What unfolds is like something out of a director's cut of Trainspotting. A man stumbles around in a daze, raspy voice and wispy eyes. He mumbles "celery is all I've got," and the words seem to ring true with one look at his hollow and oh-so- depressing living conditions.
This is the aftermath of a war with one's self, and it resembles a heroin-addict-like squalor. But this guy, we'll call him "Dave" for legal reasons, is not addicted to heroin. In fact he's got an infatuation with a much tastier but less abrasive drug--marijuana. Is marijuana ruining his life? Or is his green grown mistress all he's got to get through the day? The truth is murky and unfriendly.
The man would have you believe that the so-called War on Drugs is going well. This week alone, police in San Francisco refused to help well-known grower Jason Beck, who was robbed of several thousand dollars of pot at gun-point in his home. On Tuesday, May 18, 23-year-old Han Jie Guan was the latest victim of increased surveillance for grow ops in the Calgary area. And just this weekend, the U.S. Border Patrol seized 1,795 pounds of marijuana, worth $1.5 million U.S. Does sweet, sweet Mary Jane really cause enough trouble for cops to go to this much effort?
The truth is ultimately what you want to believe. There is so much speculation and dissention in the drug war that fact and fiction is a blurred line. Is it addictive? Does it ruin lives? Is it a gateway drug? To answer these questions one must understand what it is, what it does, and why it affects people the way it does.
Marijuana is described as a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. Two scoops of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannibol will make you uncontrollably lazier, prone to eating and less stressed.
In the 1600S, industrial hemp-- marijuana sans THC--draped the New World's northeast. In 1619, Jamestown Colony, Virginia created the first law regarding marijuana, which actually jailed farmers for not growing hemp. Early industrial uses included the creation of textiles, fabrics and ropes.
Outlawing of marijuana didn't begin until the early 1900S. The reasons given were believed to be in lieu of the rising use of the drug by prominent Latin and Negro musicians. Marijuana opponents created a lot of myth--suggesting that it helped the "foreign devils" to lure out children and also that assassins used it in huge amounts to gain superhuman powers.
Today, marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States. A survey in 2002 revealed that at least 3.1 million people use the drug on a daily basis. Its medical benefits have recently been acknowledged, however marijuana still faces an uphill struggle. While new smoking methods such as vaporizers are dramatically reducing the harmful effects of the smoke, there are still short and long-term effects which must be addressed. Attention span and memory loss are both by-products, and long-term use can result in depression, changed personality and anxiety.
However, there are specific methods being developed that will reduce marijuana's damaging effects. One such product is the Volcano Vaporizer. With a hefty price of $600 U.S. one would think people would steer clear, however quite the opposite is happening-- people are applauding its ability to reduce the harmful side-effects of marijuana and tobacco smoke.
Perhaps more puzzling still are the political implications of controlling the drug. In 1972, the Canadian government formed the LeDain Commission which compiled a report on marijuana. The report covered the political and social implications of the drug as well as its medicinal benefits. The commission recommended the total decriminalization of marijuana for the betterment of society as they debunked many myths surrounding the drug and concluded that it did not lead to other drugs.
There have been no inquiries into the drug since, and efforts to decriminalize marijuana have been executed poorly. The Canadian government has made some real attempts, though unsuccessful, to show the public the truth behind the unjust assumptions and myths surrounding cannabis.
However, issues surrounding the legalities of marijuana are still quite prominent. Would decriminalization hurt the public? Would there not be an increase in the number of individuals using the drug if it were more readily accessible?
To investigate these inquiries, researchers from the University of California and the University of Amsterdam conducted detailed interviews with hundreds of randomly chosen marijuana users. They interviewed people from both cities who had used marijuana at least 25 times. They found that despite widespread lawful availability of cannabis in Amsterdam, there were no differences between the two cities in the age at onset of use, the age at first regular use, or the age at the start of maximum use.
While these findings may be isolated, it is interesting to note that marijuana use doesn't differ greatly in a country where the laws are much more lenient. Some studies even indicate a lesser number of people under 16 using the drug since its legalization in Amsterdam.
There are many issues surrounding this debate, and whether or not cannabis will be legalized is unknown.