mentally and spiritually) while these same people binge cheap alcohol and smoke cancer sticks while practically injecting high concentrations of Starbucks coffee directly into their heart. That being said, this post is not meant as a rant (although there certainly will be some of that) but more as a proposal or suggestion that looks at reasons why I believe drugs should be legal as well as a potential solution to get this ball rolling. This post is NOT like my other ones where I heavily reference statistics, peer-reviewed scientific papers or books. Instead, this post is nothing more than opinions and ideas which should hopefully make it a bit more interesting to read than my essay versions.

 

So let me start off by admitting several things in order to remove any presumptions that you may have already. First of all, I am fully aware that many drugs are harmful, addictive, destroy lives, drive people insane etc. If you think harming people physically is enough to make a drug illegal then why are cigarettes still legal? If you think any drug that can impact you mentally should be illegal then why is alcohol legal? The reason I HATE these drugs is because they act as a reminder of how hypocritical our society truly is. One day we’ll look back in sheer disbelief at the fact that our species used to poison itself for entertainment and out of boredom; that we ignored figures, statistics and evidence because taxable products are more important and that nature itself was branded illegal. I mean nobody drinks alcohol or smokes tobacco for their physical or mental health other than to end the addictive cravings that they may have. Following on from that, the drugs that I’m mainly going to be referring to here include weed, MDMA (including its various forms such as ecstasy), LSD, magic mushrooms (specifically psilocybin), DMT and Ayahusca. You may have noticed a pattern or two forming in terms of my drug choice and we’ll get to that later.

 

So why do I take drugs? At this point, that would be a very fair question…but first let me ask you one: why do you (or people you know) drink or smoke? In my experience people might drink for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they are bored and need a source of entertainment, it’s someone’s birthday and that’s how we celebrate, it’s Christmas and that’s how we celebrate, it’s New Year’s Eve and that’s how we celebrate, it’s sunny and that’s how we celebrate, it’s a social norm and therefore if most people are doing it then the rest of us feel out of place and in many cases are even belittled for choosing not to poison ourselves. Want to know what that sounds like to me? Peer pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some incredibly fun and entertaining times with alcohol but I’m using it as my example here simply because it is legal while still being a psychoactive substance. I view alcohol as like a stepping stone that allowed me to turn off my brain to interact with people in a manner that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Now I barely drink because that feeling of losing control or becoming someone that isn’t me is just no longer fun. I often hear people making claims such as “everyone is more truthful when they are drunk” but I find this not only to be moronic but also completely wrong. I mean alcohol can turn you into any sort of person depending on a wide variety of variables. I’ve seen lovely people become angry, bitter and violent just as many times as I’ve seen the opposite event take place. I’ve seen shy people become confident and confident people become Gods (at least in their eyes). I mean alcohol after a certain amount changes who you appear to be, it changes this outer version of you to anyone who is there to witness it. Why is “sorry, I was drunk” now an acceptable excuse for most acts that would otherwise not be so easily forgiven? I’m going off topic here…the point is that you have to keep in mind that alcohol is still a psychoactive substance and it alters the way you think, sometimes drastically. I mean alcohol accounts for most of the violent crime in Scotland (at least in 2011/2012) and nearly half of violent crimes in England and Wales during the same time period. In many cases it removes the need to think all together and turns your evening into nothing but darkness that leaves you waking up the next day with questions that you don’t entirely want to know the answers to. So why do I take drugs? (To get back to the point I was trying to make) Well, in some cases I take them for the same reason as anyone else drinks…I’m bored. For the most part this is only true of weed with the exception of one summer when I’d first accepted the thrills of ecstasy and went a bit crazy…but I view it as a learning curve. Since then weed is the only drug that I’ll take simply because I can. The reason I take any other drug now is for a purpose. For example, the ideas for many of my posts have come to me while smoking weed. I have somewhere between 10 and 20 posts on this blog (I believe). These are only half of what I’ve written which is only a fraction of the ideas that I’ve originally come up with. The notes pad on my phone is full of folders and pages relating to film theories or rants or just random ideas. MDMA can be used to improve a typical night out but it can also be used for exploration of your own mind and consciousness. Taking some MDMA and meditating is incredibly peaceful and spiritual and you can often find yourself in areas of thought you’d never even have imagined. I won’t go through all the drugs I mentioned one by one but ultimately what I think it boils down to is this: Why do I take drugs? I take drugs because in many cases they provide an experience that may not be possible to have otherwise. I think that when used correctly, drugs can make us see ourselves, others, the world or even the entire universe in a whole new light. I take drugs because I’ll never be an astronaut or a sailor, I’ll never be the first person to reach the top of a mountain or plant my flag onto undiscovered land. Yet my need for exploration drums away in my mind as a reminder that there are places that literally nobody else has explored: the deep, dark pits of my consciousness.

