Every once in a while an idea comes along that is so silly and so preposterous, that one does not know whether to laugh or cry. It is, as George Orwell once remarked, a case of there being “some ideas so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them”.
I refer to an item in an online newspaper today about Alex Wodak, the director of the alcohol and drug service at St Vincent’s Hospital. He has said that cannabis should be sold legally in post offices. He made the announcement – of all places – at the Mardi Grass festival in Nimbin yesterday.
One can be forgiven for thinking that the good doctor has obviously been smoking way too much of the stuff he wants made available in our post offices. Maybe he was munching on too many marijuana brownies while at the counterculture centre of Australia.
Does he really propose to legalise marijuana and have it sent through our postal system? Evidently so. He offered this rather weak rationale for the proposal: “The general principal is that it’s not sustainable that we continue to give criminals and corrupt police a monopoly to sell a drug that is soon going to be consumed by more people than tobacco”.
There are a few problems with such a remark. Tobacco users far outweigh marijuana users at the moment, even though the latter camp may be slowly catching up. But apply a bit of logic to this bizarre idea. Right now criminals and corrupt police have a monopoly on selling illegal firearms, heroin, and a whole range of proscribed items.
But by the logic of Dr Wodak, it would be the sensible thing to legalise the sale of submachine guns, and have them sold through the post offices. Or allow heroin to be freely sold, allowing addicts to pick up a batch at the nearest PO. While we are at it, maybe some child pornography and some African elephant tusks could also be conveniently made available this way.
After all, we want to take these things out of hands of the crims, don’t we? Just which planet is this guy living on? And he heads up a leading drug service? No wonder why our drug policies are so messed up, with guys like this calling the shots and advising our politicians. Puh-leeese.
But assuming for just a moment that this guy is half serious; what is he in fact proposing? Marijuana is very potent and very dangerous stuff. It is a far cry from the mild stuff us hippies in the 60s used to toke on. It is many times more powerful, and extremely dangerous. It is much stronger because of higher THC levels (the “high” producing element of cannabis). With increased potency comes increased health risks.
Because today’s marijuana may be as much as 15 times stronger than that smoked in the 1960s, it is much more dangerous. A recent report by the British Lung Foundation stated that marijuana was four times more likely to cause cancer than tobacco.
A multitude of studies have identified the dangers associated with cannabis use. Indeed, there are well over 10,000 scientific studies about marijuana and its effects. The findings reveal some alarming facts. Acute effects of cannabis use include: anxiety, panic, paranoia, cognitive impairment, psychomotor impairment, and increased risk of low birth rate babies. Chronic effects include: respiratory diseases, attention and memory loss or impairment, and cannabis dependence.
The Australian Medical Association has issued warnings on the health risks associated with smoking marijuana. Risks of cannabis use include memory loss, psychosis, impaired driving, hallucinations, asthma, and even lung cancer. Moreover, warned the AMA, one third to one half of detained patients admitted to psychiatric units in Australia are there because marijuana use has precipitated a relapse.
In the article Wodak is reported to have said that the legalised product would come in packets that “warn against its effects”. Hey, thanks for that. And when we sell the Uzis and other firearms, we will also have the appropriate warnings attached as well. How thoughtful. And when the child porn mags are freely available in the POs, we will fulfill our civic responsibilities by including a suitable warning.
There are plenty of good reasons why we should not legalise grass, in addition to the many severe health risks. Opening the door to legalised marijuana usage will simply act as the thin edge of the wedge. Demands will soon be made for the legalisation of other drugs and for the cultivation of other drug crops in the home. Soon calls for the recreational use of various “hard” drugs will be heard as well. This in fact is the ultimate aim of the pro-legalisation lobby, as is clearly set forth in their writings.
Wodak also brings up the issue of Prohibition in America to justify this lunacy. Please allow me a few inconvenient truths here: During this period, consumption of alcohol declined substantially, as did the cirrhosis death rate for men (cut by two-thirds between 1911 and 1929), and arrests for public drunkenness dropped 50 per cent between 1919 and 1922.
But drug legalisers like Wodak will argue that prohibition and/or get-tough approaches are not working. For all the laws and penalties, we still have drug users, they say. But this reasoning is seriously flawed. To say that we should legalise drug use because so many are violating the law is like saying since so many people are killing and raping, perhaps we should legalise these crimes as well. Such arguments from utility are facile. When America sought to racially integrate public schools in 1954, should it not have tried because so many people believed in school segregation? Morality, more than mere utilitarian considerations, should guide our legal system. Law, with its concern for the common good, should shape behaviour and compliance, not just reflect them.
At bottom, the drug problem is not so much a legal problem as a moral and cultural problem. To throw up our hands and give up our young people to the scourge of drugs is a sign of moral irresponsibility. As retired NSW District Court judge Kenneth Gee QC has said, “Legalisation is really a counsel of despair, almost irreversible once embarked upon. It should not be tried. It will not work.”
Perhaps Wodak was just having a great time with his dope-smoking friends yesterday. And he may be well intentioned. He probably thinks he is even being quite open-minded about all this. But the sad truth is, a lot of open minds around the country need to be closed for repairs. Our intelligentsia need to come back down to planet earth, and stop proposing inanities like this that will simply further decimate our already fragile society.
Legalising marijuana is simply a stupid idea, whether the idea comes from a Nimbin pot head or some medical “expert”. And bad ideas always lead to bad consequences.