Don’t be so selfish


Want to hear something wholly out of place in a university setting? “Recreational use of cannabis should not be legalized in Canada.” I can just imagine the pouty faces being formed at this very moment, but it’s true. Though its medicinal use is totally valid, cannabis really should not be legalized for “recreational” use. Never mind that getting high is detrimental to societal norms; legalization, and even toleration, has proven ineffective in controlling the use of the substance of its users.

Of course, I am not arguing that marijuana users are crazed lunatics. Doing so would be lowering myself to the American 1930s-style of anti-drug propaganda, such as the oft-seen “Marihuana: Murder! Insanity! Death!” poster. Instead, societal health is at stake. And yes, this entails that the overall healthiness of society takes precedence over individual pleasure. The libertarian posture of “my body, my decision” is nonsense and counter-productive and, quite frankly. downright selfish. It has become quite evident that cannabis consumption has had detrimental effects upon the implicated individuals (the drug users) and upon the nation (all the others).

"But a more lax drug policy, as say, found in the Netherlands, is working wonders and proving all the hardliners wrong!” is what I am hearing from the less-informed and ignorant cannabis militants. What I say is the Netherlands was wrong when it slackened its drug policy. And can you guess who else agrees with me? The Netherlands itself. Here, straight from the Dutch government: “Drugs are illegal in the Netherlands; the use of drugs is not a criminal offence; Coffee shops are tolerated out of concerns with health protection.” Therefore, I do not want to hear talking about “drugs are legal in the Netherlands, and it works.” Firstly, neither “soft” nor “hard” drugs are legal in the Netherlands and, secondly, the country’s drug policy does not work. This has been evidenced by a rather recent change in the government’s stance on coffee-shops and their illegal sale of cannabis.

As some may have read or seen on the news, a pilot project has taken effect in the coffee shops of Maastricht. Foreigners, except from Belgium and Germany, will no longer be tolerated buying cannabis. In addition to this, the limit of grams tolerated for sale has been lowered from five grams to three. Citing threats to the “public order” and “traffic problems”, the Dutch government is not afraid to admit that the “tolerated” consumption of cannabis has had its own harmful effects upon the people at large. Thankfully, the Dutch government has recognized that there is indeed a limit to their moderate drug policy, and these are reached when the well-being of a locality is threatened.

In no way am I one to generalize certain groups and their habits. I can reasonably respect that some choose, albeit illegally, to use cannabis for recreational use, and I am certainly not here to judge such people. Certainly, jail time and the like is a completely unreasonable punishment for individuals using the drug for recreational purposes. Such a policy would be detrimental to Canada in general and to the individual for obvious reasons. But that is not to say that actions do not warrant repercussions. Cannabis use leads to needless tax-payer spending in national health coverage (smoke in the lungs is in no way healthy, and more and more research suggests usage increases risks of psychosis and schizophrenia), issues with public order (yes, just as with alcohol), to the proliferation of gang-related activity (even in the Netherlands) and needlessly endangers others.

To say that enforcing anti-drug laws is counterproductive to their overall aims is a lame argument, and has no basis in historical fact. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime points out, drug control since the 19th century has indeed reversed the once high consumption of opium, for example (think of Sherlock Holmes and opium dens in Britain). If legalization of cannabis were enacted, it would be a virtual invitation from the government to give cannabis a try. Oftentimes, it is the mere illegality of something that prevents it from being exercised, as without punishment, the short- and long-term repercussions are not taken into effect, much to the chagrin of the victims.

In the end, then, we must ask ourselves: is individual pleasure a priority over the ills that buying and consuming cannabis entail? Should you be selfish and narrow-sighted and assume your singular actions will only affect you and no one else? As with many things, it is only realized too late once something regrettable actually happens.

Sebastian Potvin

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