Marijuana use will need strict controls

Marijuana has been facing increasing in acceptance lately, thanks in no small part to last year’s ruling that smoking weed in your personal capacity is legally.

Of course, there also been some push-back against this.

Last year, we ran a poll asking our readers what they thought about marijuana use (Where there’s smoke, May 31, 2018) and while a lot were in favour of it, there were plenty of others who saw it as problematic.

I’m not here to talk about whether using marijuana is morally right or wrong.

Rather, I want to briefly discuss two key arguments that I’ve seen brought up by people pushing to have marijuana kept illegal and how flawed the arguments are.

1: Marijuana is addictive
Addiction is a serious issue and hat continues to affect the lives of many so it is definitely something we should take seriously. It is true that marijuana can be addictive, although it is less so than other narcotics such as heroin or methamphetamine. According to the US National Institute of Drug Abuse, 9% of users end up addicted to marijuana.

While I don’t wish to make light of narcotic addiction, it is also true that many other addictive substances are legal in SA, albeit heavily regulated (e.g. tobacco, alcohol, gambling).
Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that marijuana could be made legal in the same way these substance are.

2: The negative health effects
Another argument used against legalisation is that marijuana can have a negative impact on a person’s health. The counter-argument can be seen in our front page story – use of marijuana has been shown to have a number of healing properties such as pain relief and even when it comes to cancer treatment.

Even if this wasn’t the case, this argument ultimately leads us back to the legality of alcohol and tobacco. Both of these are known to have destructive effects on users and, yet, they are not only legal but can be purchased directly over the counter.
It is logically inconsistent to ban marijuana over health concerns, while continuing to allow alcohol and tobacco.

In the end, it is perfectly okay to disagree with marijuana and not take part. There are many South Africans who don’t drink or smoke for the same reasons. However, there isn’t a sound reason why it should remain illegal when there are other substances like it that are not restricted in such a manner.

There obviously needs to be some sort of regulation similar to the ones governing alcohol and tobacco – no selling to under-18s, no driving under the influence, etc. – but otherwise it should be perfectly legal to use cannabis either for medicinal purposes or for recreation purposes.

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