Cannabis: legalize or leave prohibited?

Cannabis, Mary Jane, reefer, sinsemilla, ganga, gangster, chronic, marihuana etc etc. This “safe drug” (as many claim), which became a symbol for freedom of self-expression and rebellion between the youth, in fact hide many more dangers than synthetic drugs. A legalization propaganda of late signifies the question has to be answered firmly: legalize or leave banned?

Cannabis policies
Society opinion and policies in regards to cannabis are discussed heavily these days, and can differ greatly, even if the societies’ cultural traditions may be close. Some states are very rough to the drug, others are easy-going with it. But there is no civilized country, where smoking or any other ‘fun’ use of cannabis was welcomed by people or the power. Even in India and Holland the state allows the use of it, but trying to minimize the number of uses with all possible means. (In Netherlands, in fact, the law is somewhat in conflict with itself: the main law prohibits any operations with cannabis, but the sub-law acts allow use, selling and possession in limited amounts)

At the given time in Russia all operations with cannabis are illegal, and persecuted (more on this below). This irritates some groups, they think that the money spent on fighting the cannabis can be better spent somehow else. Which policy is to be chosen?

Epidemiological reasons
Niels Beyerut’s theory claims that all forms of psychoactive substances use can be divided into three groups:

"Singular": a given drug is abused by few people. Dependence occurs as a result of medical misuse (overdose of sleeping pills for old people, opiates for seriously wounded or after a long break). “Professional abuse” is also possible (constant paint smell inhaling for housepainters). For singular use involvement of other people is not usual.

Second type is “epidemical”, characterized by a ‘fashion’ for a given drug. An abuser ‘infects’ the people who are in contact with him. An example would be heroin, spreading between the youth these days.

The third type is “endemic”, or traditional. This type of drug abuse is characterized by traditions of use of the drug in national culture. A greater part of population than in the two previous example uses the drug. An example for our society would be alcohol and tobacco. Such use is very stable and can hardly be annihilated.

Use of cannabis in India falls under this third type. Smoking marihuana is in the culture of the country, and so can not be simply prohibited: this would lead to similar reaction as Gorbachev’s attempts to ban alcohol in Russia.

The two factors influence possibility to become dependent on a drug: and individual predisposition and pressure from the individual’s subculture. In other words, if a drug in not widely used in the society, and its use is condemned, only small number of marginal individuals can become dependent.

Individual predisposition depends on a combination of biological, psychological and other individual characteristics. A state policy can not influence them. So if a government wants to lower the number of drug abusers, it has to lower the subculture influence, in other words, lower the availability of a drug.

Presently, in most regions of Russia use of cannabis is epidemical, spreading from one smoker to another, hence the tough prohibition measures are, most probably, justified (unless we want it to transform into traditional, endemic). Such measures greatly lower the availability. 

Availability and prevalence
Prevalence of marihuana will depend also on two interconnected factors: legislations and the price. The weaker the laws against cannabis, the easier it is to buy and hence the price is lower. This can not, however, be proved by research yet, although it is true in regards to alcohol.

Possibility of complications
Once again, there is not enough research done on cannabis, but if we are to make parallels with alcohol, the evidence of Royal scientific society proves that when use of alcohol rises X% per capita, there will be more than X% abusers (alcoholics) and death rate from alcohol-related diseases grows more than X%. The Royal scientific society predicts the same for cannabis and conclude that its use rate adversely influence the nation’s health.

An attempt for historical comparison
There was a time when smoking tobacco was condemned in Russian culture. Peter the First in a desire to get it closer to European culture, started promoting (sometimes with force) smoking between elite. It gave no results in his lifetime, but as the state did not oppose this later on, tobacco spread at all levels of society and became a part of national culture by the end of the XIX century. We can see what gave us the policy of no-prohibiting tobacco: millions dependent, millions of rubles turn into smoke and spent of smoker’s healing, thousands of deaths every year. Tobacco smoking became endemic, and it is difficult to lower its level. And to quit smoking is difficult for an individual when nearly everyone around is a smoker.

Do we need legalization?
Now we’re said to “look at Europe” and “use Holland’s experience” (it is curious that Peter the First used the Holland experience too), and legalize cannabis. Cannabis is a drug, at least to the same degree as alcohol. Maybe in the case of legalization we should expect as many cannabis addicts in a while as we have alcoholics now. Surrounded by other abusers, it would be more difficult for them to quit.
Consequences to society can be very sad