 

 

So what is my idea? Well, I agree with the claim that the war on drugs has failed spectacularly. Isn’t it funny that the anti-drug campaigners appear to be the paranoid and delusional ones of us all? At the end of the day, people are always going to find a way to take the drugs they want to take. We saw it with the prohibition when moonshine and other such spirits became available to those who felt their freedoms and rights had been taken from them unfairly. Same thing happens now with other drugs. The issue is that most people realise early on that all those anti-drug campaigns the schools run are bullshit and that when the police and your educators are lying or misleading you that something is up. It dawned upon me that legalisation of drugs might not happen in my life time. Even the legalisation of weed is looking more and more doubtful. The issue, however, is not the drugs themselves, but the education of said drugs and the reasons why people take them. I mean anything can be dangerous depending on whose possession it is in. A hammer can be used to build but it can also be used to bludgeon someone’s skull until their brain leaks out. People use cars every day and yet at any given moment someone could drive one metre to the left and hit 10, 20 or 30 people with a speeding, metal death machine. Maybe we just need to look at drugs for what they truly are and stop viewing them as either holy, lifesaving plants or tricks by Satan that lead to an eternity of suffering. Drugs can be positive and negative. So why not educate people in such a manner that as an adult they can choose whether to take them or not? I mean I can choose to eat McDonalds for the rest of my life or smoke until I can’t breathe or drink until my organs fail. How much money would be saved if after a certain number of hospital visits for binge eating food, drowning your sorrows with alcohol or smoking like a chimney the police got involved and made it actually illegal for you to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or eat shitty food? I guarantee that these people wouldn’t be labelled criminals. They would be seen as sick individuals who required help. That doesn’t mean that nobody else should be able to go buy a happy meal just because some people have never heard the term “moderation”. I mean if our health is really the main issue then what’s the deal with all these other areas that cause such suffering and death? When you see the statistics for alcohol-related deaths, it’s actually insane! I seriously advise you to go and look for yourself. (There is a link to some of these on my weed legalisation post but you may find more recent statistics through ONS). What if drugs were legal but similar to a gun or a car, you needed a pass or licence in order to legally use them? And that, ladies and gentlemen, leads us onto what would be involved in gaining access to this pass.

 

In order to be granted access to drugs, I think it would be important to view the risks. With some drugs there is a risk of addiction. I mean if we allow people to use meth then we run the risk of them becoming addicted to a highly destructive drug. So how do we show people the effects of drugs? Well, we arrange talks or interviews with people who have taken them. I mean how many people would come forth and claim their lives had been destroyed by weed? Not many I’d imagine. Would every single person who has taken DMT be lining up to scream “BEWARE!” at all those would-be trippers? I doubt it. Like any form of education, I think the first step would be attending a lecture or seminar which would look at the specific drug(s) you planned to take. It would run through some basic information such as what the drug was, how it affected you, how it’s taken, etc. It would of course also explain some of the risks but not in a “YOU TAKE THIS, YOU DIE!” sort of way but more in an err on the side of caution manner. For example, with MDMA it would be explained that your body could overheat causing your brain to swell up…BUT that by drinking water throughout the night in small doses you can help to keep your body hydrated. These lectures would also discuss what situations are best for certain drugs. I mean you’re probably not going to take DMT with a large group of people but you might smoke a joint in one. Ultimately you would then be tested in some form to see if you were aware of basic safety measures to take and understand the risks. These tests would also attempt to understand why you want to take the drug. Perhaps you have to submit an essay of some form explaining your reasoning and motivations. This way, we rule out anyone taking them just for the sake of it or out of boredom or because they are being forced to. I mean sure, drugs would still be available in the same manner that they are today but I know plenty of people who don’t take drugs now but would if they could do so legally. By creating this hurdle or wall that would have to be passed, you would immediately exclude a large number of people who perhaps shouldn’t be taking drugs in the first place. Of course the important aspect of this process would be that it wouldn’t be controlled or monitored by solely anti-drug people but rather by those who see the dangers of drugs but also acknowledge that they have potentially beneficial uses as well. I mean if you had the current government in charge of such a process then nobody would get one of these passes/licenses and the entire endeavour would be pointless. Similarly, for the process to have any validity, we couldn’t just be handing passes out to everyone (although that would essentially be the end goal).
I think the best way to look at it is like this: people who want to take drugs are going to take drugs, regardless of the law or potential consequences of being caught with an illegal substance and more often than not they will do so either unaware of the dangers or just ignore them completely. Is it not a much smarter solution to educate any would-be drug users so that they can decide whether they still want to participate in such activities after being given all the necessary information but also so that if they do take drugs, they are better equipped to do so safely? I mean the dangers of alcohol are known but people still go to schools to explain how to drink alcohol as safely as possible and what precautions can be taken to reduce risk. I mean you can’t buy a packet of cigarettes without seeing photos of black lungs or throat cancer, yet you still have the right to smoke them. Not only would education serve a tremendously beneficial purpose but alongside it, we could have the same organisation supplying drugs that have been tested and are as safe as can possibly be. These would be taxable and as we have seen from areas where weed is not legal, this taxable income is incredibly beneficial for the whole society. We already have many communities set up to offer such guidance because the drug-taking community isn’t a grim, dark place where dreams go to die. For example, Pill Report supplies user-reviews of ecstasy pills and gives other information such as strength, effects, what ingredients are included, not to mention whether there are any warnings for a certain pill. Leafly, a site for weed, supplies information on different strains and includes information such as the levels of paranoia or dry mouth you are likely to experience from smoking it or whether you are likely to get the giggles.

