The grass is greener on the other side of the law Essay

This essay has a total of 3111 words and 13 pages.

The grass is greener on the other side of the law

Would you deem Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Ted Turner, Al Gore, Stephen King, Robert Mitchum,
Bill Maher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Ross Rebagliati as criminals? Each of these people has
admitted to smoking marijuana in the past. Would you throw any of these people along with
millions of others in jail for such a crime?

In recent Canadian news the topic of much controversial discussion has been the
decriminalization of the possession of marijuana. The latest marijuana bill introduced
proposes to decriminalize possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana. Offenders would
receive fines of between $100 and $400, instead of criminal records and jail time. There
is obviously a need for such a bill to be passed or it would not have been re-introduced.

The "marijuana bill" would affect, at a minimum, the population of some 12.2% of Canadian
users as reported by Stats Can this year (Panetta), and a maximum some sources even say is
40%. With such a large population smoking marijuana, it is relatively safe to say that
these people would also possess small amounts of marijuana. The current punishment is much
too harsh for something no worse than having the occasional drink. Canadians as a whole
would stand to benefit greatly from the decriminalization of possession of small amounts
of marijuana in many different ways. Related health issues could be resolved with fewer
struggles and would be more accessible to people without the fear of being persecuted, use
would decrease, law enforcement would benefit from spending police hours on more important
crimes and societal costs would decrease.

Millions of people have tried pot in the past, whether it is experimenting in college or
to relax after a hard day or to help ease the pain and discomfort of some medical
conditions. I am a typical college student; I indulge in smoking the occasional joint and
I have in the past. Nobody has been hurt from my marijuana use or any of my friends or
anyone else for that matter. Why should we fear becoming a criminal for something so
harmless? Now I'm not saying that this includes those people that go out and get into a
car accident because they were too high. I support the decriminalization of small amounts
of marijuana because I would much rather receive a fine for my actions than go to jail or
ruin any chances that I might have at getting a good job in the future.

I will never forget the one time I did get caught smoking marijuana in high school. I
don't think anybody could have been more thankful that the police did not prosecute me,
but decided to confiscate my marijuana and let me off with a warning. Although being a
young offender the penalty would not have been nearly as harsh as what I could face today,
with current marijuana possession laws. Under the young offenders act I would receive a
"second chance" and would be referred to the alternative measures program which would
entail community service as punishment and the record would be destroyed when I turned 18.
Being 22, I could go to jail for the same offense of possessing a small amount of
marijuana. Fortunately for me, I didn't go jail, or have to endure the humiliation and
distress from being arrested. But that doesn't let me forget that each year thousands of
peoples lives, education and careers are damaged by the stigmatizing experience of arrest.
Families often incur emotional stresses and face lost income. The only people really
affected by this bill are the large number of users and those who might want to try
smoking pot. Decriminalizing possession of small amounts wouldn't really affect anybody
that doesn't use marijuana and so, why oppose such a bill?

First let us discuss the severity of using marijuana, in comparison with much worse, legal
drugs that people use everyday. Alcohol and tobacco are far more detrimental in every way
than marijuana is. The largest supporting evidence for this lies in the statistics related
to and social stigma surrounding the use of tobacco and alcohol.

In its simplest form, our laws are based upon what the majority of people think is right
and wrong. People have made laws to protect and enforce these beliefs and morals.
Society's morals have decided that both alcohol and tobacco are acceptable substances for
people to use and abuse at their own discretion. Bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants,
everywhere that serve alcohol or allow smoking display society's norm for the consumption
of these substances. Places like these as well as the media and the majority of people in
Canada advocate drinking to have a good time. Although smoking is becoming less accepted,
the troubles surrounding it still exist. Both alcohol and tobacco contribute to an
overwhelming amount of problems in society while marijuana use is unquestionably low in

