Did you know that marijuana is one of the most useful products on the planet? Did you know that marijuana is less harmful than coffee? Do you know what the government plans to do if it becomes decriminalized? These are all things every person should know when deciding whether or not marijuana should be decriminalized. Marijuana should be decriminalized as it is not a harmful drug. Marijuana is less harmful than coffee, this has been shown in many studies. Nobody has ever died directly from marijuana. They might have died while on marijuana but in no way did marijuana induce that death. Marijuana is not a gateway drug and never was. The media labels marijuana as a gateway drug way too freely and they need to learn that it’s not actually a gateway drug at all. The government also has a plan for when marijuana becomes legal. They know that marijuana has hundreds of uses and that it’s not just for recreational use. The government knows that marijuana will be legalized sooner than most people think.
Marijuana is less harmful than coffee, plain and simple. You might still be wondering how scientists have come up with this idea. Here is your answer: While marijuana contains over 400 chemicals, coffee contains 1,500 chemicals. Rat poison contains only 30 chemicals and it’s one of the most harmful substance known. Almost 70 percent of Americans said they were hooked on coffee, based on a 2006 survey conducted by the National Coffee Association. The statistics prove it – Americans need their coffee while 2 percent of Americans said they were hooked on marijuana, based on a 2006 survey conducted by the US No Drugs Association. Unlike caffeine, most evidence suggests that marijuana is not physically addictive. Addiction to a drug is caused by the drug altering one’s brain chemistry in a way that nurtures dependence. For example, the brain is not accustomed to caffeine. The dependence one develops comes from his or her brain attempting to compensate for the unnatural chemical reaction. Since the human brain is already attuned to receive cannabinoids, it does not alter a user’s brain chemistry in any significant way. The binding of cannabinoids to the CB1 and CB2 receptors is an entirely natural chemical reaction. The Institute of Drug Abuse made a chart rating the addictiveness of various substances. On it, they rated marijuana as less addictive than caffeine. The reason I introduced this comparison is to make you question where our priorities lie. Caffeine, an addictive and potentially harmful drug, can be purchased and consumed almost anywhere. Even young children have access to caffeine in caffeinated soda and coffee. On the other hand, billions of government dollars are spent each year to keep marijuana, a drug that is less addictive and toxic than caffeine, illegal.
Cannabis use can be a gateway because it is illegal, which puts users in contact with other substances like cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD etc. In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a more thorough study in which researchers spent 12 years tracking a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers found that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also harmful to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse:
This evidence supports what’s known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user’s individual tendencies and environmental circumstances. ‘The emphasis on the drugs themselves, rather than other, more important factors that shape a person’s behaviour, has been detrimental to drug policy and prevention programs,’ Dr. Tarter said. ‘To become more effective in our efforts to fight drug abuse, we should devote more attention to interventions that address these issues, particularly to parenting skills that shape the child’s behaviour as well as peer and neighbourhood environments.’
Of course, the simplest refutation of the gateway theory is the basic fact that most marijuana users don’t use other drugs. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports: “More than 100 million Americans have tried marijuana; 14.4 million Americans are estimated to be ‘past-month’ users. Yet there are only an estimated 2,075,000 ‘past-month’ users of cocaine and 153,000 ‘past-month’ users of heroin.”
Unfortunately, there is one important way in which marijuana use can result in exposure to more dangerous drugs. Laws against marijuana have created an unregulated black market, in which criminals control the supply and may attempt to market more dangerous drugs to people who just want marijuana. As the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 2003:
Alternatively, experience with and subsequent access to cannabis use may provide individuals with access to other drugs as they come into contact with drug dealers. This argument provided a strong impetus for the Netherlands to effectively decriminalize cannabis use in an attempt to separate cannabis from the hard drug market. This strategy may have been partially successful as rates of cocaine use among those who have used cannabis are lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.
Ironically, the only real gateway that exists is created by marijuana prohibition.
Since the late 1960s, increasingly harsh drug policies in the United States have led to the U.S. having a higher prison population than any country aside from China. Successive U.S. presidential administrations have exported “the war on drugs” to many other Western nations, through a combination of diplomatic and financial strong-arm tactics. Yet despite 40 years, one trillion dollars, and hundreds of thousands of lies, almost everyone agrees the U.S. “War on Drugs” has been a colossal failure. The Associated Press published a major article on May 13, 2010, which used Freedom of Information Act documents to conclude:
In 40 years, taxpayers spent more than:
- $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.
- $33 billion in marketing “Just Say No”-style messages to America’s youth and other prevention programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.
- $49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.
- $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.
- $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. were serving sentences for drug offenses.
In light of this massively failed effort, a number of countries, including Spain, Portugal, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Argentina, Mexico and even the U.K. have all liberalized their drug laws to one extent or another. In November, California voters will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize possession of marijuana in the state and tax its sale. Passage of this measure could have far-ranging effects, both in the United States and in other Western countries.
The influence of countries with lenient drug laws is reflecting the possible outcome of drug decriminalization in Canada, a step citizens view as drastic. Yet, the reality is that an increasing proportion of Canadian youth is becoming more tolerant of drug use, specifically marijuana.
While full legalization remains a controversial approach, Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark has mirrored the opinion of many youth.
“I believe the least controversial approach is decriminalization,” said Clark, “because it’s unjust to see someone, because of one decision one night in their youth, carry the stigma to be barred from studying medicine, law, architecture or other fields where a criminal record could present an obstacle.”
As an increasing number of people are becoming aware of this debate, more questions concerning decriminalization are appearing. While issues such as availability, purchase, taxation and driving under the influence are still to be addressed, Canada is sure to see attempts from both sides of the drug policy spectrum to improve the situation.
And with influential authority figures supporting major aspects of drug decriminalization, it might not be too long before Canadians are smoking up freely.