 

Of course this would only be the first step. Legalisation (or semi-legalisation) would be the beginning of a new era of human spirituality. Imagine what it would be like if you could go to a nearby city within the Western world and stay at an ayahuasca retreat for 10 days. People who regularly go on ayahausca trips have higher levels of serotonin than the average person. Basically, they are producing more happiness neurotransmitters than the rest of us. If some huge pharmaceutical company created the exact same benefit with a pill, it would be seen as revolutionary and ground breaking but because it’s ancient and involves hallucinations, it’s immediately ruled out as dangerous and negative.

 

I believe that as an adult, I have the right to choose what I do with not only my body but also my mind. Nobody stops me from getting tattoos or piercings that I could come to regret in later life. I can risk my life in the army from the age of 16 where my legs could be blown clean off or I could return with PTSD that makes my life unbearable. I mean did you know that more US soldiers have killed themselves than have died fighting in Iraq? Something like 22 veterans commit suicide every single day! Yet that trauma is seen as more acceptable than enjoying what nature created? Even then, MDMA has been shown to be hugely beneficial alongside therapy for soldiers suffering from PTSD and even they can’t use it. So you’re literally telling me that our governments view it as acceptable to enter a warzone where you could die at any moment, where your morality is tested and your faith in humanity destroyed, where you might see your friends be blown to pieces and even injured in such a way yourself…but that a drug that could potentially help you cope or recover from that very same conflict is too dangerous for you? In some countries you can get less time in jail for violently attacking someone than you would for being caught with weed. So a victimless crime is now as bad, if not worse than assaulting some stranger? If I can choose to go to war or choose to get so drunk that I fight my friends or choose to smoke 43 packets of cigarettes a day, then should I not have the same choices for drugs that can actually positively influence not only my life but the life of those around me? Isn’t happiness the main goal for every single thing we do in this life?

 

So there you have it! My idea for how we can best tackle the current drug dilemma that is facing our countries. Education, education, and education are the main components for how to reduce drug-related deaths and as a way of encouraging potential drug-users to take their drug of choice for the right reasons. Of course in our current political climate, it is unlikely that anything of this nature would ever make it through the doors of parliament but it’s a nice thought all the same. Until then, I guess we’ll have no choice but to jump on the bandwagon and make our way to the nearest watering hole in order to overindulge in alcohol for the third time in one week. As always, I love reading any feedback or comments!

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Controversial Questions: Our Survey Said…

So this post is going to be very different to my usual posts. I had planned on discussing the human population and the direction it is taking us in but I had an idea after my first paragraph that seemed far more interesting. The paragraph below is how I started and the rest is what I ended up doing with my time:

As a species it seems we are facing an ever increasing number of threats which can range from climate change to wars to our gradually depleting supply of fossil fuels. Many of these issues that we face have one very obvious cause that seems to be viewed as a taboo topic: our population. When we hear a discussion about global warming taking place it is very rare to hear a solution to be ‘limiting our rapidly growing population’. In fact if you were even to suggest that we limit how many children one person can have (or more accurately: the number that a couple can have) you’d probably be chased out of your village with pitchforks or burnt at the stake.

