I’m not sure why, but this just suddenly came to me in my kitchen and I thought I’d type down my thoughts.
Now I’m sure you’d all expect being with me being a student that I either love drugs, or am a massive killjoy and could spend hours going on about the various medical implications of them. Truth is, I’m neither. Like most things you will discover, I’m not especially bothered one way or the other and can see both sides of most stories. However, I do have an opinion about dope/weed/marijuana etc.
I’ve never really smoked it myself (I may have had a ‘toke’ or two when drunk at a party) but then again, I don’t smoke in general. Not for any moral or ethical reason, but purely because it feels horrible and my lungs hate it. I might as well stand next to a campfire breathing deeply for the same experience. But as far as I’m concerned, that hasn’t biased me in any way on the subject. I know plenty of people who do it, some more than others, and as far as I’m concerned it’s their business. My problem lies not with the people who use it, quite the opposite in fact. I’m talking about the legality and enforcement of law around it.
Before you all groan and think to yourself “Oh no, not another ‘legalize it’ speech”, hear me out. As many of you here in the UK may know, weed has in the last few years been upgraded from ‘Class C’ to ‘Class B’. For those of you not in the know, this means that it has become more illegal, and therefore carries stronger penalties for those caught using or selling it. Now on the surface this may seem like a great idea, it’ll deter people and make an example out of those who are caught. Bullshit.
What this in fact means is that people caught using or carrying it can get up to five years in prison, and an unlimited fine. If you’ve got enough to be selling, make that fourteen years. Now this may sound good for ‘showing the little buggers’, but in fact I would say this only makes the problem worse.
For a start, there’s the old physiological issue that when young, rebellious types are told they shouldn’t do something, it becomes ever more appealing to them. Making weed even more illegal just makes them feel they’re sticking it to the man that bit more when they light up a spliff. Then of course there is the fact that although prison sounds good in theory, it is likely that the people they will meet in their far less than 5 year sentence also do it, and if anything they’ll just come out with better ideas how not to get caught, and a new list of contacts for buying or selling. Some kids today even want to go to prison, as they see it as a status symbol that makes you seem cool and ‘hard’. Sounds cynical I know, but all these documentaries being shown on British TV (such as ’16 and pregnant’, ‘young dumb and living off mum’ and ‘Jeremy Kyle’) it’s easy to see why.
Then there’s the issue of fines. Again great in theory, as it takes cash off the culprits so they can’t buy more drugs. Problem is, the people they catch are either rich enough that it doesn’t bother them, they grow their own so can just make the money back by selling it, or if they really are the poor lower class (who are mostly on benefits, so our taxes just go through them into the Police coffers) then the scenario becomes the same as any other drug user: they will turn to stealing, mugging people and other more serious crimes to get their money back. Then you end up with a problem even worse than the one it started with.
Am I saying we should legalize cannabis? Not necessarily. Am I saying we should consider reclassifying and possibly decriminalizing it? Yes.
Why? Because despite all the various arguments about whether or not it’s as harmful as other drugs (most points about how ‘harmless’ it is are half-truths and paraphrases used by stoners to justify their usage), it is mostly used in a recreational manner that doesn’t bother those around. You’re more likely to get attacked on the street by a drunk than someone who is stoned. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning it for a second. However I think the less emphasis there is on how wrong it is and the punishments you’ll incur if you’re caught with it, the less people will think it’s the cool thing to do and the more people will feel comfortable talking about getting off of it and getting help. This was seen when cannabis was reclassified as Class C in 2004.
But at the end of the day, these are all just my opinions. I may well be wrong, but it seems to me that making the class higher has bought about more problems than solutions. Feel free to discuss with comments, maybe someone who has been closer to the scene has a more informed insight?