The great debate… Should marijuana be legally available to adults in Australia?
The US state of Colorado made recreational use of the drug legal on New Year’s Day this year.
Adults 21 or older, who possess state-issued identification, can buy up to one ounce of pot; out-of-state visitors can buy up to a quarter of an ounce.
The drug was more popular than expected among consumers, with some shops running out of their product within hours and others rationing their supply.
The state expects to take in approximately $184 million in tax revenue in the first 18 months.
Much of this money will be used to educate young people on how to stay away from the drug.
Since marijuana was legalised in Colorado, pot smokers in other states of the US say they get better quality marijuana because of increased competition.
Like alcohol, cannabis is not a harmless drug.
The Australian Drug Foundation notes that in addition to the desired effects on users, “low to moderate doses of cannabis” can also lead to increased heart rate, low blood pressure and anxiety.
Long term effects include negative impacts on the brain, hormone levels, lung function, the immune system and mental health.
“Cannabis use is associated with psychotic symptoms, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression,” according to a discussion paper released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The paper also notes that “long-term heavy cannabis users… show impairments in memory and attention that endure beyond the period of intoxication and worsen with increasing years of regular cannabis use.”
Health experts struggle to make an exact comparison between the effects of alcohol and marijuana. Difficulties arise when individuals consume varying amounts of the substances in different patterns.
Conducting accurate research on the use of cannabis is hindered by the fact that the drug is illegal in Australia.
Michael Balderstone, the president of HEMP Party Australia, called on both the State and Federal governments to consider the legalisation of cannabis.
He claimed pot smokers were less prone to violence than those drinking alcohol.
“It’s absolutely a non-violent drug,” he said.
“You’re not going to be looking for someone to beat up. We’ve known in Nimbin for years to give people a joint when they’re pissed and aggro because it works most times.” – Alana Scott
Photo from scene in Pineapple Express (2008)