Unlike my other blog posts, I decided to do a little “research” in the form of asking random people the following question: “Is it immoral to suggest that we start limiting how many children any one person can have? If so, why?” I was asking this because I was curious about what people thought. I’m in two minds about it (which was originally going to be the focus of this post but it’s now a discussion for another time I think) but I decided to keep track of the responses so that I could get a sort of overview. Here is what I found:

When asked the previously mentioned question 38% of people believed it was immoral to control the number of children people can have, 59% didn’t view it as immoral and 3% were undecided. This was out of a sample of 100 people. Since I wanted to look at why people viewed it one way or the other, I also kept brief notes (as well as some direct quotes) of what some of the responses were. I found there were two main reasons that people viewed it as immoral: the first one was to do with freedom while the second one was largely to do with the nature of such a proposal. In regards to freedom, I found that many of those questioned viewed it as a human right to choose how many children you have. One individual stated:

“The United States is philosophically built on the idea that people get to live their lives their own way without government coming in and interfering, as long as that person is not materially harming another person. The government’s job is to prevent people from hurting one another, not to come in and coddle citizens and tell them what to do.”

With others saying: “Yes it is immoral. You have no right to interfere in another person’s lifestyle and reproductive choice.” and “Because what other people do is none of your fucking business!”

Those who had been concerned with the overall idea had mentioned the political aspect of it. Aside from how blatantly oppressive and authoritarian a move this would be, the issue of the societal effects were also raised i.e. that there would be too many children and elderly people in comparison to the working adults of the country after a generation or two. One person even described such a move as a “slippery slope” which of course it would be because if the government can control your reproduction, then what is next?

Considering that the majority of people asked did not view it as an immoral move, there were surprisingly few comments on why this was the case. Many were aware that air pollution and climate change in general were largely due to the rapidly increasing population. There were even a few people who pointed out that in fact it is immoral NOT to go ahead with a plan like this due to the damage our species is doing to each other, other animals and the planet itself as a result of our reproduction rate. One person even took a more personal angle (which may have been an insight into his own childhood) and stated that having lots of children in itself is immoral because each child gets less and less attention as an individual and instead becomes part of a larger group. I found that China’s one child policy was seen as too strict and was in general a flawed idea but that allowing two children would be the perfect amount.

 

So after this first little survey, I got a little carried away. As you may or may not have noticed from my other posts, I don’t exactly agree with the current drug laws and I view the war on drugs (if you can call it that) as a complete failure. So when I found many people responding to my questions with statements like “people get to live their lives their own way without government’s coming in and interfering, as long as that person is not materially harming another person” and “Yes it is immoral. You have no right to interfere in another person lifestyle” or even “Because what other people do is none of your fucking business!” I couldn’t help but wonder if people would apply this same view about freedom of choice to drug use. I decided that I’d start off with something a bit more in the middle so rather than asking about drug use, I merely asked the following question to a different set of 100 people:

“Should it not be a basic human right to explore your own consciousness by whatever means you choose? Provided you don’t bring harm to others”

You’ll notice that I left this question fairly open. While I was asking with drug use in mind, I didn’t say it specifically and the question remained open enough that it could include such things as meditation or praying. Again, I asked 100 people (purely to make the percentages super-easy to work out) and I got the following results: 80% answered ‘yes’, while 18% answered ‘no’. There were also 2% of people who were undecided or didn’t really know how to answer the question. I also decided that I would once again keep track of any general statements or in some cases, direct quotes.

In terms of the opinions the ‘yes’ group had, many were immediately aware that I was referring to drugs. I have to say that I enjoyed reading some of the responses, some of which were as follows:

If you take LSD you will become peaceful and non-conformist which will tear down the very fabric our society is built on”, “Exploring your consciousness through any outlet – whether it be drugs or an activity is acceptable. Like obviously, you shouldn’t go around raping kids to release your inner consciousness but what the fuck is smoking a little weed going to do.” And “Actually, I could live with a controlled drug use system. Unfortunately socio-political conservatives exist.” Many simply viewed it as a victimless crime and even those who knew that drugs can cause harm, seemed to be for the idea of some sort of retreat or something where an individual could go to take drugs. The reason I worded the question in such a way was because I wanted to stay away from the idea of recreational drug use and stick closer to a more spiritual aim from taking such substances. Before I move on to some interesting moments I had with the ‘no’ group I’d like to point out that quite a few of them started out by answering ‘yes’ but as the idea of drug use slowly dawned on them, their answer swiftly changed, usually followed by some form of statement that condemned anyone who touched drugs. While there were some well-formed answers such as “Most humans lack self-discipline and even the willpower to do anything. If you give people the easy route, they will destroy themselves.” Or “Just because it doesn’t hurt someone doesn’t make it a basic human right. Suicide isn’t a human right!” (to which someone interestingly replied “it should be!” There were also a high number of just plain ridiculous responses which certainly added to my entertainment: “Yeah join ISIS for that”, “Go to rehab, druggie!”, “Taking drugs isn’t exploring one’s consciousness” and last but not least “Go away, hippies!”

