A Justification for the Criminalization of Tobacco!

Don’t let the title fool you, I’m actually a supporter of drug legalization. However, the hypocrisy in this country has to be called out. As misguided as many may view my opinion as being, I’m of the belief that as adults, we should have the right to choose what we do or don’t put into our bodies. If it were up to me, all soft-drugs would be legalized or at the very least decriminalized. We live in a world where it’s acceptable to eat, drink, and smoke yourself to death, provided you do so on the legal, taxable substances. Make no mistake: the most dangerous thing about soft-drugs is getting caught with them. Taking the government view on these matters into consideration, I’m going to explore the legality of certain substances in order to truly highlight the blatant hypocrisy and to demonstrate that public safety is not the government’s concern.

Understanding the Law

Tobacco UK

image via Wikimedia

I’m from the UK, and so I’ll be composing this argument with the UK government in mind. Depending on the information and research available, I will occasionally focus on specific countries within the UK, mostly Scotland and England. It speaks volumes that we have to travel all the way back to 1971 in order to view the law controlling drugs in the UK.

The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) serves to classify illegal substances into one of three categories, known as the ABC system. ‘A’ represents the most harmful drugs and ‘C’ represents the least harmful (as far as illegal drugs are concerned). ‘B’ represents some form of arbitrary middle ground. Unlike many other countries, the UK does not attempt to clearly define the “entry requirements” for each class in the ABC system. As the parliamentary website states:

“The Misuse of Drugs Act did not specify why particular drugs were placed in Class A, B or C but did create an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to keep the classification of drugs under review.”

Cannabis has an interesting history within the UK’s ABC system. Originally a class B, it was reclassified as class C in 2004. However, it was moved back to class B in 2008 as a result of stronger strains becoming available and the potential connection this had to mental health issues. Yet around 7.2% of adults (between 16 and 59) have used the drug, which is around 2.4 million people.

Soft Drugs vs Hard Drugs

Tobacco UK

image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned, the UK does not divide its illegal substances into categories based upon the addictive qualities and overall harm of the drugs. This distinction leads to terms such as ‘soft drugs’ and ‘hard drugs’. These are incredibly vague and don’t have a set definition, which can confuse matters. Typically, ‘soft drugs’ is used to “describe drugs like cannabis or LSD which cannot result in physical dependency.” While the term ‘hard drug’ “usually refers to drugs that are seen to be more dangerous and more likely to cause dependency such as heroin and crack cocaine…”

So, why am I mentioning the terms at all? Despite the definitions being somewhat open, there is certainly a clear distinction between the two. One group can be used in moderation without negatively impacting the induvial or society to any great extent, the other, not so much. You don’t have to have seen Trainspotting to know that weed and psilocybin don’t really compete with the harm of heroin.

My argument is formed around this simple point of view: when we explore the reasons why certain drugs are illegal (soft drugs such as marijuana, psilocybin mushroom, and DMT) and legal (such as alcohol and tobacco) we find that the justifications for each are flimsy, at best. If safety is the government’s main cause for concern, surely that must mean that alcohol and tobacco are safe to use, right?

Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via World IP Review

The UK’s history with tobacco is a little strange. Having arrived in England in 1565, tobacco didn’t seem to take with the British public. King James I spoke out publicly on the matter, describing tobacco as:

“…loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain [and] dangerous to the lungs.”

However, it soon followed the common path that most drugs take: it became a medicine. During the plague, it was believed that tobacco smoke could protect people from “disease miasmas” (a poisonous vapour carrying disease that could be detected by its bad smell) (somewhat ironic). The connections between slavery and tobacco imports are widely known, and this was a major issue until machines took over in the late 1800s.

Anti-smoking campaigners were largely regarded as “eccentrics” and yet they are primarily responsible for the introduction of a clause in the Children’s Act in 1908 which made the sale of tobacco to those under the age of 16 illegal.

Despite a connection between ill-health and smoking being widely known, the supposed stress-relief provided by tobacco came with “health benefits” that would serve as a major selling point. Sound familiar? Only recently have the supposed health benefits of “a glass of wine a day” been shown to be inaccurate from a scientific standpoint.

In the 1950s, the first reports linking smoking to the formation of lung cancer were released. The government, very aware of the economic domino effect that would follow a decline in smoking, didn’t speak out on the matter until the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1970s that cigarette packaging included a health warning. In the 1980s, the risk associated with public smoking was raised, but again, it took until 2007 for the government to ban smoking in enclosed public places. It wasn’t until this same year that the government raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 18.

Is Smoking Harmful?

Tobacco UK

image via BBC

According to the Office for National Statistics, it is estimated that 15.1% of adults in the UK smoke cigarettes as of 2017. This number varies slightly between sources as Cancer Research suggests that around 19% of UK adults smoke. This would be around 9.4 million people (which is nearly double the entire population of Scotland). They also suggest that smoking is the “largest cause of cancer” in the UK, with it being responsible for around 15% of cancer victims. It’s also worth noting that the same website reports the significantly higher prevalence of smoking within poorer areas.

We can delve into these figures a little more. For example, we can consider the hospital admissions related to smoking. According to NHS England figures, in 2016/17 there was estimated to be 484,700 admissions attributable to smoking, which is around 4% of ALL hospital admissions.

The above graph is also from the NHS England website. As you can see, adults who had never smoked were more likely to report feeling healthier than those who were ex-smokers or current smokers.42% of non-smokers described themselves as being in ‘very good health’ compared to 26% of current-smokers. 11% of current-smokers described themselves as feeling in ‘bad or very bad health’ compared to only 5% of those who have never smoked.

It’s important for people to realise that tobacco carries a mental health impact as well. You’ll often hear discussions about other drugs and how they cause mental illness (such as marijuana), and yet the same types of studies show the exact same thing for tobacco consumption. More in-depth research paints a fuller picture of the impact of smoking on neurological processes being akin to that the government/media claim is the case for marijuana consumption.

Death by Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via TidatBase

Given that we’ve explored the general health implications tobacco quite clearly has, does it cause death? Of course it does! Throughout the UK, there is alarming number of preventable deaths each year as a result of smoking. In Scotland, the number is 10,000 (one fifth of all deaths), in Wales the number is 5,500, in Northern Ireland its 2,300, and in England it’s a staggering 78,000 death. Every year in the UK, 95,800 people are dying from a drug that the government deems safe enough to be legal.

When it comes to passive smoking, which is arguably more horrifying given that nobody chooses to be a passive smoker, we find some pretty similar results. Research suggests that around 11,000 deaths in the UK each year are the result of passive smoke inhalation, with 20% of these being from smoking at the workplace and 80% being from home.

The impact of passive smoking is most noticeable in children, who rarely have a choice as to whether or not to be in the vicinity of smokers. Cancer Research suggests that there is overwhelming evidence to support that idea that second-hand smoke can lead to lung cancer (among other types), heart disease, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and more. Children who live in a household where at least 1 person smokes are more likely to develop asthma, chest infections, meningitis, ear infections, and coughs and colds.

Smoking and Pregnancy

Tobacco UK

image via OPTO

One shocking statistic relates to pregnant women. According to NHS England, 10.8% of mothers were smoking at the time of delivery. Why does this matter? During pregnancy, it isn’t just the health of the mother that is a cause for concern. Research suggests that smoking during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the child’s neurodevelopment. It has been suggested that this is a result of the carbon monoxide contained in tobacco smoke which limits the oxygen available for the baby’s brain. Smoking during pregnancy can also result in tissue damage which could include lung or brain development issue, or the development of a cleft lip.

Even pregnant women who simply inhale smoke passively (as well as those who smoke directly, obviously) are likely to give birth to a child with weaker lungs, which leads to a major increase in potential health problems in later life.

