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HomeNewsJason Newman: A cannabis crackdown would do students no harm

Jason Newman: A cannabis crackdown would do students no harm


A little known fact is that, once in a while, college students like to take a break from scholarly endeavours and let their hair down. The night usually starts with a gathering called “pre-drinks” in which some poor sod, in a move they inevitably rue the next morning, volunteers their accommodation to be used as a rendezvous for dozens of students before they head into town.

However, with greater and greater frequency it is more than drinks being consumed at these gatherings. At a certain point during the night, amid the smell of deodorants, perfumes and cigarette smoke, one will be met with a fragrance reminiscent of a pair of musty old socks. For me the same ritual is always enacted, scan the room and find the source and once the source is located discretely move to the point in the room that is furthest away from said source.

Cannabis use is at least as common, if not more common, than cigarette smoking among students at parties. To the new gym obsessed, health obsessed generation it is seen almost as a healthy alternative to tobacco. The misinformation is astounding, every tobacco smoker, no matter how deluded, knows that what they are doing is damaging to their health. The same cannot be said of student cannabis smokers. Most believe that what they are doing has a neutral or even beneficial impact on their health. This is due in large part to endorsements and advertising that big tobacco companies could only ever dream about. It seems like every Hollywood celebrity has at one stage or another extolled the virtues of “blazing up”.

Many students argue that it barely effects how they conduct themselves especially when compared to alcohol. This statement only confirms what has long been suspected about cannabis use inhibiting memory. For if they did remember how they had acted the night before, they would recall being babbling bores that seemed to drift in and out of lucidity. Not to mention the heightened levels of aggression that often manifest themselves when one politely refuses to take a drag.

Alcohol can also produce these results, but only when it is consumed rapidly and copiously. What really separates the effects of cannabis from the effects of alcohol is the pace at which the abuser declines. Every student without exception knows of at least one other student who has gone from being reasonably intelligent to being a dozy lethargic mess within months of their first puff.

Even those who claim to be, “taking it easy tonight” due to an exam or presentation the next day have no problem in spurning alcohol in favour of smoking a joint. But ask them if they take drugs and most would recoil back in horror at the suggestion. Cannabis has long ago been de-facto de-criminalised, not merely in practice, but more importantly in the minds of young people. The prevailing attitude is, “if it were really as bad as some people say it is why would it be so easy to obtain?” It is simply not viewed as a “real” drug.

An attitude has been fostered by students that if the authorities are lying about cannabis what else are they lying about? Skunk? Cocaine? Ecstasy? One observes individuals who only a few months ago were trying their first puff and are now disappearing to the bathroom for inordinate amounts of time and coming back with pupils like black holes having moved on to something more potent.

By weakening their stance on cannabis, both the government and judiciary have in effect eroded the foundation that other drug laws are built upon. To decriminalise cannabis would be to weaken the authority that underpins other drug legislation, it sends the message that the authorities were in fact incorrect to make it illegal and keep it illegal. They would be, in effect, admitting that the reasons for prohibition were groundless. This would set a dangerous precedent for other drug laws, indeed as I have explained above the de-facto decriminalisation has already undermined (among young people especially) the laws surrounding so called “harder drugs”.

A clear solution to what has become a cannabis epidemic among young people would be to do something that appears to have been overlooked: enforce the law.

Do not further weaken it by abolishing it in theory as well as in practice. Students may at times be reckless but they are not (for the most part) stupid or indeed bad people. If a serious crackdown on cannabis were to be undertaken by the police, I do not believe that the majority would jeopardise their future prospects by having a drugs conviction on their record. Furthermore, if the law were seen to be enforced it would automatically plant a seed in the head of those who think cannabis is a harmless drug because it is so easy to obtain and get away with using.

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Jason Newman
Jason Newman
Jason studies English and Politics at third level in Ireland.

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