Crushing Cannabis Stigma

It’s Time for a Change

The current age is a peculiar time for cannabis. In some countries people are enjoying recreational cannabis to the fullest, in others, the cannabis consumption is merely tolerated. There are countries where cannabis is still very much illegal – individuals falling prey to police raids, arrest, getting marked on their criminal records as drug addicts. In countries like China, drug-related offenses are punishable by death.

It’s about time that the world finds a new scapegoat for its shortcomings. Cannabis has been a scapegoat for the underperformance of government institutions for nearly a century now. Cannabis has been pointed at as the external enemy. As the thing that forces the children to misbehave, have sex, commit crimes and take even more drugs. In reality, cannabis has been a distraction – a distraction from our true problems. Problems like our inability to nurture our children without them staring into screens. Problems like policemen enforcing laws that many disagree with, all the while harassing teenagers or chronically sick people and denying them their medicine.

Thankfully in Canada, our government had the good sense to step into the present and stop enforcing out of date laws, laws that were impossible to enforce and that were broken on a daily basis by millions of individuals. But just because we find ourselves on the right side of legalization in this country doesn’t mean it’s so for others.

The Status Quo of Cannabis

The face of today can best be expressed by the War on drugs. This war is waged globally and this war is fought mercilessly. It has been a failed attempt by the United States government to curb the distribution and usage of drugs worldwide. Cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug as far as the U.S. is concerned. That is the highest schedule and it puts cannabis above cocaine and meth in terms of danger. Schedule 1 of the DEA means that this drug has no medical qualities whatsoever which most of the world can disagree with. This classification has made cannabis usage and distribution one of the main victims of the War on drugs. Zero tolerance policy would be enforced.

The outcomes of this war have been devastating. Since 1971 the U.S. has spent an estimated 1 trillion dollars to fight the drug trade. The spent amount has questionable results to show for it. The overall supply of drugs has not been affected by the governmental efforts whatsoever. It has simply forced the drugs to be imported from abroad. The homicide rate in the U.S. is estimated to have increased by about 25% due to the war on drugs from the violence it has sparked. More people were killed in Mexico between 2007 and 2014 were killed than in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Roughly half of the drug arrests in the U.S. are for cannabis.

How things can change

The countries of Switzerland and Portugal both experienced heavy heroin addiction rates. With drug abuse becoming a problem that the police could no longer handle, both countries did something radical. They decided to treat heroin addiction as a disease and started offering support to everyone who was abusing the drug. Medical centers were built where people could inject medical grade heroin. Educational campaigns were funded. Supplies of clean syringes were delivered. The authorities were doing the exact opposite of what everyone else was doing. It was a resounding success with thousands of lives saved, street crime rates and drug-related deaths going down along with HIV rates.

Economic experts estimate that the U.S. government is missing out on about 7 billion dollars worth of profit if cannabis was made recreational and was taxed and regulated the same way alcohol and cigarettes are nationwide. Furthermore, the costs for enforcing prohibition, arming units, detaining people and incarcerating them would all decrease. On the other hand, cannabis related crimes are expected to go down as well as other problems related to cannabis abuse.

It’s about politics

One of the biggest counter arguments for cannabis legalization is that it will cause a massive increase in cannabis consumption. Consumption would just go off the charts and the reefer madness movie will come to life. There was doom preaching of this sort when Colorado was about to make recreational cannabis legal. A few years later Colorado is doing better than ever. New jobs are created in the booming cannabis industry. Tourism is rising, profits are rising, usage of pain medication and street violence have decreased. The biggest surprise – cannabis consumption rates among teenagers had stayed the same. There was no expected steep increase.

The same is true for us here in Canada. Cannabis was legalized and no Armageddon came. There was no steep increase in cannabis consumption. If anything the more things change, the more they stay the same. The people who wanted and needed to smoke cannabis continued to do so. Those who were curious tried it out and most of them moved on.

The cannabis stigma has a political character. It is not based on scientific results or the judgments of experts. It’s based on decisions of interest groups, protecting their vital industries. Cannabis was a convenient scapegoat and once it was officially stripped of all its beneficial qualities it became prohibited. Cannabis was the enemy that eroded our society, our families and our children. Or so the media would want you to believe.

The truth is that cannabis makes a difference in peoples lives. It is just so versatile in its beneficial effects. It can heal so many symptoms, from chronic pain to insomnia. Legalizing cannabis will only make it better. It will allow governmental research to be done on it, as it is currently prohibited to do so in the U.S.

With prohibition or without, cannabis isn’t going away. It needs to be regulated and controlled in an intelligent way. It should be organically grown, pesticide-free without any harmful chemical elements that it can be laced with. The cannabis trade needs to be taken off the gray economy and join the ranks of market liberalism. Only regulation and harm reduction strategies will pay off in the long term. Enough with the hard-line stance!