The negative health impact that smoking has isn’t limited to the development of the child though. When a mother smokes, she is more likely to enter premature labour. Given that the leading cause of death, disability, and disease among new-borns, is preterm birth, this is a huge cause for concern. This issue includes passive smokers. Mothers who smoke (either directly or passively) are more likely to give birth to a low-weight child, which typically has long-term health implications.

Even if the labour and birth seem to go smoothly, babies whose mother smoked during pregnancy or who smoke near the baby after birth are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This goes above and beyond choosing to consume a drug. This is quite clearly an epidemic that is impacting the lives of those who haven’t even been born yet! What say do they get in the matter?

Cost

Tobacco UK

image via Wallpaper Up

Since we’ve already established that widespread death and disease hasn’t been enough of an incentive to outright ban tobacco smoking, perhaps money is a better approach. The problem we have here is that the tobacco industry contributes around £12 billion in tax each year which is arguably the main reason that the government would never consider making the substance illegal. But how much does it cost?

Smoking costs NHS Scotland (a public body that gets its funding from the government) as much as £300 million each year, which in the face of £12 billion is barely a drop of water in the ocean. In England, this figure is as high as £2 billion though, which certainly begins to raise the cost.

There are other costs to take into consideration that go beyond health. For example, early death due to cigarettes causes an employee’s company to lose manpower, the costs of cleaning up cigarette butts and packaging, putting out fires caused by cigarettes, the loss of time (including in hospitals) of the extra breaks that smokers typically take, not to mention the lost time when people get ill as a result of smoking-related illnesses. When you add up all the costs of smoking, you find that it comes to around £14 billion, according to Policy Exchange.

Addiction

Tobacco UK

image via ECigarette Reviewed

The final point I want to make relates to the addictive nature of tobacco (or more accurately: nicotine). I discussed earlier that the ABC system for drug classification ignores the addictiveness of drugs and instead focuses on a more arbitrary approach based on the opinions of people who aren’t carrying out any significant research on the matter.

Most smokers would like to quit, yet only around 6% of smokers are able to quit each year. On top of that, it takes most smokers multiple attempts to successfully quit, if at all. Cigarettes contain a number of different chemicals that a person can become addicted to, but the main one is a result of the nicotine and its effect on dopamine, which ultimately results in the rewiring of neural pathways until what we consider to be addiction kicks in.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, withdrawal symptoms for nicotine can include:

 “…irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite. These withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours after the last cigarette, quickly driving people back to tobacco use…withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days of the last cigarette smoked and usually subside within a few weeks. For some people, however, symptoms may persist for months”

When it comes to addiction, it’s difficult to compare one drug to another. One study from the 1990s by Henningfield and Benowitz used a set criterion for determining addiction (which included aspects such as withdrawal, tolerance, dependence, and intoxication) to rank the most addictive drugs. When it comes to withdrawal, nicotine was tied in 3rd place with cocaine, beaten only by heroin (number 2) and alcohol (number 1). Nicotine ranked first for dependence and 2nd for tolerance.

Results from more recent versions of this study support its conclusions. Other sources place nicotine as the 5th most addictive substance on the Earth, behind barbiturates, cocaine, alcohol, and heroin. The New York Times even wrote an article in 1987 about nicotine being harder to quit that heroin.

In Conclusion

Tobacco UK

image via The Truth Revolution

We often hear that you can’t compare one drug to another, which is arguably true as each drug varies from another in a number of ways. Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK which can land you up to 5 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for possession, and up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for supply/production. Could we compare it to tobacco? In several ways, yes. One causes undeniable mental and physical health issues which leads to thousands upon thousands of deaths every single year (including newborns and children). One costs the government and taxpayer and estimated £14 billion per year, which it doesn’t cover with the £12 billion in returns in tax. And one is legal and readily available in most shops to anyone over the age of 18. The other is cannabis!

The continued outlawing of marijuana and its consumers is largely a result of the government’s failed “war on drugs”. News articles use intimidating and misleading headlines to scare the populous into believing that cannabis causes mental illness (when using correlation as a justification for concluded causation) and yet ignore the far more relevant and blatantly obvious connection between tobacco, mental and physical illness, and ultimately death.

I can see no real justification for the continued legalization of this substance while still outlawing recreation marijuana use. Tobacco is addictive beyond measure, it’s harmful beyond what could ever be justified, and it costs more money to the government and the country than it makes. If life, health, and money are all being neglected for the sake of keeping a harmful substance legal, then what possible precedent could any government have for outlawing other, less harmful substances?


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts on the legality of tobacco, particularly when compared to marijuana? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

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Should the UK Abolish the Royal Family? YES!

When you’re looking at where tax payer’s money is spent, you’d expect a priority to be towards the police service, healthcare, education, etc. So whether you live in the UK or not, it may shock you to learn that £80+ million is paid to the Queen. Given that we don’t live under a monarchy and that the Royal Family in itself is little more than a living, breathing tourist attraction (and not a very effective one at that), why are we still funding their extremely luxurious lifestyle?

The “British” Royal Family

Royal Family

image via English Crown

Many people in Britain love the Royal Family. I’m not one of them. I have nothing against the family personally, they didn’t choose to be born into such a position. But the very notion that this family deserves our time, our respect, or more importantly: our money is beyond me. The Royal Family may sell many souvenirs, plates and t-shirts or make foreign officials feel privileged when introduced to its members but other than that they serve no purpose.

What part of the Royal Family is British? As someone from Scotland, I feel no connection to them. This ties into British nationalism or Unionism but there are many reasons why we shouldn’t view them as symbols of our country.

For starters, even if you view the family as having “Royal Blood”, do they really? The paternal side of the family is German. You may know the family as “The Windsors” but actually that name only came to be in 1917 due to anti-German sentiment. The family name before its British reboot was ‘Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’ due to the marriage between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. We view this family as inherently British but there isn’t really anything particularly special about them (or British about them). On principle alone I’m against celebrating a family (or an individual) based solely on their relatives.

We also have to consider the British National anthem “God Save the Queen”. I don’t consider this a British National Anthem by any means. There are two reasons for this:

  • As I already mentioned, the Royal Family is of no special significance to me. They are simply remnants of a feudal society that claimed land and oppressed populations. There is still land all across the UK that is owned by the Royal Family as a result of taking land by force or claiming it as their right. To me, this is absolutely disgusting (even more so when you consider the Royal Family profits from this).
  • The 6th verse in the “British” national anthem goes as follows:

“Lord grant that Marshal Wade

May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!”

I don’t think that ANYONE would argue that having a verse targeting one of the countries within a “United” Kingdom doesn’t seem a bit bizarre. Don’t even get me started on the British passports which show the Scottish national animal: the unicorn, with a chain around its neck. I’m going a little off-topic here but I had to share these points.

The Cost

Royal Family

image via CNBC

So when we look at the value of the Royal Family, we have to consider whether what we pay them is worth it in the long run. Many people argue that the Royal Family are responsible for a lot of the tourism in the UK. I’d have to disagree. The Royal Family may very well benefit the people of London, particularly those in businesses located anywhere near Buckingham Palace. But considering that tax money from ALL of the UK is used to pay the Royal Family, I fail to see the benefits to the rest of us.

ALVA, a company focused on leading visitor’s attractions, Tweeted the following at the time of the Royal Wedding:

“The 2011 wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge saw an additional 600k ppl visit London for the weekend, 60% from UK, 40% from overseas, spending £107m (£8.4m in West End theatres).”

Yet when we actually look at the evidence, you’ll find that even Visit Britain can’t find evidence to support the tourism benefit of keeping the Royal Family around. If Windsor Castle (the only occupied Royal Residence to attract a large number of visitors) was included in ALVA’s analysis of top tourist attractions, it would be lucky to come in at 24th. Stonehenge, The British Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Roman Baths, National Museum of Scotland and the Science museum are all examples of attractions which reel in higher numbers of tourists. This is supported by evidence which shows most tourists come for our wide range of museums, wonderful scenery, to engage in British history and to shop….as opposed to visiting an old bag, her racist husband and her ginger grandchildren.

