Far from putting Canadians at higher risk, as Benjamin Anson suggested in his opinion article earlier this week (“Legalization of marijuana is courting disaster” April 18), the national legalization of cannabis will provide a much safer society, as well as innumerable other benefits.
The experience of jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis suggests there is little change in consumption rates post-legalization. Generally speaking, anyone wishing access to cannabis in a pre-legalization landscape can easily obtain it today. All we are changing is from whom it is purchased.
If Canada were merely to decriminalize, rather than legalize, marijuana, that would give criminals a much freer hand to sell the product. That is neither a safe nor intelligent solution.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that for many, cannabis is an effective and much safer solution to pain management than opioids. Jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana have discovered both opioid prescriptions and opioid fatalities have decreased. Even Canadian addiction specialists are suggesting cannabis can be part of addiction recovery programs for those hooked on opioids.
Legalization will lead not only to the end of a currently thriving underground market, but also to savings in police enforcement, cease tying up our judicial system with victimless cases and spare countless Canadians from having the black mark of a criminal record. All this means a safer society. As well, criminal elements currently providing cannabis will have less incentive to be involved in this business.
Along with a decline in underground involvement, there will also be less motivation for kids to purchase cannabis from pushers. Why bother, when they can simply ask an older sibling to supply some, much in the way they ask for cigarettes or beers? I do not condone this, but I accept the reality. However, and this is a key point, I would prefer to have a child experimenting with cannabis rather than with booze or tobacco. Why? Because it is impossible to take a fatal overdose with cannabis (unlike with booze), and if they do become dependent, which happens in an estimated 10 per cent of cases, the withdrawal symptoms are immeasurably less challenging than with nicotine. Finally, if there are any long-term negative consequences to using cannabis (another hotly contested topic) they are of less significance than those of alcohol and cigarettes.
And it’s wrong to call cannabis a “drug.” It is not. It is a plant with a complex set of compounds. These compounds have demonstrated and provable benefits with respect to overall human wellness acting as anti-inflammatories, anti-spasmodics, neural protectors and so on. In fact, there is a compelling argument to suggest these compounds are essential human nutrients, much like many of the minerals and vitamins found in other consumable plants. Unlike manufactured drugs, once cannabis is legalized citizens will be entitled to grow a certain amount for themselves. Again, this implies no market for criminals to take advantage of.
With respect to an increase in impaired driving, the evidence is inconclusive. One thing is clear: when people are very stoned they know they are impaired and will generally choose not to drive, or will drive with extreme care. The same can hardly be said for those who drink. Also of note, the impairment of a stoned person is not manifested in the same manner as that of a person under the influence of alcohol. In jurisdictions that have legalized, overall highway fatalities have decreased, suggesting there may even be a positive benefit.
There is much about the proposed legislation that I do not care for, but I recognize there is a need to compromise. My hope is that some of the more severe penalties will be scaled back, and opportunities created to better study, exploit and appreciate this truly amazing and beneficial plant
source”times of india”