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The multi-faceted argument of drug decriminalisation

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I am starting to realise that the motto of a certain famous (notorious to some) whiskey may be wrong, and maybe Bob Dylan was right: The Times, They Are A-Changin’.

Though it feels like yesterday, it was four years ago that the Divorce Referendum, the pulpit (some pun intended) for the first major social change in a generation, was in full swing. From then on, we have moved onwards towards unrivaled social change: Divorce was introduced, marriage rights were extended to both transgender and homosexual couples, and now we are within touching distance of a some kind of drug decriminalization.

The White Paper on Drug Decrimilization has just been issued and, as expected, the aye-sayers and the nay-sayers have come out all guns blazing stating their points. A prima facie, all sides have relatively valid points; but the argument is as widespread as can be…

So here is a plausible list of the possible points of departure for any possible argument related to drug decriminalisation… and I am pretty sure that there are others which I have left out, but here we go….

 

Are all Drugs harmful?

 

This is not a question of whether all drugs are the same: I am pretty sure that ‘Breaking Bad’ would not have been such a success if Walter White grew cannabinoids instead of methamphetamine…

However, in the eyes of the beholder, apples and oranges are still fruit; anything which diminishes the capacity of understanding or mental thought of any person and may prove to be addicting and/or harmful to the human body should be out rightly banned. End of Story.

Oh wait….. Of course it isn’t.

Some of these drugs are used as medicinal prescriptions by the local doctor or pharmacist for both serious and less worrying diseases: The aim is far from recreational, and although it is true that some of these narcotics seem to diminish the mental capacity of the person to some extent, this is all done in order to help the human body repel its sickness… and preferably without suffering from side effects which make the whole situation even worse.

And if we forget the medicinal side of things, critics may point at two other things: tobacco and alcohol. It is not possible for tobacco in itself to be used, but in effect any normal cigarette has a number of chemicals which give it the blend and taste needed in order for it to be smoked: And herein lies the rub, for according to Cancer Research UK, any normal cigarette must have any, if not all, of these cancerous chemicals: tar, arsenic, benzene, even polonium-210. And talking to students about getting drunk is like talking to a baby about bed-wetting… We know you did it once too many times, you’re just embarrassed to talk about it with others unless we realise that they have done it as well. And if they outdrank (or out-sh*t themselves, than the competition is on…)

Yet it would be wrong to assume that with tobacco and alcohol it’s all carte blanche:  Anti-tobacco legislation has been as ferocious as never before, while alcohol is out rightly banned in public spaces: (In case you’re wondering, yes: getting drunk in Paceville, which is considered as a public space, is illegal by a contravention. That’s the pesky law for you)

 

Government Interference… Aye or Nay?

 

Simply put, the Government has a bonus pater familias duty of protecting the individuals of their state from each other. But the point of conflicting convergence is here: Does the Government, or any state organization for that matter, possess the duty and obligation (legal or otherwise) to protect the individual from him/herself?

Extending from this line of thought, people who are against the decriminalization of drugs argue that the state has the duty to combat the recreational use of any drugs whatsoever as the beneficial aspects of such use, which are few or non-existent, are vastly outweighed by its negative aspects. Meanwhile, others argue that the state should politely sod off and mind its own business.

Starting from the most obvious drug in question: Marijuana. Yes, it is a lesser form of drug whose effects are relatively few in contrast with other, high-potency narcotics.  It does not make your teeth fall off or lose your hair more than you should, but the myth that marijuana is “completely harmless” is just that… a myth. Smoking marijuana, just the like the smoking of any other narcotic, has severe physical cardio-vascular and respiratory problems.

 

Gateway Drugs… Fact or Fiction?

This ‘theory’ explains that any person experiencing marijuana and other lesser drugs for recreational use inadvertently leads to them experiencing other, stronger types of drugs, which in turn will lead to a never-ending circle of drug abuse from which there is very rarely any absolution.

The truth is that this theory can neither be completely disregarded as trash, but should not be taken as a narcotic commandment. Studies have managed to come up with inconclusive results.

