“Yeah I’ll take some Filter Tips, a pack of Rizlas and some Skunk” This is the image that popped into my head when I opened page 10 of The Standard today – that of a 20-something man, with a paper under one arm and a blackberry in the other, popping down to the off-license around the corner on the way back from work for some Weed to help de-stress after a long day. And though this seems absurd to some, it might not be that far in the future.
A cross-party groups of peers in a report submitted today has recommended that low-harm drugs, such as Marijuana, should be decriminalized and their use regulated through sale in shops. This report has been introduced to try and revive the debate over the need for the reform of the UK’s 40-year old Misuse of Drugs Act. Peers involved in pushing these recommendations apparently feel that the UK’s current Drug policy just isn’t working and according to Ex-government drugs advisor Professor David Nutt, what is needed is more “sensible,rational” Drug regulation. The PM however begs to differ. He feels that the policy is sound and said speaking at Cambridge today he said that the numbers are coming down and the focus of the policy needs to continue to be on treatment. So even though there are people out there who want to enjoy a safe legal high and don’t mind the idea of the profits going towards the NHS, like with cigarettes, they are going to have to wait a bit longer.
Now most countries in the world are pretty united when it comes to the hardcore stuff – Heroine, Cocaine, Meth. But policies the world over differ when it comes to what are considered low-risk, recreational drugs such as Marijuana, Mushrooms or Ecstasy. Amsterdam is known the world over for being a haven of the high, with permitted sale and use of some recreational drugs in designated areas. However even they have made moves recently to restrict the particular circumference of the zone where such use is permitted and have cracked down on tourists who abuse the freedom. The United States, which has long been involved in the “War on Drugs” has legalized Marijuana for medical purposes in a number of States, including California and even the capital Washington DC.
This debate is just as prevalent in India, where as recently as November 12, 2012 The Times of India, one of India’s largest and most-respected News agencies, advocated a more “enlightened” approach to Marijuana usage, suggesting that it should be legalized following the legalization in Washington and Colorado. The truth is the recreational use of Marijuana was not traditionally considered a “social evil” or as deviant behavior. In fact it use and sale was legal right up till 1985 when the, now still in force, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, came into force. On Holi, the festival of colors, many people throughput the country freely and openly participate in the consumption of Bhaang (a by product of the female Marijuana plant) as a part of the festivities – from your average “lower class” villagers to the “elite” of Metropolitan societies at their fancy and lively Holi parties. Many arguments have been put forward in India for legalization (and they are similar if not identical to those put forward in other countries) – Taxing the, till now unregulated, flow of recreational drugs would mean a new and high source of income (India is considered to be one of the top exporters of Marijuana and its by product Hashish in the world); Bringing the sale of such drugs out of the shady underworld would make it safer for those who experiment and often suffer due to mixing or “cutting” of such drugs with other harmful adulterants (an argument that would bring such products under supervision similar to that provided by the Food Adulteration Act, which provides strict penalties for this involved in harm caused by mixing of outside pollutants into food grains);and of course, the protection of minors (if sale were age-regulated sale of Marijuana would be restricted just like Alcohol or Cigarettes).
However there are just as many arguments against legalization – Age regulation is not an infallible control mechanism (ask yourself truthfully if the first drink you had was after you turned 18 or 21 or 25, whichever is applicable to you) and while there are many studies which suggest that Marijuana usage is not strictly physiologically addictive, personal experience will probably suffice for many people to know that a lot of people, especially at ages when they are at risk of falling into anti-social trends, can show signs of psychological addiction to such recreational drugs.
Both sides have an opinion. Neither stands infallible. The truth is it is a decision a society and its people must make for themselves. If people truly believe that they are ready for the legalization of such things, and they take personal responsibility for themselves and their children; to educate and protect them; to equip them with the mental fortitude to resist using drugs as a crutch; to allow themselves to be high but not get lost in the clouds; then it is their prerogative to speak up. Legislators are not gods or oracles that can see the future. They are men like you and me, tasked with the (often more difficult than we would like to imagine and mostly thankless) job of making rules and guiding society. But a society if nothing but its people.
I personally choose not to chime in on this debate just yet. I don’t think I am personally well-versed enough to authoritatively comment on the evil or acceptable nature of recreational drugs. Nor do I personally encourage anyone to use such drugs. All I would say is, if you choose to use or experiment, take responsibility for yourself. Don’t say you get high because society made you, don’t say you light up because the movies programmed you. And be safe. If the point of getting high is to feel good, then don’t do things that harm your body. Don’t over indulge. Like many others I like to pop down to the pub once in a while and relax over a round, but that doesn’t mean I would recommend planting yourself there 7 days a week and getting faced to the massive detriment of your wallet and your liver.