WEED vs TOBACCO

Is it time to legalise one and ban the other?

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As the weed legalisation landslide sweeps across the world, more and more pressure keeps on building towards state officials who are still shying away from the move. The people’s affinity to weed has now become stronger than ever before, with the product gaining publicity and eyeballs in the international stage. It has even become a centrepiece at political debates and campaigns, with aspiring politicians using its legalisation as leverage to entice their voters who appear to crave for its legalisation.

Polls in countries like the USA now show that almost 75% of the country is in favour of the legalisation and regulation of Marijuana and logically speaking, this wouldn’t be different for countries like Kenya. Even though the government has worked really hard to criminalise the use and production of Marijuana, the ‘herb’ still finds its way into schools, universities, offices and even law enforcement agencies.

The same would be said for Tobacco which despite being legal, has faced a lot of criticism and opposition from health agencies over its effects and addictiveness. Governments have often worked hand in hand with health agencies to discourage more of its citizens from smoking cigarettes despite still declaring it legal. With the legalization debates gaining steam in Kenya, marijuana advocates have been raising a lot of possible reasons to legalise the herb and criticising governments for choosing tobacco over weed.

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Why Weed? Weed was often associated with thugs, gangsters, bad boys and the spoilt few in society who have made the streets their home and society was very successful in drilling this belief in every person’s mindset. However, after the widespread glorification of weed in movies and music videos by popular figures and celebrities, the legalisation debate has become even bolder. It has stopped being a vice as people were made to believe it was before, it’s now a ‘herb’ and a recreational product. Just like alcohol and tobacco. In fact, consumption of the drug nowadays signifies being ‘woke’ and is not seen in the same extreme light as it was in the past.

Marijuana advocates argue that the herb has incredible health benefits that other drugs like alcohol and tobacco which are legal, cannot boast of.  The medical use and consumption of Marijuana has been tested around the world, especially in the US where about 29 states have legalized the medicinal prescription of the herb.

Marijuana is also being viewed as a potential cash crop and a key economic pillar if legalised. Colorado, one of the first states to legalise the product, argues that it could be the biggest cash crop since cotton. It’s also an avenue that most economists view as a potential employment generating industry to the very many unemployed youth in growing economies like Kenya. When cannabis was legalised in Canada in October 2018, rumours of the herb running out of stores immediately clouded the internet.

Statistically analysing the impact of the drug on the economy, by July, about 7 months since its legalisation, licensed Cannabis stores had logged in CA$492.46 million in sales. This would put the projections at around CA$800 million by October 2019, exactly a year after its legalisation. However these figures could hit a billion CA$ if the illegal weed business was also taken into account since a significant number of ‘stoners’ still purchase pot from their illegal peddlers.

Mary Jane makes you happy. That’s the argument of weed lovers. Smoking weed is thought to be enjoyable, fun and makes people happy. This argument would really pass at these times when the country is struggling with increased numbers of suicide deaths among the youth and increased depression rates.

Why not weed? A study by Drug-Free World argues that marijuana has very harmful effects not only to the smoker but it is also a risk to society. In Australia, they found out cannabis intoxication caused about 4.3% of accidents and driver fatalities. They also related the intoxication to memory loss, low attention span and diminished learning capabilities. However, studies stress that parents shouldn’t relate cannabis to the type of mental health problems related to conduct issues and indiscipline.

CBD, cannabidiol an extract from the hemp plant has massive health benefits:

  • Relieving Insomnia
  • Relieving anxiety
  • Relieving spasticity
  • Relieving pain to treating potentially treating life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy. Medical marijuana is mostly used for chronic pain and is clearly safer than opiates:
  • It eases the pain for multiple sclerosis
  • It lessens tremors in Parkinson’s disease
  • It has also been successfully used in situations of fibromyalgia, endometriosis and interstitial cystitis
  • It is used to treat glaucoma
  • It is used to manage nausea and weight loss
  • It also helps patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease to ease extreme pain.

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

Famous public figures on Weed:

  • Bob Marley Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.
  • Barack Obama When I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger That is not a drug, it’s a leaf.
  • Governor Mike Sonko I will help Kenyans get fresh Marijuana if legalized
  • Ken Okoth The proposed Bill seeks to ensure that there is regulation for growth and safe use of marijuana and hemp including the registration of growers, producers, manufacturers and users with special focus on the protection of children/minors from illicit use just as we do with tobacco and alcohol.

 

Why not Tobacco? Tobacco has come out as a top risk factor for lung cancer even though states still maintain its legality. The strong effort by state agencies to discourage smoking of cigarettes, however, hasn’t borne any significant fruits yet as more and more people continue getting addicted. Weed advocators have hugely used tobacco as a victim or rather their leverage to prove their point to society as to why weed deserves to be legalized over tobacco. What reasons do they use?

Health effects of Tobacco:

  • It causes lung damage which has also been related to lung cancer
  • It also increases risks of heart diseases like atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease
  • It is also linked to higher risks of infertility and erectile dysfunction
  • It also increases the risk of pregnancy complications
  • It also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • It weakens a person’s immune system
  • It also causes glaucoma, dry eyes and diabetic retinopathy
  • It increases risk of pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer and oesophageal cancer.

Even with all these facts, several states are still at loggerheads with their citizens about whether to legalise marijuana or not. But one thing that seems most likely is that tobacco will remain legal for as long as you can predict. But the question still remains, how long before other countries yield to the pressure of legalising the herb?

For more information on Drugs and their effects on the youth, grab a copy of The Outsyder in The Nairobian every Friday.

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