 

This led me onto my third and final little survey. I decided to stick with the drug topic after my many interesting responses from those I asked in the previous question. I initially started off asking people which group of drugs was more dangerous: alcohol and tobacco or weed and MDMA. After a couple of responses I decided this was too vague a question as I don’t think anyone would dispute that tobacco is dangerous, whereas all the others are largely up for debate depending on who you ask. So instead I changed the question to the following: “Which of these 4 drugs is the most dangerous to the individual: alcohol, tobacco, weed or MDMA?”

I’m going to approach this from the opposite direction this time and instead show you some of the wonderful and not so wonderful comments that came attached to these responses. I’ll try and split these up into the categories they relate to as best I can but many were comparisons.

Let’s start with the world’s favourite legal drug: alcohol. I found many of the responses to alcohol quite disturbing. Unfortunately I didn’t keep count of how many time “alcohol is not a drug” was mentioned but if I had to guess, I’d say at least five times. Many people did in fact seem rather shocked that I’d even included alcohol in with the other three with one person asking “alcohol? Really?” Not to mention areas where people were just misinformed: “…alcohol packs a punch but it leaves your body after a day, even if it does do damage.” This of course is a very untrue statement as it depends entirely on how much you drink and ignores the fact that a heavy night of alcohol consumption can leave your body recovering from the dehydration for weeks. I mean it is a poison after all. This final one is a suitable link to our next drug: “Weed destroys lives. Alcohol doesn’t.” I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw this statement. Clearly this individual had never heard any stories about alcohol…ever. He/she certainly hadn’t seen any up-to-date statistics of alcohol related illnesses or the percentage of people affected by alcohol dependency (I mention this in one of my weed posts).

Speaking of weed, the Devil’s lettuce, Mary Jane, Cannabis…whatever you want to call it. The overall response to weed didn’t really surprise me but there were certainly some interesting comments that I’d be a fool not to mention: “All drugs should be illegal. No one in this household smokes weed. It literally causes death!” While the idea of making every drug illegal is certainly something I might discuss later on, I couldn’t help but feel the sheer impending doom that this individual believed weed would cause. The anti-weed propaganda sure had taken its toll on some of these poor souls who were coming out with statements like “weed…you can overdose on it!” Said no one…ever. We could always go for the even more dramatic one: “weed: it’s too addictive, it causes cancer and you could overdose on it.” While I didn’t expect everyone to know everything about each of the drugs, I was somewhat surprised when asked “what’s the difference between MDMA and weed?”

This seems like the perfect moment to switch onto the infamous Methylenedioxymethamphetamine which before I go on to discuss, I’d like to point out that I did keep track of how many times “What is MDMA?” was asked and I can tell you that it was thirteen times. Unfortunately for the results, many of the people asking this question had already given me their answer. MDMA did seem to provide the most mystery to those I was asking. Of those who did know of the drug, many viewed it simply as ecstasy (which I’d argue is not the case). Here is a quick summary of some of the questions I was asked in relation to it: “MDMA, is that like LSD?”, “MDMA, is that like meth and shit?”, “I don’t even know what MDMA is. I’ll go for the strange sounding one.”, “What’s MDMA? I think it’s a hallucinogen.”, “MDMA. I don’t know what it is but it sounds strong, like DMT.”, “Probably MDMA because I have no clue what it is.” There were of course some slightly more conclusive responses such as “MDMA cuts off oxygen to your system”, “MDMA can fuck you up fastest especially since its usually just meth and your dealer is lying to you cause you are fuckin dumb” or “MDMA because most of the time it isn’t pure and contains shit.” Speaking about containing shit, let’s move onto the infamous cancer-causer.

Tobacco didn’t really receive a huge response in terms of comments. I was kind of shocked to see “Tobacco isn’t a drug” but that was really the only comment that stood out. Before I share the results with you, I’ll share this one comment which an individual had attached to their response:

No matter what you do, you die. So just do all the drugs you can and don’t give two shits!” While I don’t agree with this statement whatsoever, I did enjoy reading it. Anyway, there were 200 responses for this little survey and I’ll reveal the results to you in ascending order, just to build up suspense or whatever: In fourth place with 8% of votes for the most dangerous drug is…weed; In third place with a surprising 24% is tobacco; In second place with 28% is MDMA and last but not least with a staggering 40% of the votes is alcohol.

