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LAST_UPDATEMon, 20 Nov 2017 2am

Decriminalising Marijuana - Good Or Bad Idea?

Pic:cannabis.caPic:cannabis.caARE you ready to walk into a pharmacy and buy legal marijuana?

An unimaginable scenario indeed but it is not at all impossible. A majority of the United States population today is convinced the sale of marijuana must be decriminalised and regulated by the government.

In December last year, Uruguay also passed a pioneering law which allows the use of marijuana, becoming the first country in the world to legitimise the distribution and sale of the drug type.

According to its President, Jose Mujica, who made international headlines by legalising weed, the move is to ensure better regulation of the spread, import, farming, distribution and sale of the product in the country.

He adds that the country had to spend up to RM8 billion to combat the drug menace that’s enveloping his country, which includes providing jail cells for inmates sentenced for drug offences.

What Is Marijuana?

According to Wikipedia, ganja (or ganjika in Sanskrit) came from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.

Ganja sativa is the smoked and dried flower, steamed or used in foods cooked with butter. Normally, ganja is greenish brown, has a pungent odour and is consumed or smoked (with or without tobacco).Voters in Washington and Colorado just approved measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use/Pic:www.npr.orgVoters in Washington and Colorado just approved measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use/Pic:www.npr.org

Ganja is also a controlled medicinal drug usually found in Latin America and popular everywhere in the world.

Why Is Marijuana ‘Decriminalised’     

An investigation by the international web news portal Huffington Post showed that the people of the US approve the decriminalisation of marijuana compared to other controlled substances under the law.

Today, about 58 percent of the American public wholeheartedly want the plant-based drug to be legalised.

To recount US President Barack Obama’s statement, he said his administration agreed to give a green light to the industry to exist as a legitimate business recognised under the law.    

The question is, if Malaysia allowed the decriminalised sale of marijuana, will it benefit our economy and control nationwide drug abuse?

Facing Risks

The President for the Kuala Lumpur Social Development, Crime Prevention and Anti-Drug Volunteer Force Organisation (Pencegah), Jeevan S. Ramamurthy said that if Malaysia decriminalise marijuana and accept the sale and distribution of the drug as a legitimate source of income for the economy, he feared that the country will risk facing a grave situation with drugs which will also involve schoolchildren.

“I see (the legalisation of marijuana) as a situation that is happening in Western countries, but it is risky to copy them.

“Enough with the current (laws against drug abuse), I don’t think it’s a good idea to have such situation in Malaysia. Even when we find that our rehabilitation programs isn’t that successful, there’s no reason why the government should (change the law to follow the West) because it will destroy our country," he told Malaysian Digest.

He adds that although he doesn’t deny that some other Western countries allowed individuals to carry drugs with them for personal use, the amount is small and the laws governing personal use are very strict.

Lax Enforcement

Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, Section 6B, a person is deemed to be guilty of cultivating cannabis if he is found to possess (even if it is just one stalk of the ganja plant) cannabis plant and can be sentenced to life imprisonment.

According to the Act, Jeevan admits that although for a long time the illegal use of drugs in the country is under control, lax enforcement of late have allowed the use of ganja to be widespread and difficult to curb.

“Around the 1980s, the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared drugs as the country’s number one enemy. And at the time, we were relentless in fighting drug abuse until we were seen as one of the toughest countries in the world when it comes of fighting drugs.

“But today, enforcement is getting relaxed, and when perpetrators are caught, the laws are not being applied as strictly and sentencing is disproportionate to the crime,” he added.

Looking at this scenario, Jeevan gave an illustration of the kind of ineffective rehabilitation programs given to drug convicts.

“Individuals convicted for drug abuse will be given a 12-month jail sentence, whereas under the Drug Dependants Act (Treatment and Rehabilitation) 1983 states that those convicted should be sentenced to a 2-years’ jail,” he pointed out to mD.

However, Jeevan do agree that medicinal use of marijuana can help the economy seeing that the plant has many medicinal benefits.

Increased Criminal Activity

Criminologist Kamal Affandi Hashim said that many countries in the world felt that by allowing the legitimate use of marijuana, they will indirectly change a bad situation into something more positive.

Criminologist Kamal Affandi HashimCriminologist Kamal Affandi Hashim“If we successfully pass a law that legalise marijuana, we will become only the second country in the world to do it.

“But I believe that the rate of crime will increase (if this were to happen) because the drug abusers will lose their source of income to get their ‘supplies’, so it’s not impossible that they will snatch and steal to get their fix,” Kamal explains.

The recipient of the Assistant Superintendant (Honorary) title concurs also added, where he opined that if we follow the Western model in tackling drug abuse, we will face problems.

“If we allow drug cartels to contribute to the country’s economy, they will also want a say in the country’s national drug policies.

“Are we ready to allow them to have a hand in drawing up national policies?” he cynically asks.

Commenting on the recent abuse of ketum leaves drink (a type of bushmen’s tea), Kamal classified marijuana as having worse effects than ketum leaves but he said it shouldn’t mean that we should allow ketum to corrupt the country.

Marijuana – Not Legal For Medicinal Use

Pharmacist Teoh Khee Wei said from a Malaysian medicine point of view, marijuana is not approved for use in medicine.

“The government does not include marijuana in the list of approved drugs. This is probably because we have a negative perception of the drug,” he said.

Teoh also said that there are other ‘replacement’ drugs that perform more efficiently in medical treatment compared to marijuana.

“As a pain-suppressant, for example, marijuana is not as potent as many other medicinal drugs.

“Therefore in my opinion, to have marijuana approved for medicinal use is really unnecessary,” said the pharmacist who is attached to a hospital in Penang.

Teoh adds that although we do not recognise it from the point of view of medicine, to smoke recreational cannabis is far better than indulging in alcohol or cigarette.

Economy

Many countries that approve the legalisation of marijuana is because the people believe that the country can earn income from its taxation.

A renowned international economist once said that the move to legalise marijuana can save the US up to USD14 million a year.

According to a research by Cato (Contract Research Organisation) in 2010, the decriminalisation of marijuana will generate USD8.7 billion of Federal and State revenue every year in the US.

Are We Ready?

Drug abuse has long been recognised as something that threatens and corrupts a country from the standpoint of economy, socio-culture, politics and security.

As signatory of ASEAN’s goal of being a drug-free region by 2015, we are not exempted from this commitment.

If we stop and think of the current situation for a moment, can we reach the goal of a zero-drug society? A bit of wishful thinking isn’t it? So should we allow for some legitimate use of marijuana in the country? Or is it a bad idea to follow the West?

 

 

 

- mD