Royal Weddings, Annual Income and Security

Royal Family

image via Pinterest

Since we mentioned the Royal Wedding already, let’s delve into the costs. In 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton got married. While most of the finance was covered by the incredibly wealthy Royal Family (how nice of them) the UK taxpayer had to cover the cost of security and transport (as per the agreement of the Family’s grant) which was to the sum of at least £7 million.

Of course we have another Royal Wedding on the way with petitions already in motion to avoid tax payers having to pay out for any of the costs. I mean I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we don’t have to fund weddings.

The Sovereign Grant

Royal Family

image via Google

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world’s richest women, according to The Times. So where does she get her money? Well, most of her money comes from the Sovereign Grant. To understand what exactly this is, we have to look back to 1760 when King George III agreed to hand over the crown estate to the treasury. This mass of land includes obvious areas such as Buckingham Palace and Regent Street but also most of the UK’s seabed. Where does all the land come from? It comes from the areas conquered by the Monarchy throughout history.

As I’m arguing a lot of this from a Scottish perspective, let’s take a look at Scotland. It’s estimated that The Crown owns about £261.5 million worth of land in Scotland. This includes (but is not limited to) four estates that cover 37,000 hectares of land, ownership of the seabed up to 12 nautical miles from the shore as well as more retail-orientated areas such as 50% of Fort Kinnaird retail park just outside Edinburgh. The Queen gets 15% of the Crown Estate profits.

This figure is set to double to £82.2 million so that the Royal Family can carry out repairs at Buckingham Palace. As any tourism increases in the UK, so does the income of the Royal Family with the Crown Estate raking in an extra 8% compared to previous years. Imagine if the land was actually owned by the people who had it ripped away from them by force throughout history. Rather than funding Prince Philip’s £18,690 train trip to Plymouth.

The Principle Alone

Royal Family

image via RT

Even if we put the economics to the side for a moment, how can anybody POSSIBLY ignore the gross comparison of the Royal Family to most of the country they live in? The NHS is in crisis, the UK police force is all but crumbling, the education of the nation’s youth is lagging behind that of other countries…need I say more? When there are people living in poverty in this country I found it grotesque that ANYBODY would argue that the Royal Family deserves even a penny.

What can we do about it?

Royal Family

image via Gizmodo

Honestly? Probably nothing. If you live in the UK, you could try signing this petition to see an end to the monarchy and all payments towards the Royal Family. Will it work? I highly doubt it. As I’ve said before, the petition system in the UK serves no real purpose other than providing people with a feel-good feeling alongside a feeling of involvement and having the ability to create change. In reality, nothing changes that Parliament weren’t already considering. For example, you won’t find weed becoming legal through this petition system despite receiving over 4 million signatures. You won’t even find MPs turning up for the debate.

When the Queen dies (if she dies, I think she shattered her soul into several horcruxes) there may be a window of opportunity to have a discussion on the topic with parliament. If England wants to keep the Royal Family in their life of luxury then by all means, let them. I know very few Scottish people who want to continue paying tax to such an unworthy cause.


Thanks for reading! Do you have an opinion on the Royal Family? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Scottish Independence: Are We Better Together 3 Years Later?

For those of you unfamiliar with this topic, back in 2014 the people of Scotland were able to vote as to whether or not they wanted Scottish independence. In the end, with a 55.5% majority, it was decided that Scotland would remain in the UK. I still view this as a horrific decision. Do I blame the people of Scotland? Sure, to an extent, but more than anything I blame the UK Parliament. In this article I’m going to cover some of the reasons why Scottish independence would have left Scotland in a much stronger position than it is currently in (arguably). I’ll also look at just why I’m so disgusted by the actions of parliament.

My Personal Opinion

Scottish Independence

image via Physical Gold

Obviously all of this post is going to consist of my own views and opinions. This is not supposed to be a non-bias representation of the information. However, I aim to provide sources for as many of my claims as I can. So what did I vote during the Scottish independence referendum? Well, as you’ve probably gathered already, I voted ‘Yes’. It’s the only time I’ve voted and it could very well be the only time I ever vote. But I wasn’t always a supporter of the yes campaign. During my first or second year at university when the Scottish independence referendum was first picking up steam, I was a strong no voter. I chose to write several essays on the topic as part of my course in an effort to express how strongly against leaving the UK I was.

Within those couple of years though, my interest in politics grew, as did my hatred for the UK political system. The more I discovered, the less I trusted this society we live in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty great place to live but the politics are a joke. I mean you can take a look at the petition system which is nothing more than a mock system designed to make “the people” feel like they can create change with a simple signature which is bullshit.

By the time 2015 came around, I couldn’t have had a stronger opinion than my views on why Scottish independence was the best move for everyone. Arguments I’d made in the past about why Scotland should stay soon seemed miniscule in comparison to those for leaving. I watched as friends and family fell for the deceptions of the UK government and I could only watch in horror as the final votes were counted showing the slight majority for the “better together” campaign. Speaking of which…

The Campaign

Scottish Independence

image via NewsWeek

One thing that annoyed me the most about this campaign was the involvement of England. To be more specific: London (to be even more specific, the Westminster). One of my biggest problems with being connected to the UK parliament is that everything goes through it one way or another. We have a bunch of upper-class space cadets who have zero experience in the real world, all lack a mind of their own and are most of all: hypocrites. It says a lot that many of the people in power in the UK went to school together. MPs over the last decade have avoided tax, claimed for multiple houses, claimed expenses for holidays and pushed for their own pay rises during times of crisis and austerity.

If only that was all they had done…Reports have found that cocaine use in parliament is a real issue. Yet MPs won’t even turn up for a debate regarding the legalisation of cannabis because “drugs are bad, m’kay”. So you can imagine my annoyance when the independence referendum outcome was flipped by two major factors: TV bias and false promises.

We’ll take a look at the first of these two now. During the Scottish independence referendum, there was undoubtedly a bias within media coverage. BBC, a network that claims to be impartial was found to be giving the no campaign an unfair advantage. In fact, a study of both ITV (STV) and the BBC found that during the Scottish independence referendum, both of these outlets favoured the no campaign by allowing more coverage of that side. I remember reading a report at the time which I believe claimed that the divide was something like 33.3% to the yes campaign and 66.6% to the no campaign (I’ve been unable to find that statistic so don’t take my word for it).

Interestingly, this distrust in the UK media hasn’t changed in Scotland. Research finds that Scottish people still don’t feel like their side of the news is reported impartially, particularly in relation to Scotland vs UK news.

The Vow

Scottish Independence

image via The National

You’re perhaps wondering what “The Vow” is. Well, during the referendum when the polls were showing a tie for the votes of Scottish people, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all signed “The Vow”. This was an agreement or pledge that if the people of Scotland voted to remain in the UK, parliament would respond in kind by granting the Scottish Parliament more powers and a fairer share of resources. Not only is the entire thing patronising but it also directs a spotlight towards the lack of power that Scotland already had at this point. Why should a parliament of a country have to threaten to leave in order to get power over its own country and a fair share of resources? At the time most people were sceptical because if governments are known for one thing: it’s going back on promises.

It’s been three years since the Scottish independence referendum and the government hasn’t made any steps towards keeping this promise. It doesn’t help that David Cameron quit after the EU referendum (another issue we will look at) but a deal is a deal. Interestingly, a poll has found that only 9% of Scots believe that this deal has been kept with 22% believing that none of the promises have been delivered.

The general distrust towards this vow may lead you to believe that it wouldn’t sway many people. Yet the polls suggest that it did and certainly the outcome of the vote itself is evidence of this. Only 3.3% of Scottish people needed to believe that this vow would lead to a desirable outcome. Considering how many people were on the fence on the run up to the vote, it’s hardly surprising that this would get the no campaign the votes it needed.

