The slow burning matter of legalising marijuana keeps sending puffs of smoke into the public consciousness as the medical uses of the herb – and its non-toxic derivatives – become more prevalent. Short of legalising recreational marijuana use and licensing its sale, which has been done in recent years in Colorado and Washington State, decriminalising medical marijuana is looking increasingly likely.
Whether it is smoking a joint to ease the pain of cancer treatment, or more importantly the nausea, or using cannabis oil to treat the chronic seizures of a Nelson teenager, the stuff has medical properties that cannot be denied. Making the derivatives of marijuana illegal as we do in New Zealand is toxic in its stupidity. It is rather like banning morphine because it is an opiate.
Largely the intransigence of many on this issue is caused by the non-logic of ‘gateway theory’. The argument runs thus: Marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. It is more available, and therefore more young people will use it at some point. Using marijuana will introduce them into the drug world, at which point they will use and become addicted to harder drugs.
Following that logic the law of progression is deemed to be irrefutable. Soft-core pornography always leads to hard-core pornography, then to illegal pornography. However, they miss the crucial variable of an individual’s character. If a kid smokes pot and his friends decide to try P, it does not follow that the kid will always do what his ‘friends’ do. In fact, much of adolescence is made up of feeling uncomfortable with the behaviour of one’s peers, and either confronting, abandoning, or accepting them. While I accept that the ‘gateway’ theorists can’t remember what it is like to be a teen, the experience is so etched in my memory that I will never forget it.
A new study in the United States which took data on young people using marijuana in 48 states from 1991 – 2014, found no correlation between youth rates and the availability of medical marijuana. The states which have legalised medical use (like California) already have higher than average rates of young people smoking pot, but no spike after laws were passed. In fact, many medical marijuana states saw youth rates decline as teens viewed the drug as a medicine rather than a recreational drug.
If we want to isolate the true gateway drug we are sniffing the wrong plant. The sugarcane is the true gateway, not just to drugs, but to addiction more generally. Children learn from the cradle to crave the reward of sugary treats, and thus the dopamine response is tailored for exploitation by harder substances. Sugar is the root of addiction, and it is killing us. We can’t get it out of our foods. People load up on energy drinks to sustain them for a long day at the desk. Movie snacks are packed full of the energetic stuff, why? Because we are so physically active when watching the latest Hollywood clunker?
I have never tried marijuana, not by design, but because the opportunity has never presented itself. My sweet tooth left me in recent years – a good thing considering the higher risk of diabetes I have with my condition. If marijuana was found to have benefits for me I would not hesitate to try it, but I have no greater ambition to try heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, cocaine, or ecstasy. Fortunately I do not have an addictive tendency, and I am of reasonably sound mind, which leads me to my final point.
The ‘gateway’ brigade don’t want to rely on the sound mind of others to decide for themselves on matters which only concern themselves. This is not alarming because it is stupid, but because it is menacing. The brigade wants to exert control upon everyone else to prevent them from doing things the brigade does not approve of. This is illiberal, and if it manages to bind the government to a certain course of action then it is a tyranny. It needs to be exposed, and it needs to be opposed. Now is a good enough time to puff oxygen on that spark.