Is it time to take a chill pill and legalise marijuana?
Marijuana is less toxic, addictive and harmful than alcohol, says successful campaigner for legalisation
In fact, the Marijuana Policy Project cites a 2009 study published in the journal, Cancer Prevention Research where researchers found that long-term pot smokers were roughly 62 per cent less likely to develop head and neck cancers than people who did not smoke pot.
The MPP site does not mention that the researchers emphasised that larger studies would be needed to verify this link and that the risks of use may still outweigh this benefit.
What of the effect of marijuana on the brain? Again, Tvert holds that “alcohol kills brain cells, but there is now evidence to show that marijuana does not”. He even posits that marijuana may have a ‘neuro-protective’ effect on brain cells. He refers to a University of San Diego study published in the journal, Neurotoxicology and Teratology that shows ‘white matter integrity in adolescents with histories of marijuana use and binge drinking’. “If you use marijuana and you binge drink, you lose fewer brain cells that if you drink alone”. There were 42 students in the study.
As to a link between use of marijuana and mental illness, he says while there are some situations where marijuana “can be found to contribute” to pre-existing mental illnesses, there are others where it can alleviate the problem. And anyway, alcohol has been tied to far more mental health issues than marijuana, he says.
Whether you agree with Tvert’s arguments or not, the people of Colorado did. Their 2012 approval of a constitutional amendment means those over 21 are permitted to possess up to an ounce of the drug and can own up to six plants. Though policymakers are now wrangling over how to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana while federal law bans it, Tvert is confident stores offering the drug will be open by January.
But won’t such widespread availability to those over 21 also make it more accessible to kids? “I don’t think there is any person in the world that wants kids using marijuana. It’s just that these days, most people realise that our current system of prohibition is failing to protect them.”
Tvert cites evidence that 80 per cent of all high school students, that’s those aged 14- 18, say they can access marijuana easily. “So if the goal of the policy is to keep it out of the hands of young people, then it’s not working.”
The same appears true here. NACDA figures show that cannabis use in Ireland was highest among men and younger adults aged15-34 and the majority of recent cannabis users said it would be easy for them to obtain cannabis in a given 24-hour period.
“We should encourage them not to use either substance until they are an adult,” says Tvert, “But at that time they should know that marijuana is in fact less harmful that using alcohol.”
“Marijuana is Safer: so why are we driving people to drink?” is published by Chelsea Green.