I think, therefore I harm
As you may (and probably do) know, since January 1st, it’s legal to buy marijuana in the American state of Colorado. I can’t get tired of watching all the news and articles citing the unexpected problems that will necessarily arise from the new law.
Hemp is a plant that has been used for thousands of years. It has been known to the Chinese for at least 10,000 years. It has been used to make clothes and ropes. Cannabis is a subset family of hemp that has a high enough THC content to give humans a high.
Hemp makes a high quality paper without the need of any chemical, whereas paper is made from trees using a great number of toxic chemicals. Unlike trees, which require forty years to grow, hemp can be cultivated every year, and up to three harvest a year in areas with no winter. The same area that would take years to cultivate trees for paper, can hence produce the same amount of paper three times a year. Hemp paper is generally considered of higher quality. It is known, though not widely advertised, that the Constitution of the United States was written on hemp paper.
Hemp is also a good replacement for cotton. Cotton is cultivated in marshes – or more likely irrigated lands nowadays – and requires insecticides and other chemicals. Historically, only very particular areas on Earth were propitious to cotton crops. Technologies made it possible to grow cotton in previously impossible areas, but even today only a small fraction of the planet is suitable. Hemp produces a material that is often considered of higher quality and, since it is a very resistant plant, it does not require the use of any chemical. It can grow in mostly any climate.
Because of these facts, it is generally thought that hemp was made illegal so that it wouldn’t compete with existing industries. It was however made illegal on the rational that cannabis was a hard drug that ruined the life of teens, despite the fact that marijuana was barely known in the United States in the 1930s.
Hemp was legalized again in Canada in 1998 and many farmers jumped on the apparently quick cash opportunity, but all but a few gave up the very next year. Nobody could remember what to do of hemp after nearly 60 years of prohibition. To this day, articles made of hemp are only sold in specialized shops.
Hemp is still officially illegal in the United States, though the government is currently contemplating the idea of maybe allowing universities to study the potentials of the plant. It is estimated that a little over $10 million of hemp products are imported in the country annually.
Marijuana is classified under Schedule I of the American Controlled Substances Act of 1970, along with other hard drugs, as it was considered of high abuse potential and of no safe medical use. In Canada, cannabis and its derivatives are classified under Schedule II of the Controlled Drugs and Substances of 1996 (which replaced the former Narcotic Control Act of 1961), making marijuana a soft but still illegal drug.
Medical marijuana was legalized in July 2001 in Canada after the Supreme Court declared the previously existing law as unconstitutional. However, current regulations are so complicated that many – if not most – medical users grow their own plants or acquire the drug from the black market. In fact compassion clubs, illegal but mostly tolerated stores, exist all over Canada where people with a prescription can acquire high quality marijuana. This is about to change though as Canada is currently reviewing its current law to relax it. Medical marijuana was legalized in a few American states over the years following the Canadian law, but is still illegal from the eyes of the federal government.
Many countries today are actively fighting drugs, including marijuana on the same level as cocaine. The current method of actively arresting everyone for mere possession proved to be useless however, as none of these drugs have disappeared, which should have obviously happened after decades of prohibition. In many countries, you can go to jail for mere possession of a small amount of marijuana. In China, one convicted of possession of marijuana can be executed.
In the 1970s, the Netherlands created a precedent after they understood that current prohibition regulations did not work. Realizing that no law could effectively prevent drug use, they went ahead and decided to stop arresting people for possession or use of drugs. Contrary to popular belief, however, the Netherlands never legalized any drug. Instead, they decided to move most of the budget previously awarded to the war against drugs to prevention and rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Growing or trafficking marijuana is still illegal in the Netherlands, and punishable by imprisonment . An almost unique case in the world, the Netherlands law makes a distinction between soft and hard drugs, classifying marijuana as a soft one, along with magic mushrooms (although a series of deaths linked to the use of mushrooms in the later years is getting the drug considered to be moved to the list of hard drugs). Known as Gedoogbeleid (literal Dutch for policy of tolerance), is a set of policies which basically recommend authorities to not arrest anyone for possession of a set amount of marijuana or a certain amount of plants, such limit being considered as for personal use. Far from being a law or even just a rule, Gedoogbeleid is nevertheless now being used by the court as a legal basis in official cases. Notably, the Supreme Court there stated that, since the country have adopted an official stance of tolerance, no single individual shall be arrested as a particular case when the rest of the population can enjoy freedom.
Over the years, so called coffee shops, places where people can buy and consume marijuana, have spreed all over the country and are now an important source of tourism. Despite being officially illegal, these places are subject to city licenses and collect taxes. They are also subject to rules limiting the amount of marijuana that can be kept on the premises. The rules also state that no single customer can buy more than 5 grams per day.
