It is difficult to accept the proposition that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes.
All comparative studies between cigarettes and marijuana show that both types of smoke possess many of the same compounds; No study suggests that tobacco is responsible for impairment of memory, personality or driving ability. (Comparative analysis - marijuana and tobacco cigarettes smoke doc https://wwwncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/18062674)
Similar to alcohol, marijuana is also a mind-altering substance. But unlike alcohol, that is socially acceptable and used in moderation by most adults, * the use of marijuana ecstasy and psychotropic pills generally start before the age of nineteen. It is worth noting that one of the most significant problems concerning alcohol is drinking to the point of intoxication i.e. state of cerebral dysfunction whereas getting stoned/high also a state of cerebral dysfunction is the only reason for using marijuana and other street drugs. Young adolescents and many young adults simply don’t have the maturity or self-control to handle mind-altering substances. Their brains haven’t fully developed until they are in their early twenties.
Marijuana is the most complex of all the street drugs. It has hundreds of known constituents.
Some are unique to the cannabis sativa plant and are classified as cannabinoids.
Tetrahydrocannabinol – THC- is the psychoactive i.e. mind-altering ingredient.
Unlike alcohol, which is water-soluble and eliminated from the body within twenty-four hours, cannabinoids are lipophilic
When a joint is smoked the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream via the tiny alveoli that line the lungs.
The cannabinoids seep into the main types of fat deposits in the body:
The brain, which is approximately 60% fat.
The gonads (testes and ovaries), the adrenals, the liver and other major organs that act as fat storage depots. (The brain, testes and ovaries are the most sensitive to the effect of cannabinoids).
The protective cushions of fat that surround many major organs such as the heart and kidneys.
The surface and internal membranes of every cell.
Half the THC from a single joint remains in fatty tissues and cell membranes for approximately one week after it is smoked. The rest is slowly eliminated over a period of several weeks. If another joint is smoked before the cannabinoids from the previous one have been eliminated, cannabinoids accumulate in the body.
Under normal circumstances nutrients and chemicals flow through the membrane. i.e. the wall of the cell, to nourish and provide energy to the parts of the cell where the chemical reaction takes place - known as the metabolic process.
However, when cannabinoids are in the blood stream many are unable to pass through the membrane and instead become embedded.
As more joints are smoked, cannabinoids then start to accumulate and eventually saturate the membrane. As a result cells can no longer function normally.
Because the brain is sixty per cent fat, when the neurons (brain cells) are saturated, the brain loses its ability to process information effectively. The brain starts to slow down, thinking coherently becomes difficult, and speech becomes slurred and slow.
The brain performs many tasks that interact with each other. It has to understand information, assess it, integrate it with previous information and envisage the consequences. On this basis the brain then decides what action to take. This process requires metabolic energy and proficient communication between nerve cells. The cannabinoids impede these activities.
Consequently the behaviour and responses of many users are badly affected and they often display personality traits such as poor social judgment, poor attention span, poor concentration, confusion, anxiety, depression, apathy, passivity and often slow and slurred speech. One of the depressing aspects about marijuana is that it doesn’t differentiate between the deprived and disaffected and the well educated and well adjusted.
The main danger of alcohol use is from drinking to the point of intoxication and because illegal drugs are always used for intoxication users are at greater risks of death from accidents, suicides and criminal behaviour.
The chief reason that the death rate from illegal drugs is lower than that caused by alcohol abuse is because they are illegal. Our present system of prohibition actually saves lives and millions of dollars in economic resources.
Legal availability for adults will make marijuana easier for young people to purchase and if attempts are made to limit the percentage of THC in marijuana - a higher-grade product will be produced by drug traffickers and thus the ‘old’ problem will persist.
Alcohol, a legal drug for adults is used extensively by young people: therefore, it is reasonable to assume this is because it is freely available and socially acceptable. It is also reasonable to assume that while we have yet to determine how to prevent the majority of our teenagers drinking alcohol it is unrealistic to believe we could stop them experimenting with the newly classified ‘legal’ drugs solely through educational efforts.
There is evidence that laws deter people from using drugs. Fear of getting into trouble with the law constituted a major reason not to use drug.
The history and the experience of other nations demonstrate that drug education and prevention are most effective, when backed by strong laws and law enforcement.
Some people believe that the problems of enforcing existing laws are too great. However, those who accept this point of view acknowledge the difficulties of enforcing existing laws, but refuse to acknowledge the harmful effects of the street drugs themselves.
This reasoning would not be applied to other criminal concerns such as larceny or violent assault
Some even claim that a government regulatory system could be put in place to control drug purity and price. However, such proposals do not conform with logic or experience.
The reason we don't have a black market in alcohol products is because consumers can easily obtain a drink with the taste, potency and cost of their choice. In the Soviet Union, where the government controlled alcohol quality and quantity, illegal production and the consumption of dangerous substances was rampant.
Experience has shown that as well as increasing cost on the social welfare system, there would be an increase in the level of violence and property crime. The impact street drugs in particular the use of marijuana has on the behaviour of people is tragically underestimated.
By removing legal sanctions and lowering drug costs a broader and more frequent demand for drugs will result in a surge in incidence of random violent and higher crime rates.
There is more than enough scientific data to uphold the hypothesis of gateway drugs, and also the fact that drug users can progress from experimental use to addiction. Furthermore, it is from that group that approximately half of those who are addicted progress to other more toxic substances.
It is astonishing for anyone to assert that for simple possession and use of cannabis drug users are persecuted and victimised, or as some farcically claim demonised and stigmatised as criminals. Possession and use of marijuana is usually included with other criminal charges such as shoplifting, burglary, assault and dealing.
Penalties for the personal possession and use of all drugs including marijuana should involve substantial fines, unpaid community work and compulsory drug education. Also insistence that drug free adolescence is a desirable and possible goal provides the most consistent and potentially effective framework on which the focus prevention intervention and treatment efforts.
*Excessive use of alcohol can result in severe dependency.