The Crumbling of the UK (and Scotland along with it)

Scottish Independence

image via Daily Star

Regardless of your views towards the Scottish Independence referendum or the EU vote, it’s not exactly shocking to learn that the UK is in a downward spiral. The value of the GBP has been dropping fairly consistently since 2007/8. Obviously this varies a little depending on your choice of comparison. For example, when comparing the pound to the Euro, you find a similar drop with the only difference being a peak in 2015 before dropping again. The NHS is in crisis while companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook actually pay less than half the tax of more traditional companies. It’s estimated that multinational companies avoid paying as much as £5.8bn to the UK in tax.

Crime in the UK is on the rise so it may also shock you that the UK police budget is expected to lose £700m by 2020 along with up to 22,000 jobs! London, the centre of the UK (not geographically…obviously) and the home of Parliament now has a higher homicide rate than New York City. This is due in part to the reduced police presence as a result of budget cuts. So crime is on the rise, the hospitals and healthcare systems are failing, the police force is being shrunk and the UK currency is fragile and drastically lower in value than a decade ago. At least we have the EU, right? Wrong.

The EU Vote = A Slap in the Face for Scotland

Scottish Independence

image via Economist

One major, major reason people voted to remain in the UK during the Scottish independence referendum was the EU. Threats from the no campaign included tweets such as “What is the process for removing our EU citizenship? Voting yes.” David Cameron himself made the claim that the only way Scotland could protect its EU membership was to reject independence. Some of the biggest and most influential arguments against Scottish independence offered by the no campaign included: Scotland would have to leave the EU and reapply; Scotland wouldn’t be able to use the pound; Scotland would lose access to services offered as part of the UK (including NHS connections). All things that seem more like a positive now, in comparison. The idea of an EU referendum hadn’t been mentioned prior to the Scottish independence vote.

So you can imagine the shock to the Scots when A) the possibility of leaving the EU is announced as an option and B) after 62% of Scotland voting to remain, being told that because we’re part of the UK, the actions of the country include Scotland and the EU vote isn’t a just cause for a 2nd Indy Ref. It’s worth noting that Northern Ireland also voted to remain in the EU. With less than one year left until the UK officially leaves the EU, I find it troubling how little has been resolved so far. Even more so considering I don’t live in the UK anymore and could very well be forced to return when free roaming is no longer an option for UK citizens.

So you can probably see why I’ve described this move as a slap in the face for Scotland and for Scottish Independence. We aren’t even finished yet and so far we’ve covered the bias news coverage, the broken promises of Westminster and the dissolving of all major arguments for remaining in the UK. This goes a step further when we look at Brexit negotiations where 90% of business owners don’t trust the government to secure the best deal for Scotland.

Renewable Energy

Scottish Independence

image via Caledonian Mercury

If you know nothing else about Scotland, you should at least be familiar with the weather: it’s windy and wet as fuck! Out of all the countries in the UK, Scotland is number 1 for producing green energy. In 2015 Scotland produced 97% of its household electricity needs through wind energy. Just a few days ago it was revealed that Scotland produces two-thirds of its energy (68.1%) through green schemes. Officials even stated that this is 45 points higher than the rest of the UK. One of the threats  made during the referendum was that independence would put a halt on the UK’s production of green energy.

Yet back in 2015 it came to light that windfarm subsidies to Scotland would end, putting not only the green energy production of the country at risk, but also further damaging the country’s economy. It seems that this hasn’t been the case or at the very least hasn’t had a lasting impact. However, the impending threat of cuts as a result of the UK government will continue and their general disregard for the people of Scotland will become more apparent.

The Traitors of Scotland

Scottish Independence

image via Outlandish Observations

When I talk about traitors here, I’m not referring to people who voted differently from me. They have a right to vote for the outcome they believe is best. Maybe their vote was right. But one thing that stood out during the referendum in 2014 were major companies threatening to leave if the people voted for Scottish Independence. Shipping companies (particularly ship building companies in Glasgow) and banks (such as the Royal Bank of Scotland) were among those readying themselves for a move. Many viewed this as an empty threat but with RBS making the same threat during the EU referendum and now considering a move to the Netherlands. The company which is continuously being investigated for shady dealings as part of the HSBC network should do us all a favour and fuck off already.

Why do these companies annoy me? Well, you can’t claim to be fighting for the people of Scotland but then threaten to cut thousands of jobs if things don’t go your way during the Scottish Independence referendum. From a company perspective, I understand that but you can’t fight on both sides. The no campaign stated “by working together as part of the UK we can ensure the future of Scotland’s shipbuilding industry” and yet just a year later the project was reduced and then ultimately delayed indefinitely. It’s even been stated that the future of Scotland’s shipbuilding is unclear. This brings to question people like Ruth Davidson who push every single one of the arguments at the time of the referendum.

I can’t help but view this as yet another sign that Scottish independence wouldn’t have made any difference to the threats that were made back in 2014.

Scotland as a Society

Scottish Independence

image via Hill Walk Tours

I won’t go into too much detail in this section because I covered my views on the dangers of alcohol and the benefits of weed (both to the individual and the society as a whole) in a separate post. I will however cover how these views relate to Scottish independence. You see, as much as Scotland has its own parliament, it still has to go through Westminster for most decisions. The increased powers promised to Scotland by David Cameron and his merry men would have given Scotland more freedom. As this didn’t happen, neither has the freedom (not in a Braveheart sense of the word).

The SNP voted in favour of moving to decriminalise medicinal cannabis use back in 2016. In my eyes, this is a great step towards eventual legalisation. Yet the Home Office ruled against such action. The Home Office is another aspect of government that hinders progress in Scotland (whether you view such progress as positive or negative is up to you). This isn’t the first time that this has happened in recent years either with plans for safe drug consumption facilities being shut down. These plans would have helped contain the spreading of HIV in cities such as Glasgow which is a direct result of unsafe drug use.

Of course you get the lap dogs of Parliament jumping at the bit to criticise every move made by Scotland. Such as the Express which claims that marijuana use in Scotland is a real problem. Not the drinking, smoking or other drugs which actually kill people. They decide to focus on the minority consumption of dangerously strong weed strains. Can weed be harmful? Sure…yet notice how even the most harmful weed isn’t as dangerous as the legal drugs. But I’m getting off topic here.

Would Independence Really Be Any Better?

Scottish Independence

image via CityAM

It’s all well and good to say X would have happened or Y would have been different if Scottish independence had been given a yes vote but the truth of the matter is that I’m not a fortune teller. None of us are. You’ll find so many differing opinions in relation to the initial independence referendum, whether there should be another, Scotland’s place in the EU, Etc. I’m not here to claim that I know more than anyone else, I don’t. In fact when it comes to figures, I know very little. So let’s instead focus on the absolute truths:

  • The Vow made by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband has not been met;
  • Threats made by the “Better Together” campaign have come true despite the majority of Scotland voting to remain in the UK, including (but not limited to) losing EU membership, a failing currency, damage to the economy, etc.
  • The inability of Scotland’s government to make major decisions impacts not only the economy in Scotland but also the health of those living there. Without such powers, Scotland’s growth will be limited to whatever Westminster allows.

So no, Scottish independence may have failed miserably and when the divide between of a country is 50/50, there are always going to be disappointed people. However, in my opinion I firmly believe that the people of Scotland made a horrible decision in 2014 by voting to remain part of the UK. The continued faith in a failing government is something I can’t wrap my head around and as such, I’m glad that I don’t have to play a role in the continued downfall of an upper-class controlled country that allows backwards thinkers to make all the decisions.


Thanks for reading! Did you find this Scottish independence post informative or do you think my opinion isn’t supported by evidence? Let me know down below! 

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Peace!

