Grass is greener on the other side

People in the American state of Colorado started their new year in a decidedly more relaxed manner, with the government there allowing recreational use of cannaboids, namely marijuana and other associated products.The legalisation took effect on the first of January, this year, after a vote which took place to coincide with the 2012 presidential election.It’s expected to bring unprecedented revenue to state coffers, even though producers cannot make transactions in anything other than cash and are unable to receive tax credits from the government. ‘Weed culture’20-year-old Melbourne student Elias Clure spent a semester in North Carolina, where marijuana for neither medical nor recreational use is legal. He told Represent “weed culture” is rampant there despite its illegality.“Pretty much any party you go to in North Carolina amongst college students there’ll be alcohol and weed, so amongst that community it’s pretty desensitised,” he says.Clure gave an insight into the inconsistency of police enforcement of marijuana in America.“Basically, I spoke to a woman, she might have been about 24, just graduated from maybe UC Berkeley or San Francisco State [University] and she said, basically, to possess marijuana in California, you need a medical licence, however the medical licence is so easy to attain, it’s ridiculous. You could say you’re feeling a bit down and a little bit depressed, and they’ll give you marijuana.“However, she also said that if you’re walking down the street in San Francisco and you’re smoking a joint next to a cop, they’re not really going to do anything a lot of the time. However, if they do pull you up and you don’t have a card, there’s a massive grey area there. Some cops will say, ‘Look, you don’t have your card on you, I believe you’ve got some sort of medical condition and you’ve been given a prescription to buy cannabis. That’s fine, on your way.’“And there’s some cops in California that will pull you up and say, ‘Look, you don’t have your medical card, I’m going to check if you’ve got a right to have cannabis on you.’“And if you don’t, you’re in big trouble.” ‘A problem not solved by the courts’Represent’s panel of experts Richard Foster from Melbourne City Council and Tom Carins of the University of Melbourne Medical Students’ Society said drug criminalisation is a policy failure.“I’ve always maintained that drug issues – be it cannabis, be it intravenous drugs – illicit drug use is not dealt with well and is certainly not contained by the justice system,” said Councillor Foster.“A judicial response to a health and social problem just doesn’t work. Locking people up or criminalising them doesn’t slow drug use. We’ve seen that over decades. Look no further than the American experience.”People who have taken drugs shouldn’t be punished, but helped instead, Mr Carins said. ‘Not benign’Federal Shadow Health Minister Catherine King told Represent it’s not in Labor’s platform to legalise the sale of cannabis.“I think anybody who thinks cannabis is benign really needs to have a look at the evidence on this,” said the former social worker.“I’ve worked with young people in my previous career. I’ve seen pretty severe mental health problems develop, I’ve seen fairly severe beginnings of addiction start as a result of cannabis, and it would not be something that I would ever, ever think that we should be as a society legalising.“I understand some people think it’s pretty benign and pretty harmless. I don’t think so. I don’t have that view at all.” Anyone experiencing drug or alcohol-related problems can contact Directline on 1800 888 236 or the Youth Substance Abuse Service on 1800 014 446. Listen to Represent’s special health episode here.Cameron Magusic

January 13th 2014
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