 

So that sums up my little ‘social-experiment’ that wasted several hours of my life. Before anyone feels the need to comment, I do understand that this is largely unscientific. If I were writing a report I’d point out the many flaws such as the questions themselves, the mode of carrying out the survey, the lack of participants etc. However, since this is not meant to be a scientific paper or article, I don’t have to do that. I will probably carry out similar things in the future but keeping the topics more closely related and actually writing it up a bit better. If you have anything you’d like to see asked/discussed just let me know and if it interests me I’ll happily do it. I haven’t touched on religion yet so I’d enjoy venturing through that valley sometime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weed: An Opinionated Representation of Scientific Information

At this time, marijuana is a class B drug in the UK, which according to Gov.uk means that merely for possession, you could receive “Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both” while supply and production can get you “up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both”. However, we can see a glimmer of hope as there is currently a petition calling for the legalisation of cannabis which has reached 217,881 signatures (at the time of writing) that has forced MPs to have a debate on the topic. (See: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104349). It is unlikely that anything will change due to this debate but we can all keep our fingers crossed. As a debate date has now been set (12th October 2015), I feel it is important to highlight some key facts and opinions on the matter. There are of course several areas to take into consideration when looking at such a topic: health, the economy, and human rights. There is also a God argument (i.e. God put these plants here for a reason) but as an atheist, I don’t feel it’s within my right to use that as a point of argument.

Health

In the UK, there seems to be this rather obscure way of looking at drugs, both legal and illegal. For example, alcohol is seen as a perfectly normal drug to consume due to its legality. To the extent that when somebody mentions that they drank so much they were sick or drank so much that they have no memory of the previous evening, it is in fact not viewed with concern for one’s health (both physical and mental) but rather seen as normality. This is most true among young people, who arguably it harms the most. Considering the huge health risks related to alcohol, I find it surprising as well as rather hypocritical that such a drug could not only remain legal, but be heavily advertised and therefore encouraged across the country. The World Health Organisation found that in 2012, alcohol attributed towards the following deaths worldwide:

  • 5% of cancer related deaths;
  • 4% of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes;
  • 1% of unintentional injuries;
  • 2% of gastrointestinal diseases

This is just to name a few but it is quite clear that worldwide alcohol accounts for a huge attributor to certain illnesses/disease. (See: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/112736/1/9789240692763_eng.pdf). Of course many might view this as a personal choice i.e. if one wishes to drink excessively, then it is perfectly within one’s right to do so (although these same people seem to view the same argument (when applied to weed) as ridiculous and moronic). However, what about when alcohol consumption impacts the lives of others? For example, between 2011 and 2012, it was found that alcohol accounted for 40% of all violent crimes reported in England and Wales. During the same time period in Scotland, a staggering 63% of all violent crime reported to the police, were alcohol related. (See: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/opinions-and-lifestyle-survey/drinking-habits-amongst-adults–2012/sty-alcohol-consumption.html). Considering that alcohol is one of the UK’s main health concerns with tobacco also contributing to a huge array of illnesses including several types of cancer, it would seem that a wise solution would be to encourage or at the very least allow the people of the United Kingdom to consume a safer alternative? Luckily for us, recent studies have suggested that cannabis can be up to 114x safer that alcohol (See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311234/). I mean this alone is a reason for legalisation. If young adults choose to stay in and get high, they’ll not only be choosing the healthier alternative but actually be saving themselves a huge amount of money. If you visit any anti-drug website or speak to most members of the public, you will find that one of the biggest risks associated with the consumption of cannabis (as suggested by the UK government and media) is its effect on mental health. However, again looking at recent studies, it has been suggested that there is no connection between the consumption of cannabis during adolescence and mental or physical health problems in later life (See: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/adb-adb0000103.pdf). I would like to point out that the two previously mentioned studies are in fact from this year unlike the slightly outdated studies mentioned by the UK government during their response to the cannabis legalisation petition, which were from no later than 2008.

Let us not forget that legalisation does not mean that young people will in any way be encouraged to consume cannabis. It would of course be appropriate for age restrictions to be put in place similar to alcohol, tobacco and gambling. The benefit of legalisation is that cannabis can be better regulated and controlled. A common misconception with cannabis is that it is a gateway drug to harder, more dangerous drugs. It has in fact been suggested that it is the social aspect of buying cannabis that causes this gateway-like effect, as individuals have to have contact with dealers in order to acquire their cannabis. If we remove the backstreet drug deals from the equation, those individuals wishing to consume cannabis would be able to purchase it within a safe environment.

Forgetting about recreational use for a moment, it is important to remember that medical marijuana is used in many parts of the world to help individuals cope with certain illnesses or ailments. There are in fact lists and lists of treatment uses for medical marijuana (none of which are currently used in the UK due to the fact that using it as a form of medicine is still illegal, along with recreational use). Rather than listing them all, I’ll simply highlight some of the more important aspects of medical marijuana:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: There is strong evidence to suggest that consuming marijuana regularly can in fact delay the onset of this disease. Not only that but it can delay the progression of it as well. Similar results have been found in other neurodegenerative conditions.
  • Chronic Pain: Chronic pain can arise from a number of issues and can impact many people in such a way that they can struggle with day-to-day activities. Clinical trials using cannabis (as well as placebo conditions) suggest that cannabis is both an efficient and safe way of treating individuals who suffer from chronic pain.
  • Crohn’s Disease: This is another amazing way of using cannabis. Clinical trials showed interesting results in Crohn’s patients with 50% achieving complete remission and over 90% achieving substantial improvement.
  • Multiple Sclerosis: While promising research is still underway, there does appear to be a clear consensus among many scientists and doctors that cannabis can be as safe an effect as a palliative treatment for multiple sclerosis.
  • (See: http://clear-uk.org/static/media/PDFs/medicinal_cannabis_the_evidence2.pdf).