The Importance of Free Speech and the Death of Comedy

With the recent news that a man in the UK has been charged for teaching his dog to do a Roman salute (perhaps more commonly known as a Nazi salute) and reporters such as Lauren Southern being denied entry to the UK for criticizing Islam, I think now more than ever it is important to discuss why being able to say whatever the fuck you want is essential. Before we jump right in, it’s important to acknowledge one thing: I’m not encouraging anyone to be offensive. There is a HUGE difference between thinking someone should be able to say anything and actually pushing hatred, violence, racism, sexism, etc. None of the people I mention in this post have pushed any of these things. Just to clear that up at the start!

Why Does It Matter?

Free speech

image via Relaxed Focus

You may be wondering what difference it makes. Perhaps you’re even thinking that if somebody is offensive, they should be charged. Let me explain why that idea is moronic. For starters, where do we draw the line? Can anybody just come forward and claim to be offended? Can I get someone charged if they leave a mean comment on my blog? What if they name their dog Jesus and I’m a die-hard Christian, can I get them charged? What if I believe unicorns rule the world and someone criticizes my belief system? You may be thinking that these examples aren’t comparable to a dog doing a trick…so let’s discuss that.

What the fuck is offensive about a dog doing a Nazi salute. Do you want to know which comedians have done Nazi salutes in the past?  A fuck ton of them! When I take a look at some of my favourite comedians or comedy groups (such as Billy Connolly or Monty Python) I can think of several examples where a Nazi salute has been done for comedic effect. Now, if you’re training your dog to do that and then running into synagogues with your Nazi uniform and Hitler mustache -wearing dog, then I can see why that could create a problem. That’s a bit different from a dog being taught it to annoy the owner’s girlfriend. I mean sure, the video was on YouTube…but there are videos on YouTube far more offensive than that. There used to be a Jim Jeffries video on YouTube where he calls his microphone Muhammad and claims it’s a gay microphone. Yet I guarantee that he isn’t getting charged over it.

The Death of Comedy

Free speech

image via Chucks-Fun.Blogspot

You may think that comedy is simply a form of entertainment. When you need a laugh, that’s what you go for. But for decades now it’s comedians who have highlighted aspects of our society that are fucked up. Quite often we find comedians entertaining because they say some of the things we’ve been thinking. They can offer a social commentary unlike any other media outlet and also…they are funny (I mean that is their job). There are times when you laugh even though you know what you’re laughing at is offensive as hell…but so what? You’re not signing up to the KKK or joining a Hitler fan club, you’re watching a comedian in an environment where you’re simply trying to laugh. Is that such a crime? Being offensive isn’t on the same level as being evil or a criminal. Have we as a society forgotten that?

If we start censoring the jokes that comedians can tell then (and I hate when people say this because it always seems to over-dramatic but…) we’re one step away from 1984. If journalists can’t criticise religions then how long until the general public can’t? How long before we have to accept every aspect of every religion? It’s apparently not offensive to tell someone that they are going to burn in hell for all eternity for being a sinning piece of shit…but if you say that the Bible is immoral or that Muhammad consummating his marriage to a 9 year old is sick then suddenly your “crossing a line”. Is that really the path we want to go down? Banning journalists form your country in order to protect people’s feelings is fucking stupid!

Once the Greatest, Now the Most Criminal

Free speech

image via Imgur

One major aspect of this that worries me is that many of the greatest comedians of all time are offensive. Don’t believe me? The Rolling Stone website listed the ‘Top 50 Best Stand Up Comics of All Time’ and despite the fact that I’ve only watched about half the comedians, I know that 8 of the top 20 are offensive. I don’t mean that they may be offensive to some people. The 8 I am referring to are brutal! I mean take a look at the list for yourself and tell me that many, if not most of these comedians are offensive. Are we seriously suggesting that the road we want to go down is one that turns these people into criminals?

I know, I know, I’m perhaps sounding a bit on the crazy side.  The truth is that being offended is entirely subjective. What offends you might not offend me and so how are we supposed to live in a world where being offended trumps everything else? Soon we’ll all be scared to leave the house out of fear that our presence alone might offend someone. Courts will be convened to determine who is the MOST offended in order to press charges. We’ll have prisons set up entirely for offenders (pun!). We’re creating a society of fragile glass people who crack from opposing opinions.

Ricky Gervais: Humanity

Free speech

image via Google

I started writing this post before watching Humanity but now that I’ve seen it, I feel like I have to include a small section in here to highlight some aspects of it. Ricky Gervais is outrageous, he’s famous for it. His hosting of the Golden Globes made it spectacular but also sparked controversy. He made a joke regarding Caitlyn Jenner. He wasn’t being transphobic in the slightest (if anything he was being entirely respectful of her transition) but was instead using stereotypes surrounding women drivers. I won’t write the full joke but after highlighting how brave Caitlyn Jenner is and complimenting all of her successes over the years, Ricky Gervais goes on to say “she didn’t do much for women drivers”. In case you didn’t know, she hit someone with her car and they died.

I was completely unaware that Humanity had been slated for its offensive nature when I started watching it. My first question would be: why would someone who is easily offended watch a comedian who you know for a fact is going to be offensive? Anyway, a lot of the criticism was based around Gervais being transphobic, racist, sexist, etc. Did he perhaps take a few low blows? Sure…but he also manages to make an incredibly valid point within his stand-up: If you label people like him transphobic for making a joke about a trans person (NOT about the fact that they are trans or anything related to their previous gender), you take away meaning behind the word and as such, people who genuinely are disgustingly transphobic get grouped in with comedians. It’s sort of like calling some who smokes a joint every once in a while a drug addict.

What you have to take into account is that 1) We have no control over what we find funny. Why do we find people taking a shot to the nuts funny? It’s fucking agony and can cause serious damage. Yet when you see it happen, you laugh. 2) Comedians wouldn’t be comedians if they didn’t have an audience so don’t watch their shows, don’t watch their interviews, don’t tweet about them, write about them, see any films their in…if they lose an audience, they’ll stop. So if you don’t find a comedian funny, there is your solution! 3) You are allowed to be offended but you don’t have to ruin the enjoyment for others. There are plenty of comedians who have entire bits making fun of Scottish people and Scottish culture but I don’t start a petition to have them jailed because of it. Hell, some of them are hilarious!

Context is VITAL!

Free speech

image via WFL Atheism

One aspect of comedy that everyone seems to forget is the context. You don’t go to see a comedian because they are kick-starting a hate group or because you want to devote your life to their teachings. You go to see comedy to laugh and as such, anything you hear or see is designed to achieve that outcome.

Take, for example, the detaining and banning of Lauren Southern and her “accomplices” from the UK under the terrorism act. If you went by the reports of “the law”, she is banned entry for distributing racist material. Firstly, you’re not racist for commenting on a religion. I’m not racist for saying Jesus looked like a weed smoking hippy! Secondly, her flyers simply said “Allah is gay”. Now obviously, these are meant to be provocative, despite what anyone may say. They knew there would be a reaction from these fliers which was the entire point of the exercise.

However, you have to consider the context as well. Southern and her team were carrying out a “social experiment” in an effort to highlight that Islam and LGBT don’t go hand in hand, despite what many claim. By calling Allah gay and getting a reaction (you can find the video here) they believe they proved their point. For the record, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I think there are always going to be consequences when you’re intentionally provocative. That being said, banning a respectable journalist from the country for it is ridiculous and beyond unreasonable. This stunt may have been a bit “on the line” but Lauren Southern as a reporter does an excellent job of providing a non-mainstream news outlet. Something the UK is in DESPERATE need of (I’m looking at you BBC).