Take tobacco for instance; 21% of Canadians smoke and tobacco related diseases kill more
than 47 500 Canadians each year. Cigarette smoking causes about 30% of cancers in Canada
and more than 85% of lung cancers. Lung cancer is the leading death causing cancer in
Canada, as reported by the Canadian Cancer Society. Now some might say that marijuana is
just as bad as smoking tobacco because smoke is still being inhaled in the same
detrimental fashion. Although smoked marijuana contains the same amount of carcinogens as
the equivalent amount of tobacco, a heavy tobacco smoker consumes much more tobacco than a
heavy marijuana smoker consumes marijuana. This is because smoked tobacco has a 90%
addiction rate and is the most addictive of all drugs while marijuana is less addictive
than even caffeine. Editors of the Lancet British medical journal said, "The smoking of
cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. It would be reasonable to judge
cannabis as less of a threat than alcohol or tobacco" ("British Medical Association's").

As for alcohol, though Canada is primarily a country of moderate drinkers, nearly 1 in 4
drinkers confess that their drinking has caused harm sometime in their lives. Recent
studies by the Canadian Addiction Survey show that nearly 25% of Canadians are high-risk
drinkers (Kirkey A6). Juergen Rehm, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in
Toronto, said "drinking is detrimentally related to 55 disease categories" (qtd. in Kirkey
A6). Studies reported by MADD Canada in 1995 estimated that 6, 507 Canadians died due to
alcohol consumption, and 82, 014 Canadians were admitted to hospitals because of alcohol
misuse. These facts prompt the comparison of what is worse, alcohol or marijuana. When
have you ever heard of a man smoking a joint and then beating his wife? How about a man
having a couple drinks and then beating his wife? Alcohol has been known to cause violence
in a large number of individuals, whereas the biggest complaint from marijuana use is that
users become lethargic and loose their motivation. Hands down the worst of the two is
alcohol; there is not a single statistic that shows any death as a result of a marijuana

Now I'm not saying that people should be allowed to get high by smoking some pot, and then
drive a motor vehicle. Methods for testing whether or not a driver is under the influence
of any substance must remain in place to keep people safe. However, recent research into
impairment and traffic accidents from several different countries shows that when
marijuana is taken alone, in moderate amounts, it does not significantly increase the
driver's risk of causing an accident. Although marijuana does impair driving ability, it
does not have the same effects on judgment as alcohol. Drivers under the influence of
marijuana remain very aware of their impairment, almost to the point of paranoia. This
feeling prompts drivers to slow down and drive much more cautiously. Professor Alison
Smiley at the University of Toronto said, "…the more cautious behavior of subjects who
received marijuana decreases the drug's impact on performance. Their behavior is more
appropriate to their impairment, whereas subjects who received alcohol tend to drive in a
more risky manner" (Rolston). Any substance that alters a person's perception and control
shouldn't be used prior to driving a car. But since people still break laws and do drive
while under the influence, I would much rather be worried about a stoned driver going too
slow and stopping for every little thing, than a drunk driver careening out of control and
possibly killing someone.

Another strong point supporting the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of
marijuana is the health benefits in decreasing use, as well as abuse. When compared to
similar situations in Europe, it was found that places such as Holland, with a liberal
policy, had lower drug user rates than the U.S.A. as well as considerably fewer hard-drug
addicts than other countries (Katz 56). Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal,
Switzerland, Spain, France and Britain are just a few of the European countries with
relaxed marijuana laws that reflect the same trends. Other sources provide support that
"Holland's radical approach has not led to greater drug use, and has improved addicts'
health" (Ford). People cannot receive the help and treatment they require if they are
jailed. Europe treats these people like addicts and not criminals, as they should be
treated. With this in mind, the whole marijuana issue presents itself as more of a
public-health problem than a law-and-order problem. How many people are going to seek help
if they are afraid they will be "busted" for it? If the bill to decriminalize possession
of small amounts of marijuana goes through, people can freely seek the help that they need
without fear of going to jail.

One of the larger concerns expressed from people opposing this bill is that it would
condone the use of drugs when we're trying so hard to prevent it. People have also said
that marijuana is a gateway drug and will lead to far worse, harder drugs. First of all,
correlation does not equal causation, in any case. What the gateway theory presents is a
statistical association between common and uncommon drugs. This association changes over
Continues for 7 more pages >>

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