The best part: The Gateway Theory is used by both sides of the Drug Decrimilization Debate: Those in favour argue that, by legalizing said lesser drugs but outlawing the rest, there would be no gateway to more powerful narcotics as they would have enough to be satisfied as there is. Meanwhile, the nay-sayers argue that no matter how harsh or severe a punishment can be, any substance will make the recipient body build up resistance to it, until it eventually makes the person move away to other narcotics in order to be satisfied.

 

Well… Is a Change needed?

 

If the recent arguments about drug decriminalization have reached a consensus on at least one of the possible points, it is the fact that the punishment and outlook of the law with regards to narcotics, in some cases, has been completely over the top.

The Daniel Holmes case, which maybe is still fresh in the sheer majority of the Maltese population, students notwithstanding, has been the major pivotal point of this whole debate. Even non-drug users still felt pretty aggrieved when a ten-year sentence and a €23,000 fine were splashed on him for drug trafficking and possession of more than one kilogram of cannabis.

Here lies the rub: The police investigation, when taking into account the amount of cannabis found in the apartment where Mr. Holmes resided, forgot to mention that they also included the stalks and roots of the plants, which are not used in any way for the usage of marijuana. Taking this into account, the amount of illegal substances found was supposed to be much less than it was declared. Mr. Holmes’ defence lawyers also pointed out the anomaly that was that this man, who was supposed to sell said drugs, ‘could not afford utility bills, had to borrow a car and his rent was paid by his parents,’ with the only cash being found in the apartment amounted to €100, and no other cash was in Mr. Holmes’ name.

The uproar was enormous, yet it did not do any affect, as the sentence and punishment were soon confirmed by the Court of Appeal.

And so, even though there may not be a clear direction in which the next Maltese social revolution must arrive, the hardest part of all has already been accomplished: We have started paving the way for change; lest we not stall in our progress.

What was that cheesy quote by what-his-face about the only thing having to fear is fear itself… or something? Yeah, well… You know the drill: get inspired and move along.

Posted in Opinion, Opinion

Malta’s mediocre music scene

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After a dreadful exam last Wednesday, I decided to treat myself to a cheeky mid-exam period break and promptly head off to one of the many fancy, overpriced cocktail bars in Paceville for a drink with a friend.  Considering I’m supposed to be studying while writing this article, I will cut straight to the chase and make this as brief as possible:

After rebelliously ordering a pint and enduring the resulting smirk from the waitress, I noticed a small stage set up in one corner of the dance floor.  A few seconds later, a five-piece band started making their way towards the stage, equipped with some of the most expensive equipment I have ever laid my eyes on.  As a musician, you can only imagine what was going through my head at this moment: Go out on a random night out to a random bar and find a live band – I’ve hit the jackpot!  I let my naivety get the best of me as the anticipation for some jazz-fusion or jazz-funk that one automatically expects from such a band in such a location took over.

The drummer knocked his drumsticks together, setting the time signature and pace of the song for his fellow band members.  This was happening…

….“Yellow” by Coldplay….

 

Halfway into the song, things got even more intriguing.  Two police officers in full uniform walked into the bar and put an abrupt end to the gig.  It was 11.45 pm and the music was too loud.  Music.  Too loud.  In Paceville.

A small argument then ensued between the band members, the manager of the bar and the police.  It turns out the band members are all Italian.

I will now attempt to continue studying and allow you to draw your own conclusions after reading this.  For those who are not sure what to make of it, these are the most salient facts in one sentence:

Despite the huge amount of mediocre local bands, a local bar employed a foreign mediocre band to play their mediocre music in their mediocre bar in our mediocre clubbing district, only to be stopped by the police.

Posted in Opinion

JCI conference about to commence

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Junior Chamber International (JCI) Malta will be hosting this year’s conference, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the organisation’s inception on the island. The conference kicks off on the 11th June with an opening ceremony at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. The conference will come to a close at the Granaries on Saturday 14th June.

Over the span of four days, JCI will be hosting official courses, invited trainer courses, workshops, and talks by keynote speakers. A business networking event will allow JCI members to create contacts for future opportunities, as well as involve themselves in activities regarding communication, active citizenship, achievement, and leadership qualities. During the event, a ‘Members’ Lounge and Tradeshow’ is also being organised, allowing organisations to showcase their work.