Feelings>Freedom

Free speech

image via Slap the Stupid

Once again let me just reiterate that I’m not condoning randomly shouting abuse at people. When I say that freedom of speech is essential, there can be consequences. To use the Lauren Southern example, I think it’s completely fair to put an end to their experiment for the sake of public safety. The police have the right to do that and given the situation, I think that it was understandable. Similarly with Count Dankula and his Nazi saluting dog, I think it’s more than fair to remove the video from YouTube, perhaps (and this is a stretch) give him a warning of some sort…but charging him with a hate crime which could potentially result in a prison sentence? No. If he was doing the same thing in Germany, that would be a completely different story…but in Scotland? Fuck off!

Why is it that religious freedom is now more accepted than any other freedom? I’ve been told that I’m going to hell on several occasions. I’ve seen signs from several different faiths claiming that homosexuals are sinners (and will burn in hell for all eternity) and that those who don’t believe in, follow and worship [insert some irrelevant deity here] will also…you guessed it…burn in hell. Calling someone gay is now classed as inciting hatred, being racist and an act of “right wing terrorism” for some fucked up reason. I have to say that if I was religious, I’d be a lot more offended by someone telling me my God was a lie and that I was going to be tortured for all eternity for it than someone calling him gay…

Sigh!

You’re probably wondering if there is any point to anything that I’ve written here. The truth is that this is the only way I can show some sort of support for the idea of free speech. I don’t think that offending someone is a criminal act. My logic is that by expressing my opinion and sharing it with the small number of followers I have, I might be able to at least show one side of the coin. Most of this is nonsensical ramblings but if even one person reads this and thinks “actually, he has a point” then I’ve achieved what I set out to.

In all honesty I am ashamed that my country would take these actions and all I can do is shake my head. Following the UK news is like watching a time-lapse of coastal erosion or melting icecaps. You know that you as one person can’t do anything to change it, so you simply watch in despair as houses collapse off cliffs or polar bears stand stranded on an iceberg. Thank fuck that I don’t live there anymore! The sinking ship has been abandoned!


Thanks for reading! Do you think I missed anyone out? Who are your favourite actors from your country? Let me know down below! 

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

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Peace!


I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.

-Voltaire

Switching the Legal Status of Marijuana and Alcohol: Beneficial?

Whenever there is a conversation about drugs, we tend to assume that the legal ones are the “good drugs” and the illegal ones are the “bad drugs”. If you were to say “I take drugs” to someone, they wouldn’t assume that you were referring to alcohol, tobacco, painkillers or coffee, would they? Today, I am going to address one idea in particular: why I think swapping the legal status of weed and alcohol would be beneficial. Just to be clear, I’m not rallying a protest here to make alcohol illegal. I’m completely for adults being able to enjoy whichever psychoactive substance tickles their gonads. I’m simply using alcohol (a legal drug) and weed (an illegal drug) as examples of why the good vs bad view of legality makes little sense.

Alcohol


Again, let me just reiterate a major point here: I am not calling for the outlaw of alcohol! Everything I say in relation to alcohol is entirely as a comparison point to the legality of weed. With that in mind, I’m going to jump right in to exploring why alcohol is a fucking horrendous drug. To quote the late Bill Hicks, “there are better drugs and better drugs for you!” We view alcohol as this socially acceptable form of ignoring our inhibitions. What are some things you can get away with drunk but not sober? Throwing up everywhere; blacking out (both in terms of memory and physically passing out); being incredibly loud at antisocial hours; fighting your friend; falling off walls; bailing on a social obligation; sex in usually unacceptable places (particularly unprotected sex which can result in illness, unwanted pregnancy and in extreme cases: death); oversharing acquaintances; befriending people in the toilets; making plans that will never be kept…

Would you agree with any of these? Would you agree with all of them? Alcohol intoxication allows you the excuse of “sorry, I was drunk” which is can often be used like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. How often have you heard people comment on their complete lack of memory from a night out only to follow it up with “…guess I must have had a good night!” Am I the only one that thinks having no memory of a night out is the same as just not going? Of course these are the lighter implications of alcohol consumption.

Feeling Healthy?

As someone from Scotland, it pains me to read statistics about my country. Before continuing, we have to define a certain term: alcohol-related death. The term covers any death that is primarily due to alcohol. This could be a long-term condition that has led to death, a more acute condition worsened by alcohol to the point of death, and of course alcohol poisoning. Accidents (including road traffic accidents) are not included. Why is this important? Well, in Scotland in there were at least 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016. This is an increase of 10% just from the previous year. This is double the yearly average of alcohol-related deaths in the 1960s (but also a decrease from those of 2000). Alcohol accounts for 1 in 15 deaths in Scotland. It also contributes to 6% of new cancer cases each year.

There is a newer definition known as ‘alcohol-specific deaths’ which covers the same basic definition as alcohol-related deaths but only includes deaths that are a direct consequence of alcohol. This only alters the numbers by about 10%. In the UK in 2016 there were at least 7,427 alcohol-specific deaths. Looking at drug-related deaths in Scotland (within the NHS Board area), we find something rather unfortunate. Despite the “war on drugs” alcohol accounts for 38% of these deaths. These figures include illegal and illegal drugs with heroin being the only one to beat alcohol (literally one of the most dangerous drugs in the world). My point is NOT that alcohol is as dangerous as any of these drugs. Obviously percentage wise alcohol is drastically safer and looking at number of deaths doesn’t reflect the danger of one drug in comparison to another…BUT, weed is not even on the list.

A Crime is still a Crime

Of course the impact that alcohol has on the individual isn’t the limit of alcohol’s reach. We have to view the bigger picture and in order to do that we need to see the effect it has on society. For example, we can explore how crime and alcohol are related. We’ll be sticking to Scotland for the time being. In 2014/15, in 54% of violent crimes, the offender was under the influence of alcohol. We can’t assume that the attack wouldn’t have taken place otherwise but we do have to acknowledge that it plays a role. I mean in the last 10 years, half of the people accused of murder where under the influence of alcohol/drugs at the time. Not to mention that a shocking two-thirds of all young offenders were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence.

We also have to consider the financial burden this is having on not only the NHS but Scotland in general. I mean alcohol-related crime costs at least £727 million PER YEAR! It costs the Scottish health service about £267 million PER YEAR! When including all the wider costs, productive capacity, crime, social care and health of alcohol it costs £3.6 billion PER YEAR!

Greater Societal Impact

I had planned on finishing my alcohol portion of this rant there but then completely by chance I stumbled across even more areas. I hadn’t even considered these but fuck! A recent study into the effect that alcohol marketing has on children revealed some pretty disturbing shit! Children as young as 10 are not only familiar with, but can identify alcohol brands, logos and even the characters involved in advertising campaigns. Weirdly, they could often identify these easier than the adverts aimed specifically at children.

Would it be crazy to think that alcohol companies were just luring in new customers from a young age? The study found that children are aware of an association between alcohol and sports. For example, 45% of children correctly recognised the alcohol brand associated with the Everton Football Club. Children who had social media had higher recognition and could more easily identify alcohol brands.

Scourge on Society

We always hear the argument that alcohol is an acceptable form of societal bonding. A drug that “when used in moderation” can offer stress relief, ease the nerves and make otherwise tedious evenings a bit more exciting. Yet when we look at the facts, alcohol quite clearly has a hugely negative impact on health and crime. Sure, the alcohol industry may rake in X amount of money…but is that worth the cost of even one human life? If the youth of a country are being fed advertising, being put in prison and committing acts of violence, destruction or slowly killing themselves…does that sound like a drug that should be legal to you?

A Bag of Weed


I’m not here to blindly shout that weed is some sort of magical, harm-free drug. Any drug can be harmful. Any drug can have negative side effects on one person but not the other. What I am going to do here though is highlight why weed legalisation wouldn’t lead to the collapse of civilisation. We’ve already touched on the idea that weed isn’t killing anyone. I’m not bending facts, I’m not making light of low numbers. Nobody has ever, ever died directly from weed…EVER!

