Some insist that it is a bad idea to legalize marijuana for recreational use because its psychoactive substances have caused mental disorders in some users, which they have. The US’s National Institute on Drug Abuse says 30% of persons who use marijuana will suffer some form of use disorder, and persons who start smoking weed “before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.”
However, when we consider that regulating the drug would prevent/reduce the exposure of users to adulterated and/or extremely potent hybrids; put away the present absurd law; end the confusion and corrupting of our law enforcement officers; restore the trust of our youth; and end the turf wars, the scale is tipped way in favor of legalizing it.
Unregulated, the marijuana trade has become the domain of individuals who don’t mind operating outside of the law, some of whom are completely unscrupulous persons who would spike the drug with other products to satisfy more jaded users, for kicks, or to hook users to maintain their business. It must not be forgotten that the world’s most popular beverage, Coca Cola, used to be spiked with cocaine to hook drinkers. Many thousands of young lives have been damaged or destroyed by adulterated marijuana, without sympathy from the more callous marijuana prohibitionists who waive them off as collateral damage.
Seasoned botanists in the US have been hybridizing marijuana for many years, and at this time there are marijuana strains being produced in laboratories that have up to 30% THC, the psychoactive part of the plant. Most literature states that “farm” grade marijuana has hovered between 3 and 5%, but of recent, some hybrids in the field have more than 10% potency.
Unlike regulated alcoholic beverages which must have the alcoholic content on the label, all marijuana users have to go on is that the person they buy from is trustworthy, and in turn the trustworthy seller must trust that the wholesaler they are buying from is “honest”. Knowing the potency of marijuana is critically important not only for the basic right of the smoker to know what they are putting in their bodies, but also because marijuana users engage in regular activities to put bread on their tables, such as driving vehicles, which requires that a person be in possession of their physical abilities and mental faculties.
The possibility of their marijuana being adulterated and/or the lack of knowledge about the potency of the product might dampen the interest of some, but many young people will still try it. In the current, unregulated context, parents can only pray that their young ones escape the snares of unscrupulous drug dealers, inadvertently aided by prohibitionists who, with their insistence on keeping the product illegal, give them the space in which to operate.
In 2017 the previous government introduced a law that permits individuals to have up to 10 grams of marijuana in their possession, but does not allow people to grow or sell it. It is doubtful that if all the lawyers in our country scoured the law books they could find a law that is similarly unusual. It’s an absurd law, but we must still congratulate our previous leaders for not minding looking like fools, to give a little relief to marijuana users. We must remember to register our dismay with our good neighbors to the north. Our decriminalization law is Example A of the contortions of little countries when bigger neighbors insist on making them look silly.
What percentage of young recruits of the Police Department would answer yes to having used marijuana, or having close family members who have smoked or regularly smoke it? A 2017 PAHO report said 32% of high school males and 17% of high school females reported having smoked marijuana. Young recruits are drawn from this same pool, and prior to the decriminalization law, they, in carrying out their duties, had to shake down people for a stick of weed. The change in 2017 hasn’t been that great, so our young officers are still in a hypocritical situation. We shouldn’t wonder when we hear that a number of them go the wrong way. The disgrace is on us, for perpetuating situations where they are doomed to fail.
Some argue that the most urgent reason why we must remove marijuana from its present unregulated state is that as it stands, it is the cause of turf wars in urban areas. Mercifully, sensibly we have stopped jailing/destroying the future of, our youth for a stick of weed, but the turf wars rage on, with its chaos, and fear, and the murders of mostly young men.
The US government’s stance against marijuana has greatly influenced its status in Belize, but the prohibitionists over there have been losing ground in recent decades. Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 18 states in that country. Last month Reuters reported that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation “that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and eliminate legal hazards facing many cannabis-related businesses while regulating its use like alcohol.”
That’s good news; we’ve been waiting a long time for the US to be realistic; however, we can’t know how long it will be before they improve their laws, or if they will, and as it relates to the regulation of the drug, locally waiting is not in our best interest.
The present initiative by the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, to pass laws that would allow for the commercial exploitation of marijuana, will go a long way toward addressing all those problems created by it being illegal, but that has stalled because marijuana is still politically sensitive. We should not allow the best to be the enemy of the good (GCP); we can’t get the “whole hog” yet, but we can improve our situation.
Our first step should be to legalize recreational marijuana, solely for local use. Our government should establish a farm to produce it, with strict controls, and sellers must buy from the government’s stock.
Marijuana is a serious drug; all the stops must be pulled out to prevent it becoming a “toy” for our youth. Our ‘say no to drugs’ education campaign must be revamped, made more credible. For starters, we must immediately stop equating relatively tame marijuana with cocaine and crack.
There’s some discussion yet to be had. The smell of marijuana is offensive to some. We have to quickly decide where it will be legal to smoke it. One thing we shouldn’t be arguing about is its status. We need to legalize it, urgently.