The conference will also include a sport programme, part of which will consist of the ‘Row 4 Nets’ challenge aimed at promoting the JCI charity that donates towards the provision of malaria-preventing nets. All this will be hosted at the chosen JCI village in St. Julian’s. Most of the events will be taking place at the Corinthia and Radisson hotels in St. Julians.

 

Insite spoke to Mariella MacLeod, the COC Honorary Chairperson for this year’s event.

 

Q: What is JCI in Malta and what is its aim?

A: JCI in Malta is celebrating its 20th year anniversary this year. Members are between the ages of eighteen and forty. This organisation promotes self-development as well as community work, based on internationalism. The aim of this organisation is to create a positive change. JCI was first started in the United States, and will be celebrating its centenary next year. Some past alumni include J.F Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Albert II, the prince of Monaco.

JCI brings together young people in a setting outside their comfort zone at work. It allows people to gain confidence.

The idea of voluntary work is promoted; in learning by doing we also show people how important it is to volunteer, as by volunteering one also learns new skills. We want to create lasting positive change and improve the community we live in.

Over the past twenty years, we have shaped the experience of many members here in Malta. Our aim has been to create young leaders, entrepreneurs. It’s not just for business people though. When I joined JCI I was a secretary, but over the years it gave me the confidence to be able to stand up to speak in front of people, to have the confidence to introduce myself to people… so through the experience, getting involved with things outside your comfort zone, you learn how to try something else.

 

Q: Why did you choose to get involved?

A:  I did not choose to get involved; I was introduced to the organisation by a very good friend. I chose to remain involved because I found it very enriching. I met very good friends through it, and it opened the world to me. I was encouraged to travel to conferences where I had the opportunity to attend training sessions, similar to those being hosted throughout this week. As a young member, I had the opportunity to do things which maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do just by working in my office. I also loved the idea of volunteering, of helping others but learning at the same time.

 

Q: Could you provide a summary of what this conference will consist of?

A:  This conference happens every year. JCI is a very large organisation and, in May and June every year, each area; that’s Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa, all have their own area conference. In Malta it has long been our dream to someday host a conference here, and we won the bid this year. We have been working on this for the past three and a half years, and we’re all volunteers. We have volunteers who just come in for a couple of hours to lend a hand. What is going to happen in this conference? The chief delegates of all the European countries in JCI will travel here and have their official meetings; they’ll have a general assembly.  At the same time, all the other delegates will come here to network, to attend all the workshops we put together, and to enjoy the opening ceremony as well as the Gala dinner and awards night that will close this year’s conference. During the awards night, outstanding projects which have taken place over the past year across Europe will be awarded a prize. So there’s a lot to celebrate, there’s a lot to learn, and lots of networks and friendships to create. At the same time, JCI Malta members will gain the experience of being involved in organising a conference for almost 1300 people. The skills they will learn will last them a lifetime.

 

Q: Are any parts of the programme open to the public? If so, how can they apply?

A: It’s a no and a yes. They’re not open to the public unless they register for the conference between the 10th and 11th. If someone wants to register they’re subject to a fee, but the price covers all sessions, so it will be money well spent. There’s a special fee for people who are already members and a separate fee for non-members. To become a member, one would have to call and register. If they’d like to join between the 10th and the 11th, the opening ceremony will be held tomorrow evening, so they’ll be able to receive their conference pack and attend. The beauty of having it in Malta, for the Maltese, is that they don’t have to fly anywhere, and that they don’t have to pay accommodation.

 

Q: Which part of the programme are you most looking forward to?

A: I am looking forward to all of it, because I just want to make sure that the delegates have a good time.

Posted in Events, Interviews

Mina Tolu announced as IGLYO’s new Communications Officer

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Mina Tolu, the President of We Are, has been co-Opted as IGLYO’s new Communications Officer. Insite writer Melissa McElhatton interviews her to discover what this role consists of:

1.       What is IGLYO?

IGLYO is the International LGBTQ Youth & Student Organisation. It is an umbrella organisation which has over 80 member organisations in the pan-European region; and both We Are & MGRM are members from Malta. IGLYO’s approach promotes cooperation and joint strategies, and often advocates on behalf of Members to international bodies, institutions and other organisations.