You’ve probably heard of the rather mythical “first ever marijuana overdose death” that often crops up. One such example took place in Colorado. This was after the recent legalisation of marijuana for recreational use in the state. Of course a death would not be a great start to weed legalisation. This report turned out to be nothing more than media sensationalism. This is always the case with supposed marijuana deaths. At first sight the media is quick to jump on the supposed cause. Every single time there is always a previously undetected, underlying cause. That’s not to say that weed can’t contribute to mental illness or play a role in triggering genetically predisposed illnesses. More on that in a moment.

The Harm in Weed

So when does weed pose harm to individuals and society? What about those suffering from anxiety or depression? Any psychoactive substance, including marijuana, can impact mental health conditions negatively. It is worth mentioning that marijuana does have an effect on mental health if used before the brain is fully developed. In saying that, studies have found that drug-use in adolescents is usually a symptom of a disorder or personality type rather than a cause.

We always hear about how marijuana is dangerous because it can trigger psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and other illnesses in those with a genetic predispositions. A study reviewing this data came to the conclusion that there are a whole range of factors to consider. This makes marijuana a contributor rather than a cause. They did mention that the largest risk is to those under the age of 18 who use marijuana. However, a separate study found that the amount of weed consumed did influence the risk of psychosis. This, however, was only true in individuals with the AKT1 gene.

In terms of anxiety and mood disorders, studies found no significant results. In fact, the only significant associations were drug-use disorders (specifically weed, alcohol, nicotine but also others). These can quite obviously be attributed to the individual and not to marijuana. In comparison, there are links between alcohol and depression. There are links between coffee and anxiety (including anxiety attacks). What about links between marijuana and self-harm or suicide? Sadly for those against weed legalisation, these don’t compare to the alcohol-related figures. Not to mention that with many people weed can reduce these issues.

Different Weed

What many people forget is that varying strains have varying effects and as such, one strain won’t affect you in the same way as another. Certain strains can help to manage certain mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Not to mention reduce pain, stress, and insomnia effects, etc. Much in the same way that I hate the blanket term “drugs” I also hate that many assume weed to all be the same. Firstly you have indicas, sativas and hybrids. That alone greatly divides weed into different categories. Then you have the different strains of each type. These all have varying effects, different THC and cannabinoid ratios. Not to mention that how they are grown plays in impact on health as well.

Strangely enough, the most harm ever caused by weed relates to synthetic weed. Synthetic weed can often be legal (as a legal high which are often more dangerous that their illegal counterparts). So if synthetic weed is the real danger then legalisation is literally the safest route to reduce the damage. This would allow for the regulation of weed. By supplying safer strains of marijuana that is grown under strict conditions, you can make it drastically safer. Not to mention the taxation and the benefits that can be reaped.

Weed is a Friend Indeed


At this point I think we need to highlight a couple of things. Firstly, weed has never killed anyone. Secondly, while weed can pose a risk, it’s only to a tiny fraction of people who are genetically predisposed to certain mental illnesses. Thirdly, weed consumption appears to be a symptom of many illnesses or mood disorders rather than a cause. Lastly, the biggest danger posed by weed is that of synthetic weed. With all that in mind, we can move onto the final reason why weed legalisation is THE way to go. We’re going to use Colorado as our shining example so let’s take a look at how legalisation has impacted the state so far.

  • Teen marijuana use is unchanged! This is a major argument put forward by anti-legalisation campaigners. During the parliamentary discussion on the topic a few years back, this was pretty much their only reasonable argument. So now that there is evidence to show that this is not the case, I wonder what arguments they could make.
  • Traffic fatalities are still the same. This is one of the other issues that anti-legalisation campaigners often mention. Since we can’t test for recent weed consumption in the same way as alcohol, there is the concern that we can’t detect individuals driving under the influence, leading to more accidents. Evidently, this is not the case.
  • In 2016, legal marijuana sales earned the state nearly $200 million in tax revenue after the $1.3 billion in legal marijuana sales. Market research suggests that this will reach $20.2 billion by 2021. This is put back into schools, hospitals, fixing roads…

And yet…

We haven’t even touched on the benefits that medicinal cannabis can offer people. I’m not going to either because my argument in this post is regarding recreational use. But bear in mind that such benefits do exist and would have far reaching benefits through legalisation. Even when we take all of this into consideration, it seems pretty ridiculous to ignore one very obvious truth: if marijuana is even slightly less harmful than alcohol, it seems ridiculous that one is legal, heavily advertised and available everywhere. Yet the other is still a class B drug in Scotland which could land you up to 5 years in prison. There is literally no argument at all, not one, as to why alcohol should remain legal but marijuana illegal. Not to mention that alcohol is 114x more dangerous than smoking weed.

Yet there is a point of view that we always seem to ignore. Why should anyone have a say over what I put into my body? I can drink myself to death. Eat McDonald’s food until the NHS has to fund every procedure under the sun. People can choose to pierce their skin with jewellery to destructive levels or cover their bodies in tattoos. If you want to jump out of a plane, go climbing up mountains or beat someone to near-death in a ring, you can. You can even charge people to watch it and make money from the event. I beg you; please tell me why smoking weed is any worse than these things!  I mean how fucking dare I suggest that I should be able to smoke a drug, laugh my ass off and enjoy myself in the comfort of my own home, right?

Final Remarks

So should alcohol and marijuana have their legal statuses switched? Realistically: no. Scotland’s alcoholic society would crumble without the crutch that is alcohol. However, if there is even a chance that legalisation would reduce alcohol consumption in my country then I see absolutely no reason why that isn’t a benefit. Alcohol is a destructive force, it’s a scourge on society and it kills so many people each year. Weed may have some risks but no more than nuts or driving to work. Can we truly accept that just because those in parliament don’t want to smoke weed that the rest of us shouldn’t be able to?

I actually wrote about this topic before and I’ve even explained why the petition system in the UK is a massive pile of shit that serves no purpose and doesn’t change anything that parliament wouldn’t have changed anyway. It’s a pacifying measure to make people feel like clicking a button can change the world. I wrote to my MP at the time, David Mundell. I explained I had strong opinions on the matter and my e-mail went through several drafts, was concise and in my opinion argued a strong case. What did I get in response? A generic e-mail talking about issues I hadn’t even mentioned. My own MP (who didn’t even attend the parliamentary discussion by the way) couldn’t even take the time to read my e-mail. It’s literally his job. Anyway, if you want to read something a little lighter, check this out!

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So guys, we have reached the end of this rant and hopefully you’ve learnt something along the way. As always, I’m interested in hearing your opinions and feedback. If you think that alcohol deserves its legal status over weed, please share your reasons why. Also, stay tuned for the opportunity to win a $20 Amazon gift card in the next few weeks. Be sure to follow me here and on Twitter to stay in the loop. Peace!

UK Politics: The Petition Delusion

I recently fell victim to the latest scam put forward by the UK government; I believe they are copying a system already set up across the pond in the US: A petition system. Here in the UK, this new system claims that by collecting signatures, you can cause great positive change within parliament. What should be a forward-thinking idea to help our democracy is more like one of those games that are common now in pubs where you have to earn a certain number of points to win a prize.

However, once you get those points it is revealed that you have to do a second task (one which has the same difficulty level as finding the Holy Grail) to actually win your money. The simplicity of starting your own petition only adds to its appeal as a wondrous new toy for wannabe revolutionaries to play with. If you collect 10,000 signatures, the government will respond to your petition with a statement. 100,000 signatures and your petition will be discussed in parliament. Sound good? Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

 It All Started with Weed!

You see, when I say I fell victim to this petition system, I mean it. As an avid supporter of weed legalisation, I was ecstatic at how many signatures a petition for that very topic received. I even had the page constantly open on Google on my phone and I checked that page more regularly than anything else in my life. By the time I signed it, there were already over 100,000 signatures and it didn’t take long for than number to double.