Authorities have barely ever investigated where the coffee shops acquired their merchandise though. In a matter of fact, it is still illegal to produce or import any significant amount of marijuana, and therefore these coffee shops must in effect make orders on the black market. This situation makes for a ridiculous situation where you can sell or consume marijuana, but cannot produce it. Because of this, the Netherlands are now considered a major drug entry point for Europe. In recent years, countries which share a common border with the Netherlands, in particular Belgium, have requested that the country either settle for full legalization or full criminalization – apparently showing more support for the later. According to studies, a majority of Dutch people are in favor of full legalization of soft drugs, but government has stated being unable to make the move due to existing treaties with other European countries and the United Nations.
Decades of prohibition proved now and again that the war against drugs doesn’t work. Wouldn’t it be about time that nations around the world move ahead and adopt a different strategy?
Though initially the amount of drug users increased slightly in the Netherlands after the adoption of the tolerance policy, the country is now among those with the smallest amount of users and, in particular, the smallest amount of drug addict throughout the world, thanks to a proper education. The United States, on the other hand, despite being the country with the most dedicated active fight against drugs, and to that effect having the largest dedicated budget ($20 billion annually), is among the countries with the largest drug consumption in the world – if we ignore a few underdeveloped countries.
In Canada, a report deposited by the Minister of Health in early 2000s found no reason for marijuana to be illegal and suggested that it be outright removed from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Following the wide coverage in the media, however, the American government treated to close the border if we went ahead as we would become an entry point for drugs. The Obama administration, however, went ahead and did just that. We are now required to show a passport to gain access to the United States – apparently the 2001 terrorists arrived to the States from here. With no further reason, should we legalize marijuana? Proposed laws failed in 2002 and 2004.
Polls in most advanced countries show rather similar numbers, with about 25% of populations using marijuana on a regular basis, and 50% having tried it at least once in their life.
In Colorado, you can now legally buy marijuana from state establishments. Washington also adopted such a law the same day, but they have yet to instate any system to sell such product.
In its very first day, the state of Colorado collected in excess of $5 million in taxes. Following the example of the few places in the world with similar infrastructure, though, they should not expect such a revenue on the long term. Over time, the actual figure will settle to a much lower one, likely lower to what is currently collected from alcohol sales.
I just love how the media react to the new law. Many firms published or aired statements regarding unexpected problems that will necessarily arise. In particular, the new legal access to marijuana will affect the teens and create a generation of lazy people which will not be very productive on the work market.
What the media hasn’t realized is that legal marijuana will probably not cause any significant increase in use as compared to before. Marijuana was already there to begin with, legal or not. Illegal marijuana is extremely easy to acquire. If anything, legal marijuana will be less accessible to teens than it was from the black market because of government control.
Marijuana is not associated with laziness. I was lazy in the first place, my use of marijuana didn’t change a thing.
It is reported that marijuana is a gateway to other, more damaging drugs. It is entirely true that most hard drug users have begun by using marijuana. However, when statistics are looked at correctly, it is obvious that less than 2% of marijuana users ever move to harder drugs. Who would claim that 25% of the population use cocaine regularly? The black markets is the current cause of marijuana leading to harder drugs though, as the same guy that sells you pot also sells everything else. Legalizing marijuana would make a separation between marijuana and other drugs.
Marijuana does not burn brain cells or render any user less intelligent than before. THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, similar in concept to alcohol in beer, temporarily modifies how the brain works. It does have an effect on short term memory, but no such effect can be detected the very next day. It does affect how you think and judge, but those effects disappear with the other psychoactive effects.
Cannabis does not create any significant physical addiction. People used to smoke every night may get difficulties to sleep for a few days following withdrawal, but no other long term effect has ever been noticed in studies. In fact, it is easier to stop marijuana than it is to stop coffee.
There was never a documented death directly caused by marijuana use. In contrast, alcohol kills 9000 Canadians and 88,000 Americans every year. In fact, it is generally considered that the greatest risk of marijuana use is being arrested. In the United States, nearly 50% of all prisoners are detained for crimes linked to marijuana, two third of which for simple possession.
Rethink your preconceptions. Forget what you learned in school. It’s time to move on. Legalize marijuana. Light one up and free your mind.
Grimskunk is a punk Montréal based band formed in 1988 which released eight albums. Many of their songs mention cannabis. Autumn Flowers was their first hit and the title of their first album.
*All images from Wikimedia.
Have your word. Let your thoughts flow in the comments below. Commenting about you smoking one at the moment is highly encouraged.