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A contentious topic, no matter what age you are
Should cannabis be legalised?
Member Name: kiss_me_now9
Should cannabis be legalised?
Advantages: Cheaper than alcohol, effects may not be as bad as the media would like you to think, medicinal use
Disadvantages: Some people do suffer lasting effects, it is illegal!
As a 21 year old student, I am not unaware of the use of cannabis or the frequency of such. Being a psychology student as well, I am not unaware of the effects that it can cause! In the interests of presenting a balanced view, I'm going to split this review into sections - something I don't normally take the time to do, but on this topic I believe that being well informed leads to the best decisions, whichever way you swing.
--Cannabis; an overview--
Cannabis, unlike many other drugs, is herbal and comes from a plant. It's similar to tobacco in that it's smoked, but can also be eaten (as long as it's baked). The key ingredient in cannabis is THC, a fast acting chemical that reacts with your brain chemistry and causes feelings of euphoria and hunger but on the flipside, anxiety and paranoia. There is some indication to suggest that those with mental health disorders such as schizotypal disorders and anxiety disorders lack or have an abundance of chemicals in their brain - and thus taking anything that affects your brain chemistry can be harmful. There are no recorded deaths from smoking cannabis directly but if you smoke it regularly, it can increase the likelihood of mental health disturbances (something I will talk about later).
Common names for cannabis include weed, grass, M.J., marijuana, chronic*, hash*, skunk*, pot, ganja, reefe. The * names are actually types of cannabis and are smoked or prepared in a different way to 'regular' cannabis.
--Cannabis and (mental) health--
As a psychologist, mental health has always interested me and the effects of cannabis on it are as hotly contested in psychology circles as they are in the real world. Most articles or papers will say that cannabis has a negative AND lasting effect on mental health after *prolonged* use, which is where many campaigners for the legalisation of cannabis find their ground. This implies that cannabis in moderation doesn't have as many if any negative side effects that last after a few days. And in my limited experience, that much is true. A study by Scherrer et al (2009) showed that it is the level and frequency of cannabis taken that affects the probability of having a lasting negative effect. However this is just one study and there are hundreds more out there that support and criticise these findings.
Cannabis is used in some countries as a method of pain relief for the chronically and terminally ill. Whilst it's not a miracle cure, it does have pain relieving benefits and can mark the start of a massive improvement in the quality of the lives of those who suffer. It's also being trialed as a treatment for anorexia with mixed success - it appears to work in some people in inducing the feeling of hunger but for others, has no effect.
--The legal side of things--
Legally, in the UK you cannot buy cannabis or sell it. You can grow a cannabis plant as long as you don't take anything off the plant and/or take it out of the ground. Obviously, having 100 cannabis plants lined up in your window is going to arouse suspicion and you'll probably get raided for intent to supply. If you want to go down that road for personal use, I'd initially say don't do it but if you really want to, know the law and stay within it.
Possession of cannabis works on the axis of intent to supply. If you get pulled over, stopped and searched and are found to have a small amount of cannabis on you, it'll be confiscated and if it's your first offence you'll be warned for it. If it's more than your first offence, you may receive a harsher punishment. Intent to supply can be interpreted as anything over more than one spliff, or if you're on property where it's likely that you'll be able to sell it (i.e. a school). Schools and colleges will also have their own harsher internal consequences for getting caught. Repeat possessions and offences will likely result in an arrest and a criminal record.
--My experiences of cannabis--
Before I came to uni in 2010, I'd never even seen a spliff in real life and certainly never smoked weed. My flatmates in first year occasionally smoked it but never let me try any as I've always been quite open about my anxiety and depression around them. I personally decided that whilst I didn't mind them smoking, I didn't want to partake myself in an environment where I couldn't control every aspect of it so I didn't try it until a year or so later, in my back garden at gone midnight, with my boyfriend. Initially I didn't think much of it as I never had any effect but this was because I was useless at inhaling smoke (having never smoked anything before in my life) and just needed to learn how to toke properly. Sadly, this isn't a problem any more! In summer last year I went to Amsterdam and had a somewhat mixed experience which was 80% positive, but 20% negative. The positive was that I had an amazing time and spent most of the holiday happier than I've ever been before in my life. The world does really change when you smoke it if you're sensible. Things become brighter and music became more tuneful.
However, if you buy a bag of weed that's too strong for your poor delicate mind to handle, you'll probably end up like me, sitting in a crepe cafe wondering if all the loud chattering German people around are plotting to kill you. Uhm... Lets just say the walk back after that experience was an interesting one! The other negative side of cannabis is that smoking it regularly changes you. I smoke about a joint every two months if that and so it doesn't really change my personality, however I can tell when my boyfriend has been smoking a joint a day for a fortnight as he becomes a rude, thoughtless, insecure, sensitive idiot. Whilst we argue over small things occasionally, when he's smoked too much the arguments always become overly personal and massively out of proportion. It normally ends up with us both crying and incredibly upset with each other and it's never good. Thankfully, it's only happened twice and after the second time he's appeared to have learnt his lesson. I don't mind him smoking occasionally, but he is not someone who can smoke two spliffs a day every day and come out unchanged - and he knows that.
My boyfriend has friends who will smoke constantly if they have access to it. Having met them, I can say that they are nice people (and not your stereotypical 'druggies') but it's just too much in my mind. Right now they're fine but in ten years time I'm willing to put money on them not being so ay-ok. It bothers me a little bit that his friends smoke so much as as mentioned before, he can very quickly get pulled into the culture of smoking daily and it's not good for anyone. But each to their own, and I trust my boyfriend to be sensible and know when to stop.
I like cannabis for two main reasons - it's cheaper than alcohol, and it's effects are not as harmful to me personally. When I drink I spend about £25 and I normally end up crying in a corner, harming myself or throwing up. When I smoke weed, I spend about £15 (which lasts me a week), get very giggly, eat a lot and fall asleep. Win!
--Can cannabis be a gateway drug? Is it addictive?--
This is a topic I admittedly don't know a lot about and don't really have an opinion on. I think if you're open to trying cannabis then you may be more open to trying other drugs, but on the whole smoking weed is not going to make you go OMG I need some crack right now!!11!11. However the culture of smoking cannabis may lend itself to progression onto harder drugs through the sheer fact that you're coming into contact with drug dealers and the like and most users are young people who want to experiment. As for addiction, cannabis itself is not addictive in anyway, but the effects of it can be. It's important to note that distinction I think - Heroin is an addictive substance and as a result has massive withdrawal effects. Even alcohol is addictive in the sense that going cold turkey if you're an alcoholic is an unpleasant and painful experience. Cannabis doesn't have this - but people can become preoccupied with the beautiful, exhilarating world they see through it's influence or the closeness to their friends, or even the physical effect of hunger they get.
--My stance: Should cannabis be legalised?--
In my opinion, cannabis should be legalised but in an efficient and effective manner. The Netherlands is a great role model for this; and if we were to legalise it I would welcome an approach such as theirs. There are strict controls on who can and can't buy cannabis and limits per day as to how much you can buy. This will never stop people who want to go overboard with it but after a year or so the novelty of it would wear off for most people and it would be an occasional social situation, not a covert operation in a park at night. By properly informing people of the negative effects of cannabis we could give people the information they need to make a choice.
However, Britain currently could not support a legalisation of cannabis as our mental health services are dire already and our whole ethos as a country is wrong. Basically, I think it should be legalised, but it would be practically impossible to do and would be hugely detrimental to a handful of people if it was so readily available.
Summary: If Britain wasn't such a broken society, I think legalising would work well. But not right now!