Pubdate: Wed, 28 Oct 2015
Source: Manitoban, The (CN MB, Edu)
Copyright: 2015 The Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation
Author: Evan Tremblay


All Drugs Should Be Treated the Same As Marijuana

Commanding a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, and with 
the already-established support of the courts, there is no reason the 
incoming Liberal government cannot make good on its promise to 
legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana. The ending of the 
prohibition on marijuana is the proper time to reconsider our 
society's stance on other drugs as well.

Many drugs, like marijuana, are not illegal because they are 
inherently addictive or harmful - the arguments put forward as 
justification for the legalization of marijuana apply to them also. 
There is no reason (other than the weight of tradition and old 
attitudes) that a significant part of currently outlawed substances 
cannot be legalized, taxed, and sold.

Tobacco is the example par excellence of a reasonable drug model. 
Those who choose to use it are free to do so. Those who choose not to 
use it are free to do so. Its sale is prohibited to minors and 
tobacco smoke is outlawed in places where it would be a nuisance. 
Whatever you might think of smokers and smoking, it's a model that 
works for pretty much everyone, including the government, which 
derives ample revenue through taxation.

Alcohol is another example of a drug that is regulated and integrated 
into society, and one that bears particular importance when 
discussing the reasons for keeping drugs illegal. Alcohol is 
addictive, and in large amounts severely impairs the judgement of the 
user to the degree that they are more likely to harm themselves or 
others, and are a minor threat to society as a whole.

But we accept that the majority of people can responsibly consume 
alcohol; the issue is not alcohol itself, but people who use it 
inappropriately. For the sake of safeguarding our individual right to 
get drunk (which is nothing more or less than altering your state of 
mind, as all drugs do), we accept a small social burden of alcoholics 
and drunk drivers.

Once legal, marijuana will be much like tobacco and alcohol; there 
will certainly be people who abuse it, or use it in inappropriate 
situations. But these are the same people who drive drunk - the 
problem is them, not the drug. The situation will actually be better 
than those two drugs, as marijuana does not make people violent as 
alcohol can, and its smoke is less harmful than that of tobacco.

Caffeine is an extremely commonly consumed drug that is not only 
addictive, but completely unregulated. It is neither better nor worse 
than other drugs - it is merely accepted for what is, and serves as 
proof that although government regulation may be desirable for some 
drugs, it is not really necessary.

The experience in places quite similar to Canada - Colorado, for 
instance - has been that once marijuana is legalized, it is absorbed 
into society with surprising ease (its use is already widespread, 
legal or not), and many positive effects, such as a reduction in 
violent crime, follow. It is also important to note that, with a 
natural alternative available, many more harmful chemicals, such as 
antidepressants, will become less attractive. All things being equal, 
people will choose the drug that works for them, and self-medicate.

Marijuana is grouped with the likes of caffeine and nicotine, all 
plants. It is a form of madness peculiar to our present society that 
we believe in the justice of laws which would forbid a plant growing 
from seed. The consumption of plants being illegal makes a mockery of 
the splendour of the natural world, of which we are all a part, and 
to which we owe our lives. We can choose for ourselves to consume or 
not consume a plant, but it is playing God to dictate to others which 
plants they may or may not consume. If our lawmakers declared citric 
acid a vice, and outlawed oranges, what would you think of that law?

Not all drugs, of course, are derived from plants, and many that are 
bear no resemblance in the final form consumed to the seed which 
germinates. The drug prohibition is just that - a prohibition on 
drugs, in which plants are a not-infrequent legal casualty.

Drugs synthesized by humans are newer than plant-drugs, with a 
shorter history of use. Marijuana has been used for 5,000 years; LSD 
has been used for about 75. But whatever the history of use, the 
reason remains the same: people take a drug for the specific effects 
it produces in the mind. Synthetic drugs are frequently more powerful 
and less unpredictable (some say they have less "personality") than 
plant-drugs. They are also, relatively speaking, more dangerous.

If that seems like tacit support for harsher control of synthetic 
drugs, it isn't. Gasoline is more dangerous than water, but only if 
you're an idiot - or if someone tells you that a jerry can is full of 
water when it's full of gasoline. Because synthetic drugs are pure 
chemicals, and because they must be manufactured and sold illegally, 
purity is always an issue. Mistaken assumptions about purity and 
chemical content, leading to unintentional overdoses which can be 
avoided in legally regulated substances, are an unnecessary risk 
imposed by the current prohibition. Legalized and regulated, this 
risk would decrease - at least for appropriately cautious 
individuals. The most dangerous drugs would become safer.

I do not advocate a pusher on every corner, tricking unsuspecting 
children into getting hooked on addictive substances. But for a 
variety of reasons, adults may want to avail themselves of the 
specific effects that drugs can offer. If it helps, think of 
antidepressants; it might be nice if no one resorted to chemical 
happiness, but that's really a choice we should leave up to depressed 
people. Antidepressants are addictive - they can do harm, as well as 
good. Substances currently illegal are no different, except that 
their effects are pleasant and sought after, rather than merely 
negating depression.


It comes down to a freedom of conscience - and of consciousness. If 
mature adults want to temporarily alter their state of mind - and 
expand their consciousness through that - what moral argument exists 
to counter their right to do so? Drugs as a general category are not 
as addictive and dangerous as we are told by people like Stephen 
Harper, who said without blushing that marijuana was "infinitely 
worse than tobacco." Two of the worst drugs out there, in terms of 
harm and addiction potential, are alcohol and tobacco, and our 
society isn't collapsing because of them.

As we move towards the legalization of marijuana, we should remember 
the other drugs consigned to the margins of our society. Benign or 
harmful, I do not believe that anyone save the individual has a right 
to dictate what they consume, or choose which lens they view 
existence through. Whether it's LSD for spiritual knowledge or heroin 
because life sucks, so long as you're not impeding the flow of 
traffic, who am I (or anyone else) to judge, let alone forbid?
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