Marijuana is a greenish mixture of dried, shredded leaves, and flowers of cannabis sativa (the hemp plant), and is often referred to as weed, herb, or pot amongst young people, and within music videos. It is most commonly consumed through the form of a ‘blunt’ (opening cigars and replacing some or all of the tobacco with marijuana). It is also considered a psychoactive drug, as it contains the chemical ‘tetrahydrocannabinol’ (THC), and this is known to have a number of effects on the mind and body. My main concern in writing this article, is why the possession of marijuana in the UK can result in an on-the-spot fine of £60, while it is legalised in Amsterdam and is freely embraced in the culture of Rastafarianism.
In 2013, Northwestern University conducted a study concerning the use of marijuana, and identified that teenagers who smoked marijuana daily for three years, were more likely to suffer from memory problems and as a result, underperformed on memory tasks. Similarly, some psychologists have chosen to link the use of marijuana in teenage years, to increasing the likelihood of developing a mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia. Such a view is supported by John Csernansky M.D., chair of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Northwestern University, as he claims that “the abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders”. However the effects of marijuana cannot simply be limited to the mind, but also to the distortion of time. In 1998, researchers conducted a study regarding the effects marijuana has on time for the user; with the aid of 46 volunteers, it was concluded that “those who showed a decrease in cerebellar CBF also had a significant alteration in time sense”. From this, it is clear that there is still a negative stigma surrounding marijuana, and this may be one reason, as to why it is still illegal in the UK.
However, activists in the UK are constantly campaigning against the prohibition of the usage of marijuana. In October 2015, a cannabis petition was created by Labour MP Paul Flynn, who explains that the “criminalisation of the drug (marijuana) has failed”. This petition came up as the third most popular petition on Parliament’s website, receiving 220,000 signatures from the public, thus placing ‘the war on drugs’ in the lime light for politicians to reconsider the use of marijuana. Furthermore, 39 politicians including the Major of London, Boris Johnson, appear to be in agreement with the use of marijuana, and stress that it should be legalised. As it was even noted that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, is widely known to have smoked marijuana as a student at The University of Oxford. Whereas Amsterdam permits the use of marijuana amongst individuals who are aged 18 years or older with a limit of purchasing 5g of marijuana a day. Therefore, one may argue that the politicians in Amsterdam, are aware of the benefits that marijuana has, such as: preventing cancer from spreading, decreasing anxiety, and so on.
Furthermore, smoking marijuana is part of the Rastafarian culture, as Rastafarians believe that when used in religious ceremonies as a ritual, it can help them get in touch with their Deity.
So, how harmful can marijuana really be?
Evidence from the chart suggests that alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than marijuana, especially as it is one of the biggest killers in the UK, causing over 100,000 deaths a year. However both alcohol and tobacco are freely embraced in British culture, so it is rather worrying, that there is still a negative stigma surrounding marijuana, as evidently it is less harmful. Furthermore, The Treasury Study demonstrates that by legalising marijuana in the UK, it could cut the deficit by £600 million, £594 million taxes could be raised, £24.4 million could be saved in the court system, and £18 million could be saved by the police, and the list goes on.
So why are there all these ‘could haves’, if there are so many underlying benefits for the user, and for the UK economy. Also, will the negative stigma always linger amongst the majority of British citizens, or will they join the stance for legalising marijuana, alongside Labour MP Paul Flynn?
The big question should not be concerning whether marijuana should be legalised, but when it will be legalised.
Main image credit: flickr.com/100651935@N07