A staggering 500 million people within first world countries have access to medical cannabis (legally of course). There are various risks associated with using cannabis as a treatment method but when we compare it to currently legal forms of medicine, is it really any worse? There are many cases were medicine being used as treatment actually has worse side effects than the illness itself. For example, some antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia can in fact cause very severe side effects, to the point where the patient would have to be switched to an alternative. Even if we ignore the above mentioned positive effects of marijuana when used for medicinal purpose, what about individuals suffering from a terminal illness? There are many instances of people using marijuana as a coping mechanism for pain between treatments such as chemotherapy. Are we really within our right, or more importantly is the government within its right to deny these individuals their coping mechanism? I’ll briefly discuss the human rights side of this debate later on, but for now I think we have covered the basis of the health argument and since it’s been made clear that politicians are really not concerned with the health of their people (despite what they may claim), let’s look at what really matters to them the most…money.

Economy

The economy of the world appears to be in a fairly dark place but what better way to cure it than by supplying it with some marijuana. For a moment, let’s ignore the effect that weed has on health. Sure it could be good, it could be bad, it could be a bit of both or it could be neither…but for now, let us just pretend that it has no health effects whatsoever. Focussing on a solely economic argument, do you think that is would be a positive or negative thing?

Some might argue that it would have a negative effect, believing that weed legalisation will lead to stoners across the country getting high and lazing around on their sofa, watching children’s cartoons and eating 3x their usual intake of food all instead of turning up to work. Is this really a realistic view of what would happen though? Most people who would smoke weed post-legalisation would be the people who already do so we can rule out the UK coming to an immediate stand-still due to the entire country being baked. Anyone who makes this argument forgets that we actually have a good insight into the effect of legalisation on the economy.

Colorado is now famous for its legalisation of marijuana, not just for medical purposes but also for recreational use. Analysis of Colorado’s economy are of course still on going and it is definitely still too early to tell what the long term effects of legalisation may be, but let’s look at what we know so far. Washington Post carried out analysis on the tax data from the state’s Department of Revenue and found that in 2014, Colorado sold slightly short of $700 million worth of marijuana: $386 million of this was medical marijuana while $313 million was purely recreational. Of course sales alone don’t mean much, as money has to make its way back to the people in order for this to be a beneficial venture for all. Luckily $63 million worth of tax revenue was collected and an extra $13 million was collected for licenses and fees, keeping in mind that this is looking at purely the money from marijuana directly and doesn’t even take into account other areas of purchase such as bongs, food, drinks etc. Plus, now that Colorado is doing so well, the whole industry is acting as a tourist magnet. Many people travel far and wide in order to visit distilleries of famous alcohol and Colorado is jumping on that idea but with a much more interesting drug. The tours are to be called “High Tours” and will act as a tourist attraction as well as a form of transparency for what goes on behind the closed doors of weed growing. With people making the journey to Colorado, one can only imagine the domino effect this will have on its economy with hotels, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops etc. On top of this, figures referenced by drugpolicy.org (see: https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Colorado_Marijuana_Legalization_One_Year_Status_Report.pdf) suggest that Colorado currently has the fastest growing economy in the entirety of the United States. As well as this, unemployment rates are at a six year low. Now obviously I’m not going to try and argue that all of that is a result of legalising weed but at the same time, legalisation clearly hasn’t had the horrific impact that the UK government claims it will. Colorado has actually claimed so much money through the taxation of marijuana that they are struggling to decide where to put it. A lot of it has gone into their healthcare and education systems, including many youth prevention schemes. While many support legalisation, it would without a doubt be ridiculously irresponsible to encourage or even allow minors to consume any drug. Similarly to alcohol, there needs to be a level of education that allows children the opportunity to learn the side effects and dangers of all drugs. $2 million of marijuana tax money has been used to help fund community-based youth service programs that offer guidance and information in relation to marijuana.

