THE CANNABIS QUESTION
You would be hard pressed nowadays to find a student who is not in favour of the legalisation of cannabis. It seems a very commonplace, almost fashionable thing to be an advocate for this potentially dangerous class B drug, especially now with around eight million people in the UK who consume it. While it is true that not a single death can be attributed to marijuana use (as it would take a colossal amount for one to overdose), many ‘potheads’ as it were, vehemently deny that it can cause any health risks whatsoever. This is, categorically, not true.
I am not ignorant of cannabis or the people who deign to use it. Quite the opposite in fact, as I was a light user for a long time and a heavy user afterwards for several months. I believe this gives me a fully qualified viewpoint from which to speak from. Having experienced first-hand what excessive cannabis abuse can do to oneself and one’s friends I cannot deny that it interferes with almost every aspect of daily life, especially when it becomes habitual.
At the peak of my cannabis use I became reclusive, withdrawn and something of a social pariah. This is not to say that it happens to everyone who smokes, as everyone reacts differently to the THC prevalent in the drug. Having said that, cannabis nowadays is around five times more potent than it was 40-50 years ago, especially when it comes from either home-grown sources or places like the Netherlands. Most consumers of cannabis will state that it is impossible to become addicted to it, however it’s been proven that around 10% of regular smokers can become psychologically addicted and suffer very real withdrawal symptoms when it is removed as a habit. Fortunately I did not have this problem and just found that I had difficulty sleeping for the first few nights.
As well as the constant paranoia and anxiety, cannabis is associated with lack of motivation, general laziness and at best a fluctuating work ethic. I saw this to be true in people I was once close with, who became so dependant that it was the subject of the vast majority of their conversations, and indeed seemed to occupy their thoughts constantly. I also find myself despising ‘stoner culture’ and the stereotypes associated with the people who choose to smoke marijuana (usually justifiable stereotypes, I might add).
This is not to say I am totally anti-cannabis. I can see the benefits it can give some people, when used in moderation. It can undeniably boost your creativity and change the way you perceive things (not always for the better), just not when it is being used on a daily basis. I also recognise that it may help with some illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. But do I want to see cannabis made legal for recreational use in the UK? No, I most definitely do not.
Hemp however, is a different matter entirely. The US government actually had no idea that when they were banning cannabis, they were banning hemp as well. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are both written on hemp paper, like most documents in that era. It can be used for a variety of purposes, from oil, to clothes and plastics. I support the legalisation of hemp to be used in a widespread fashion, but not the THC loaded cannabis.
Many people would argue that medical marijuana is already available in some parts of the United States and has proven to be able to help those with certain ailments. However I do not think that this should be the case in Britain, as not nearly enough research has been conducted. I support the right for scientists to test if marijuana has any healing properties, and if so a sensible approach should be found in order to distribute. A hundred years ago people would have scoffed if you told them tobacco can cause cancer. Over the coming decades it is possible a correlation could be found between cannabis and mental illness, but if it is already embedded in society by then we would be almost powerless to stop it.
My biggest fear with full legalisation is the possibility that we would be adding another harmful substance to be accepted as the consensus, alongside alcohol and tobacco. It would be much easier for children to get hold of and it’s very true that it can cause irreparable damage to developing brains.
Nevertheless I have no doubt that the many pro cannabis lobbyists will push for full legalisation in the UK, and following the US’ example (as we so often do) it will inevitably become fully legal to be sold in dispensaries. Yes, the tax money generated would be significant and it could help those with some specific illnesses, but if the cost is a generation of smokers with mental illnesses I’m not sure we should be so eagerly willing to pay it.
I have decided to use the latter part of this week’s column to express my absolute disgust with Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper’s proposal for sexual education in primary schools to begin at 7. Not only is this horrifically wrong on a number of levels, it shows our current cultures lamentably morbid fascination with destroying the blissful ignorance of minors at an increasingly younger age. Supporters of this kind of deeply degenerate, immoral policy will often cite that it is for the purpose of raising awareness around teenage pregnancies and STIs. However as there has been a dramatic, fluctuating increase in both of these things since sex education began being taught in schools I cannot see how lowering the age would do anything to the figures, bar raising them even more.