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Culture

420 day highs: Why marijuana should be legalised around the world

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To celebrate the annual day of weed-smoking, we put a case forward for legalising marijuana use globally

Anna Freeman

20 Abril 2018 12:40

It’s 420 Day 2018! If you’re not sure what that means, you probably don’t smoke weed. It is the annual day that stoners, occasional smokers, and any devotees to the ganja, gather to commemorate the oh-so-revered cannabis plant. Why the 20th April? Well, there are numerous theories, but the digits 420 have become synonymous with weed culture and therefore this day is a holy holiday for the church of marijuana.

Although the stigmatisation of weed use is slowly decreasing around the world, it is still categorised as a Class B drug in the UK, is illegal in most countries, and the buying and selling of it can come with a prison sentence. Liberal, free-market and left-wing political parties tend to champion marijuana legalisation while opposing parties approach the issue with archaic and outdated homogenisation of all drug use. The rhetoric that all drugs are bad has harmed weed’s reputation as a force for good. To commemorate 420 this year, here are all the reasons marijuana should be legalised globally.

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People smoke it anyway

First and foremost, whether it’s illegal or not, people around the world are rolling up and getting baked. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?

The war on drugs isn’t working

Criminalising substances does not make drug culture go away - it pushes it underground. Drug suppliers often become heavily involved with gang crime and violence due to black market supply and demand. Just last week, 14 people were murdered in 36 hours in the tourist hotspot of Cancun, Mexico, due to drug violence. Decriminalising - or legalising - recreational drugs like cannabis could dramatically lessen the impetus for wars over drug territory. Taking a hard line with users of any substance is far more dangerous than opting for regulation - just look at the deadly Philippine Drug War being waged by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Regulated drugs are safer

One of the strongest arguments for legalisation and regulation is that it ensures the quality of drugs being consumed. Although this generally applies to harder substances like cocaine and heroin, there are wider implications for marijuana use as well. Harm caused by use of any drug is frequently linked to lack of knowledge about its compounds and how it is cut or grown. For example, the high mortality rate in America’s growing opioid crisis has been compounded by the prevalence of fentanyl, a substance 100 times the strength of heroin. It is incredibly difficult for authorities to curtail death and overdose rates when dealers are selling a mixture of heroin and fentanyl on the black market.

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Weed is less harmful than already-legalised drugs

Alcohol and tobacco pose a much greater health risk than marijuana. A 2010 study published in the Lancet by a team of experts found that smoking the ganja was safer than both consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, often caused by tobacco addiction, and alcohol causes all kinds of problems such as liver disease, addiction, diabetes, and heart disease. To put into perspective, not one single person has ever died from smoking weed.

Popular support for legalisation is growing

A Gallup poll in 2017 found that 64% of Americans surveyed agree that weed should be legal. This is the highest level of public support Gallup has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement.

Economics of marijuana

From a libertarian standpoint, free market legalisation of marijuana means big bucks. The ‘market-based approaches’ emerging in North America where cannabis is legalised represented a market worth an estimated $7.1bn (£5.73bn) in 2016, Forbes reported. A legal cannabis market could be worth £6.8bn in the UK and net as much as £1.05bn for the Treasury, the Daily Telegraph reported. So for all the neoliberal naysayers, there’s cash up for grabs as well as highs.

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Medicinal use

Medical marijuana is incredibly important to people suffering from a host of illnesses. According to a Discovery Health article, marijuana is extremely successful in relieving nausea, which for cancer patients going through chemotherapy can be life-changing. Marijuana can also be a good sleep aid, lessen chronic pain, muscle tension and spasms associated with diseases such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy.

Creativity

So many of the best talents in the world are or were worshippers of the church of ganja. Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Bob Marley, Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna, Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Carl Sagon, Bob Dylan, Bill Gates, Michael Phelps, The Beatles, Steve Jobs, Whoopi Goldberg, Willie Nelson. And it didn’t exactly hold them back - in fact, it most likely spurred creative jenius. Need I say more?

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Look at Portugal

Portugal has led the way in decriminalising the possession of small quantities of any drug since 2001, in a radical experiment that has become a case study for many countries looking to reform their drug laws. An opioid crisis that had gripped the country soon stabilised, and the following years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high in 2000 of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Why the world isn't following suit is a question aimed at archaic political policy-making and conservative governments.

It’s fun

Enough said. Happy 420!

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