Eimear Kelly gives her opinion of legalising cannabis, and why she thinks we should be more open-minded.
Canada’s liberal government has announced that cannabis will be made legal in Canada by July 1st 2018. And so the question of whether or not cannabis should be legalised in Ireland raises its weary head once more.
 
In my opinion, it should be legalised. Legalising cannabis wouldn’t encourage anyone who doesn’t wish to use the drug to do so and anyone who wants to use it already can, just under the radar. It would also make it safer for those who do use it, considering that the cannabis could be put through safety tests before being sold. 
 
Cannabis can be used to treat the effects of cancer, control muscle spasms and seizures, relieve glaucoma and muscle atrophy, as well as severe nausea and severe pain. While cannabis doesn’t completely cure these illnesses, it has certainly been proven to help.
 
I’m sure we have all heard of the case of Ava Barry, a six year old girl from Cork who suffers drastically from epilepsy. Ava suffered hundreds of seizures daily, completely preventing her from experiencing a normal childhood and getting the best possible start in life. However, after being treated with cannabis oil twice daily, Ava was almost completely seizure free. No one can deny that this is a HUGELY significant difference. If cannabis can make such a positive change to one life, imagine the impact it would have on so many others.
 
The effects of using cannabis include a ‘high’ feeling or feeling of being in a euphoric state as well as a distorted view of space or time. Users also experience increased appetite commonly known as the ‘munchies’ and sometimes the heart rate also increases. The user’s eyes often become bloodshot and the pupils dilate. Concentration and coordination may become slightly flawed. Users that it doesn’t agree with may experience anxiousness, panic, self-consciousness and paranoia.
 
Cannabis can become addictive in some cases but it is rare. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it while one in every 12 adults in the US suffer from alcohol abuse or are dependent on alcohol.
 
According to the HSE, ‘tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland with 5,500 smokers dying each year from tobacco related diseases’ such as cancers and heart disease. AlcoholIreland.ie says that ‘alcohol is responsible for 88 deaths every month in Ireland.’ Meanwhile Herb.com reports that ‘there has yet to be a single reported death linked to cannabis overdose’.
 
There are a lot of myths surrounding cannabis and its use. Some believe that it erases memory. Similarly to being drunk, when someone is high, they may find it harder to form new memories. But unlike the effect of alcohol, cannabis users don’t find it difficult to remember memories that already exist. Leafscience.com says that ‘marijuana users will be able to remember things like their name and where they live, no matter how high they might get’, unlike alcohol.
 
Some people are under the impression that cannabis is a gateway drug. I think the main reason cannabis would be a gateway drug is that dealers that sell cannabis may also sell harder drugs. If there were cannabis dispensaries, people would not be forced to buy from dealers, therefore would be a lot less likely to turn to harder drugs. People also believe that it lowers the IQ of those who use it. However, Sciencemag.org carried twin studies where ‘scientists found no measurable link between marijuana use and lower IQ.’ And many people believe that it has no health benefits, which has already been addressed and proven wrong.
 
I wonder why cannabis isn’t legal already. It has less health risks and long term effects than tobacco and alcohol. Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry views cannabis as a threat. Legalising cannabis would make it safer, lead to less hard drug use and provide health benefits for our country. It may even lead to a decrease in how much tobacco and alcohol people consume, which would lead to less illness and deaths. And maybe the country would be a more peaceful place.