Cannabis is a weed plant commonly smoked to produce an elated state of being. Also known as marijuana, weed or ganja, it has been around for generations and is believed to have originated from Central Asia. Throughout centuries, cannabis has been used for recreational, industrial and medical purposes. It also has been devalued by moral entrepreneurs who have attached negative connotations to cannabis use exemplifying its negative attributes. The seemingly balanced pull between the negative and the positive effects of cannabis is in constant debate and brings up the question on whether this very useful drug has benefits that outweigh risks. In this essay I will be looking at both sides of the argument and discuss relevant ideas which will show why cannabis should be legalized.
Cannabis had been labeled as a dangerous narcotic since the 20th Century. The 1925 Geneva Convention, individual country legislations and the 1961 single convention on Narcotic Drugs have all shifted the status of cannabis to be illegal and criminal. It wasn’t until the 1970s that USA decided to decriminalize Cannabis in 12 states, and 18 states have legalized it for medical use. Australia followed through soon after with decriminalization efforts in every state.
Affects On Health
One major factor against Cannabis legalization is its apparent effects on health. Schizophrenia is commonly brought up in discussions against cannabis, as there have been cases which have correlated the neurotic disorder with an abuse of cannabis. Between 1970 and 2002, a study was done on English subjects and found that the increase in cannabis use and exposure as a whole has also matched the increase in schizophrenia [Hickman, Wickerman, Macleod, Kirkbride, Jones 2007, pp. 599]. Additionally, it has been found that cannabis withdrawal is a significant feature amongst people with schizophrenia and may lead to a relapse [Boggs et al. 2013]. But the overall stance on these findings still lack concrete evidence, and if we were to make a something thing illegal hard evidence is ought to be provided.
Cannabis, if used mixed with tobacco and smoked, increases the chance of lung cancer as tobacco smoke has been proven to affect cell structure. This causes complications and can even lead to respiratory diseases. However, it can be argued that if cannabis is legalized, there would be more efforts in providing means to use it safely. A current safe mode of use can be seen with vaporizers, which have no smoke and has no effect on the lungs and only affects cognitive functioning. Additionally, Amanda Chen et al. have found a statistically significant difference in the risk of cancer between people who use cannabis and tobacco compared to people who use only cannabis [2008, pp. 267]. This shows that using cannabis, by itself is a lot healthier than if used with tobacco, which is common among people who smoke cannabis.
On the other hand however, Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It’s calming and soothing affects have helped modern day HIV patients deal with neuropathic pain and increase their quality of life. It has been found that cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system control the perception of pain [Ellis et all. 2009]. Additionally amongst people with multiple sclerosis, cannabis has been trialed and it was found that it had it significantly reduced spasticity amongst patients compared to a placebo group [Derick et al. 2004, pp. 436]. The cannabis high also can reduce pain amongst arthritis sufferers, due to the pain reduction structure of cannabinoid interaction and also in terminal cancer patients, and improve their level of happiness in dealing with their imminent passing.
It is also argued that if cannabis is legalized, it can encourage the use of the drug which can potentially increase the chances of people moving onto harder drugs. This brings up the gateway theory associated with cannabis, where the use of cannabis can increase the chances of moving onto more serious drugs like heroine. This can be associated with the fact that the illicit market for cannabis is the same market for other drugs therefore giving cannabis buyers easier access to these drugs [Hall & Lynskey, 2005, pp. 44].
If legislation occurs however, cannabis can be controlled and regulated. This could also cut the risk of not knowing whether the drug you bought is the drug you’re given, as it’s from an illicit market. Additionally, the people who have been found to use heroin will tend to also use cannabis and other drugs, due to the nature of the person. Moreover, more cannabis use can actually reduce the intake of other dangerous drugs, as there’s a safe and controlled alternative [Bourgois 2008, pp. 582]. Also, if legislation occurs, it could reduce the intake of both tobacco and alcohol, reducing the risk in lung cancer, less medical expenditures on the complications of tobacco, and also reduce the violence associated with heavy drinking. Plus, it’s almost impossible to have an overdose on cannabis.
Lost of Motivation
Another case against cannabis is the amotivational syndrome. Linked by moral entrepreneurs in the early 1970s, the increase in college dropout was assigned to the increase in the use of cannabis. The social locus shifted towards the middle-class youth, and cannabis became the symbol of conflict between generations. However, Barnwell, Earleywine and Wilcox found that there is little to no difference in motivation between users and non-users in a sample of 487 [2006, pp. 2-9]. Many users have found that motivation is related to their level of satisfaction from an activity. If it’s an activity their passionate about and enjoy doing, cannabis can actually increase motivation, but in regards to more mundane tasks such as work or tedious activity, there is a decrease in motivation.
Affects on Youths
Another case for decriminalization of cannabis is the damage is does to the youth of the country. If caught, youths face a future of job rejections and little prospects of college. Having a criminal record greatly affects the quality of life, as many cannot even travel to various countries and will always have the criminal connotation associated with them.
Furthermore, youths whilst incarnated become influenced by inmates and can lead them to doing more severe crimes in the future, as a wealthier way of life is offered through doing crime compared to the low quality of jobs they will get once released. Additionally, criminalization leads to an increase in violence near handling and dealing, as there is a higher risk involved [Bourgois, 2008]. It has also been shown that eliminating punishments for personal possession does not increase the use of cannabis and other drugs [Maccoun & Reuters, 2001]
Social Costs of Policing
Another point to make is that the social costs of drug enforcement are a massive blow to the economy, and can be reduced by decriminalization measures [Maag, 2003, pp. 279]. Between 1976 and December 2000, Australia spent around $13 billion on persecuting people with the purpose in reducing drug use, with 67% of seizures being cannabis [ACC 2007-2008]. The prohibition didn’t decrease illicit drug use and actually contributed to the enormous black market and increase in the prison population [Jiggens, 2005, pp. 17]. A lot of those incarcerated were cannabis users despite the decriminalized status in Australia. Legalization with intent to regulate sales and production could greatly help the economy and even boost it with the increase in tax revenue on cannabis. Another bonus is the relocation of policing resources to more serious issues such as terrorism, hard drugs, and general crime.
I believe that the legalization of Cannabis is crucial in improving the standard of living and being a major advantage to the economy. Despite the proposed effects on health such as a risk of schizophrenia and respiratory affects, there is little hard evidence to prove this. The correlation between cannabis and these affects could be due to external factors, such as the mixing of tobacco. The legalization of cannabis allows it to be regulated, kept out of the hands of criminals, bring in higher tax revenue, less spending on policing and incarceration, and not burden mistake prone youths with a criminal record for the rest of their lives.
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