"Queen Elizabeth photographed with marijuana in her possession!" An interesting headline, but a little embellished. This past weekend, during a visit to Manchester, a bystander handed the Queen a bouquet containing the cannabis plant. The bystander is a member of the Medical Marijuana Cooperative, an activist group that supplies the plant to individuals who believe in the plant's medicinal benefits. His purpose in handing Her Majesty the plant was to simply bring to her attention the current restrictions on cannabis.
In a related headline, Canada's own marijuana crusader Grant Krieger awaits the Supreme Court's decision on whether or not his rights were infringed upon. Krieger argued that there is a certain section in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (under liberty and security) which states that growing medicinal marijuana is permitted. Krieger suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and has been using marijuana to alleviate some of his discomfort. Marijuana is praised by some for its supposed medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
Krieger's case, and the recent incident involving Her Majesty and the tainted bouquet, highlights the ongoing discussion of whether or not marijuana should be legalized in Canada. So what are these supposed medicinal benefits? It is touted that marijuana reduces muscle pain and spasticity in those who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, and improves the appetite and slows the process of muscle atrophy in AIDS sufferers. The drug has also been praised for its active ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which supposedly reduces vomiting and nausea in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Aside from its medical purpose, some argue that the government would be wise to legalize the plant for the agricultural benefits. Considering the street value of the drug, the government might truly benefit from using marijuana as a legal cash crop. However, one has to question the sense in this as the street value of the drug is bound to decrease once legalized. What money is there to be made? The real profit of this scheming enterprise lies within the principle of production versus demand. So long as there are anxious consumers, there will always be a constant demand for production, which will in turn result in a little extra change in the government's pockets.
But, come on. The government can't possibly be that naive. To think they would be serving people well by legalizing this drug is just sheer ignorance. Despite what special therapeutical benefits it may have, it is still a prohibited drug. Although it may seem milder in comparison to many other street drugs, it still has harmful effects, such as temporal disintegration, memory loss and mild impairment. It can induce psychosis, anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. Worst of all, some claim the drug is addictive. If they're correct, by legalizing this drug, the government might be contributing to incidents of marijuana addiction.
It would not be fair to classify all individuals who use marijuana as addicts, and therefore one could argue it would also be unfair to prohibit the use of the drug from occasional users. But this is where the main problem manifests itself. How do we differentiate an occasional user from an addict? How can we justify the use of the drug for the medically ill, but question its use by "recreational" users? If the drug could be legalized on the basis that its sole purpose would be medicinal, then perhaps the government might not have to worry about contributing to potential addiction.
However, the unfortunate reality is there will always exist a population of users that will abuse, thus making it difficult for the medically ill who might benefit from the drug's implied advantages.