Each time I checked, I would look first at how many signatures we were up to, then down at whether the government had A) Responded and B) Set a debate date. I can’t remember exactly how much time passed before the government issued a response. I do remember that I had already sent the petition link to everyone who knew I smoked weed and most of them were as excited as I was.

We discussed how easy it would be to get weed, all the different strains we could try, how nights out would change so dramatically to accommodate this marvellous drug…sadly, this was all very short lived and as the government issued their response, my heart sank at how doomed this petition already was.

The Response

“The latest evidence from the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is that the use of cannabis is a significant public health issue (‘Cannabis Classification and Public Health’, 2008).

 Cannabis can unquestionably cause harm to individuals and society. Legalisation of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families.

 Legalisation would also send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people, with the potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs. 

Despite the potential opportunity offered by legalisation to raise revenue through taxation, there would be costs in relation to administrative, compliance and law enforcement activities, as well as the wider costs of drug prevention and health services.

 The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities; help dependent individuals through treatment and wider recovery support; while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply and tackling the organised crime that is associated with the drugs trade. The Government will build on the Drugs Strategy by continuing to take a balanced and coherent approach to address the evolving challenges posed.

There are positive signs that the Government’s approach is working: there has been a long term downward trend in drug use over the last decade, and more people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2009/10. The number of adults aged 16-59 using cannabis in the last year in England and Wales has declined over the last decade from 9.6% to 6.7%, with cannabis use amongst young adults aged 16-24 and young people aged 11-15 following a similar pattern.”

-Home Office

Run Up to the Debate!

I discuss this topic in more depth in one of my other blog posts so I won’t poke holes in this response (although I would like to point out that the fact they think the drug war is working, shows just how misguided they really are).

The next stage in this petition process is the debate. On the run up to the debate, I began to become hopeful again. Maybe, just maybe we can create a compelling enough argument for something to change. Polls from various newspapers and websites showed a clear winner. I mean even the Daily Mail (which I don’t read for oh so many reasons) showed a poll results of 80% of people being in favour of legalising it. Reading through comments on different news sites, I realised that the biggest reason people were against weed, was due to the government.

One comment I saw stated “I don’t think people should smoke weed because it’s illegal for a reason.” As my anticipation of a positive result grew, I e-mailed the MP for my local area (who will remain nameless despite the fact he replied with a generic e-mail that A) referenced outdated studies and B) didn’t actually acknowledge any of the points I raised) asking him to attend the debate, because here is yet another issue with this system: MP’s have no obligation to turn up.

That’s right! This means that issues that don’t appeal to MPs can just be ignored if they feel like not going shows their lack of interest in the topic.

The Debate!

Finally, the debate date arrived and I sat eagerly waiting for the Parliament website to begin streaming the video. The majority of those discussing the topic appeared to be in favour of revising the current drugs laws in relation to weed…this was largely due to the fact that only 5 or so people actually turned up (not including the small audience…and funnily enough my MP was not one of them) and while they did put forward great arguments in relation to weed, these were ultimately meaningless as the fear mongering by one of the opposing MPs (who also used outdated studies and mentioned statistics that have already been shown to be inaccurate representations of damage caused by weed) was enough for the debate to end with no plans for revision.

Now you are likely imagining that I’m viewing this from a bias point of view because obviously if I’m supporting weed legalisation I’d be annoyed with such an outcome. So let me sum up the debate with one single moment:

The guy who was arguing against weed legalisation was asked one simple question “why should cannabis be legal when alcohol, a drug considered more dangerous, is perfectly legal?” (this is unlikely to be exactly how it was worded but it was the same general question) and the man responded with possibly the most naïve statement I’ve ever heard on the topic “Well I don’t believe there is actually any evidence to suggest that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis”. I wasn’t the only one who found this response ridiculous, the entire room burst into laughter at his reply. I believe this was largely due to a study released just last year that suggested that alcohol is 114x more dangerous than weed (if you’re interested in reading it, there is a link on my other weed post).

Back to the Petition System Sham!

So you may be wondering what all this has to do with this petition system being a clever tactic thought up by the government. Well, that leads me to today. A petition had been started not too long ago to discuss the idea of banning Donald Trump from the UK based on a comment he made about Muslims. Now, I’m sure none of us actually believed that Donald Trump would get banned. I mean if we banned everyone who made a controversial comment; the UK would lose half its population. Keep in mind that England is home to the EDL (English Defence League) which is essentially just a group of bald, racist thugs. We have the right to free speech and that right still stands, even when people make comments that we may not agree with. Anyway, I decided to take a quick skim through the transcript from the “Ban Donald Trump” debate, just out of curiosity. Reading the final paragraph caused the lightbulb above my head to explode. Two parts of this final paragraph are what led to me typing this rant:

Firstly:The triumph of today is that we have had a debate, that has been seen by many people outside, including in the United States, and they have seen Parliament at its very best. We have had a diverse debate from a diverse Parliament.”

Secondly: “I believe that all that has been said today will enhance the standing of this Parliament and reinforce our relationship with our great ally, the United States

So let us take a quick look at that first point: “we have had a debate.” This is where I realised the cleverness of this petition idea. I’d maybe go as far as to actually congratulate them on just how clever it actually is. I mean it’s bordering on genius and I’ll explain why: You see this is a great way of getting people involved in politics. You see a petition you like or you start one of your own and slowly you gather signatures. Obviously by signing a petition, you are trying to show your support for the idea it discusses and you hope that by signing it, you are pushing your government one step closer to changing their minds on the topic.

After all, the government is there to serve the people, right? The thing is you can tell after 10,000 signatures whether Parliament will change anything or not. Their response will reflect the overall opinion of Parliament and express their reasons as to why they don’t think the petition is in the best interests of the people, because it appears that it is not the people who decide what they want, but Parliament. So even if you then get 500,000 signatures or more, going into the debate is almost a pointless act.

Sure there will be people there to support both sides, but at the end of the day it is nothing more than a discussion and once the debate is over, regardless of how great the arguments were in favour of change, they have now debated that topic and can claim to have done so. You see once a topic has been debated, that is it. Parliament has fulfilled its obligation to debate the topic (even if they go into it with a completely closed mind) and now your topic won’t need to be discussed again in the near future.

Looking at the second point, I realised that regardless of how many people sign a petition, Parliament aren’t going to change anything that might affect them in the future. The level of ass-kissing displayed in the debate as a whole was enough to make my stomach churn but the blatantly obvious nod to potential US listeners/watchers (probably Trump out of all people) shows that while this topic was being discussed, it was not being discussed openly. Rather it was being discussed as if all the people in the room were standing on thin ice that could break at any moment.

I mean we wouldn’t want to offend the potential future president, would we? Another thing was made very clear by the overuse of the word “diverse”. Those discussing the topic wanted to make sure that they appeared just that, diverse. I mean if there was the slight hint that they were supporting a white, Christian male over Muslims, there could be reasons for people to act outraged. So in case you were worried that the debate wasn’t diverse enough, they decided to tell you over and over again just so you were aware of just how diverse it really is.

I’m not implying that there is any sort of race or religious bias within parliament, not at all. I wouldn’t hesitate to point out the obvious class bias though. Just listen to them argue in parliamentary debates. They are like a bunch of private schooled children who are arguing in the playground over who owns the rarest breed of fucking parrot or who has the oldest butler!

I mean the conflict of interest that takes place within the UK government is actually phenomenal. Recent statistics have shown that on average, something like 50% of each party are land lords (it was something like 70% within the Conservative party). I’m not one to restrict anybody’s rights…but if it were up to me, working within Parliament would be your only job. No renting out houses on the side, no advising oil companies on how to spend their money. No…do your job and if you want to skip into the sunset to become a landlord, that’s fine. Just give up your seat in Parliament first!