Youth comment – Janneke Dobben

Legalising cannabis is the only way to understand the problems associated with it

My first experience with cannabis was a bit of a joke. Ushered round the side of a gig venue, my friend passed me a pipe and I looked at it with horror. What was I meant to do with it? My friend
looked at me and laughed: “Light up and breathe in,” he explained.

I coughed and spluttered and passed the pipe back. So, this was my fi rst experience of cannabis. I looked round and shuffl ed my feet uncomfortably – how was I meant to act now? Where were the feelings of elation, the giggling and deep conversation? I was a little disappointed.

So young people smoke cannabis. Oh, they’re such rebels aren’t they? Well no, actually, sorry to disappoint everyone, they’re not. In most cases they don’t smoke it to look “cool”. It’s just that sometimes, on a Saturday night, they’d rather not get drunk. It’s a change of scene, a change of experience. They have more control being stoned; they prefer it that way.

At the UK Youth Parliament’s Circle’s of Influence debate in December, we talked a lot about the declassification of drugs. The discussion highlighted  that many of the problems associated with cannabis usage come from a failure to acknowledge that it occurs. It is unrealistic to think these problems can be completely eradicated – so why not control them?

If cannabis was legalised it would cut out the “crime” aspect – the police would have more time to concentrate on real crimes and it would eradicate the black market and shady dealers.

It would give researchers more scope for really looking into the drug – perhaps through a long-term study of its effects – and see what the real risk of mental illness could be. It could be taxed and the government could use the revenue to help with rehabilitation and education.

Almost paradoxically, the legalisation of cannabis is the only way to effectively sort out any perceived problems with it. The law is confusing where it needn’t be – it doesn’t make any difference what letter of the alphabet cannabis is “classed” under, people will still use it. Is this actually a problem?

Janneke Dobben is 17, and a member of the UK Youth Parliament

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