Human Rights

I’ve already mentioned the level of hypocrisy for the UK government to deny weed smokers their high, yet encourage alcohol consumption. But what about weed compared to much more ordinary aspects of life: Food for example. You can’t walk ten steps in most cities without seeing the iconic golden arches of McDonalds or its competitors such as Burger King, despite the fact that obesity is becoming more and more of an issue throughout Western society. Yet if someone told you that you couldn’t eat that greasy, artery clogging Big Mac that you’ve been craving all week you would be outraged. Imagine the protests if the government denied people the right to fast food or alcohol or even just cigarettes, anarchy would tear this country apart. Our government of course can act like they have a clean conscience by putting the dangers of these products where you can see them. For anybody who smokes, you will be aware of the disturbing images and warning printed on the packets of cigarettes while fast food instead comes with your GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) showing that you’re getting x% of your GDA from a portion of French Fries. Of course McDonalds isn’t solely to blame for obesity the same way Strongbow isn’t to blame for alcohol related illness, yet they still play a vital role: Despite this, McDonald’s sponsor sporting events such as the Olympics even though most of these athletes never touch a McDonald’s. Similarly, Strongbow can sponsor events such as Tough Mudder, an event that has the single focus of being about physical and mental fitness. I mean it is beyond ridiculous but the strange thing is that people barely even question it. So if an individual can eat a McDonalds for every meal until their heart stops or drink until they are diagnosed with one of the many alcohol related illnesses, shouldn’t stoners be allowed to smoke weed? I mean studies I mentioned earlier show strong evidence for how safe weed is in comparison to alcohol (in case you forgot, it’s 114x safer).

Will there be accidents because of weed? Quite possibly. Will some people abuse it? Probably. Would that really be a valid reason for denying people access to it? Since when do we base our laws on what a very small proportion of the population might be capable of, I mean knives are used for stabbings yet we don’t make everybody fill their kitchen drawers with sporks or plastic knives in order to avoid this problem. Not to mention extreme sports that result in injury and death all the time. Rugby for example is currently being studied due to the high level of concussions and other head injuries that are leading to long term health effects. Yet it is ridiculous to think that rugby would be made illegal because there are a few negatives effects for a small minority of those taking part.

In the US, you don’t have to venture much further than Fox News to hear a reporter claim that people who smoke weed are menaces to society, either by committing crime or lazing around all day not working. You could also follow what the Fox News medical correspondent had to say “It actually causes heart attacks. It increases your heart rate. And on and on. We’re seeing in Colorado that we had 13 kids that came to the emergency [room] and ended up in the ICU as a result of overdose from marijuana. Now we have crack babies coming in because pregnant women are smoking this whole marijuana business”. Not to mention the ludicrous and contradictory statements made by HLN host Nancy Grace. The Young Turks highlight this on an episode of their show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYiej4Qp5Jo). These things aren’t hugely relevant but they are fairly entertaining to see.

Why is weed legalisation a human rights issue? It’s quite simple. By making weed illegal, the government are basically saying that you can’t grow a plant in your garden and if you do grow this plant in your garden or home or greenhouse, you could be arrested. Why would you want to grow this plant? Maybe because you have pain that it helps or perhaps it’s a solely recreational purpose but none the less, this plant is illegal and how dare you try and enjoy free drugs when there are overpriced drugs you can buy from your local shop. This plant that can’t even be used for evil deeds or to create weapons with, could potentially lead to heavier consequences than assaulting someone on the street. What does it tell you when your government and a large percentage of your country ignore recent evidence and instead stick to what in their opinion is the right choice. Western society likes to deem itself “top of the world” and “free” yet adults in this country are actually denied the right to do what they want with their own consciousness (although let’s not forget that the UK also has a system called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) which is essentially a way of firing nuclear missiles back at a country that fires them at us so that we all melt from radiation and the world is essentially ruined for everybody not involved in whatever insignificant squabble caused the attack in the first place. So perhaps we’re not as evolved as we like to think).

A typical conclusion might round up the mentioned arguments and try to fit them into a final statement that highlights the essay as a whole, making it clear to the reader which main points are the most important but also which side of the argument the individual is in favour of. I don’t see that as being necessary here as it’s very clear that legalisation is in my opinion, the smarter and sane option. The topic will be debated in a few days in parliament and I can only see it being shot down and forgotten about for another decade or so. One of the biggest issues that weed has is climbing the obstacle of public opinion. Misinformation through the propaganda machine that is mainstream media has led people to follow this misguided belief that weed is on the same level as heroin or meth. We are raised hearing only the negatives of drugs and all the damage they can do. Our schools teach us wrong information in an attempt to scare us out of even trying these sinister substances that are supposed to cause our lives to spiral down into misery, poverty and despair. The famous comedian Bill Hicks mentions the legality of drugs in many, many of his routines but this one in particular I feel related to the UK (even though in the quote he refers to America):

“If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.”