2.        As Communications Officer, what will your role entail?

I’m basically responsible for the external communications of the organisation. It’s a lot of online work, like taking care of the website, and social media sites, as well as drafting media releases on pressing issues and statements on behalf of the organisation. I’ve been co-opted to the role, due to the resignation of their co-chair, and will be holding the post till December 2014.

3.        What happens after December ?

There is an election for new board members at the General Assembly in Dublin in November.

4.       Are you thinking of applying as a candidate, especially since you would have already had experience ?

Possibly. I am just happy to be part of such an amazing organisation for now, and I knew it was something I could commit to, till December for sure.

5.       What are you looking forward to most?

I have a few ideas that I want to implement which I think will really work well, thanks to IGLYO’s large number of member organisations across Europe. They are obviously related to communications, but I can’t say much more for now. I’m especially looking forward to finishing my exams next week, so I can concentrate on receiving a proper handover from the previous Communications Officer.

I do think the biggest challenge is going to be getting used to the way everyone works together within IGLYO, as the majority of our meetings are done online. I’m very used to my own organisation; having founded We Are, I have grown accustomed to what we do, and how we do it. Obviously these things change, and I will probably have to acclimatise myself to some intercultural differences too, as we’re from all corners of Europe.

6.       Do you have any final statements?

It’s a bit overwhelming right now. IGLYO is an amazing organisation, one which I’ve always looked up to. They have given so much to We Are, and helped us grow in so many ways, thanks to their training sessions, and connecting us to other organisations. I hope I manage to give back in my own way, and help other organisations, which perhaps are starting up in their own countries, and make a big change.

 

Insite would like to congratulate Mina for being co-opted as Communications Officer for IGLYO. Good luck in all your endeavours and may this be a wonderful and fulfilling experience.

More information on IGLYO is available at www.iglyo.com

Posted in Interviews, News

An Interview with Two New Student Representatives

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Luana Vassallo has been appointed as Student Representative for Senate while Kayleigh Sacco has been elected as Student Representative for the Faculty of Arts. These were the only two student representative positions whose nominees needed to pass an election vote. Insite writer Timothy Diacono interviews them:

 

Luana Vassallo

Q. What experience do you possess that makes you suitable for this position?

A. I used to be the KPS officer at MHSA (Malta Heath Students’ Association) and I have spent the last year as Social Policy Coordinator at KSU where I have strived to represent the rights of University students.

 

Q. What can you offer to University student?

A. I will actively represent them and be present if they have any queries or problems, as I was last year. I am a student myself so I understand what many students want and need and I will work to their benefit.

 

Q. What message would you like to send out to University students?

A. I would tell them to be active on campus and to get involved, rather than to just come to University to attend lectures. The soft skills you acquire from involvement within a student organization can ultimately prove more important than an academic record when it comes to finding a job. If students have a query or a problem, I encourage them to approach KSU or student representatives because we are there for them.

 

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 Kayleigh Sacco

Q. What experience do you possess that makes you suitable for this position?

A. I have spent a year in DESA (Department of English Students Association) as Public Relations Officer where I was tasked with sharing and promoting events and talking to students about our organization, particularly during Freshers’ Week. I have recently been elected as DESA’s Events Coordinator. As I was helping English students I realized that I can branch out to help students from other departments within the Faculty of Arts.

 

Q. What can you offer to University student?

A. I will always be available for students to approach as I have been all year and I will inform them about what is going on in the faculty. I’m well-organized, I have the students’ best interests at heart, and I will always try to see what they need. As a minor example, yesterday I spent time scanning and uploading English-related documents onto the Facebook group for English students before I started studying myself.

 

Q. What message would you like to send out to University students?

A. I intend to promote a holistic approach to the arts and help create better relationships between students of different departments within the Faculty. I would also like to build awareness amongst students of various cultural events. My message would be that not only arts students can relate to the arts. There exists a misconception that students studying science, ICT, etc. aren’t interested in the arts and I plan on challenging that.

Posted in Interviews

10 Effective Ways to Improve Your Studying

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After the strong reaction to last week’s ’10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stay At UoM To Study’ article, and the fact that finals are now closer than ever, it seemed like perfect timing to write another study-related article which readers can this time actually get something out of. Scrapping pessimistic views on revising, here are 10 practical ways to improve your preparations for these upcoming exams. Some of them might appear obvious but it’s not the first time we tend to forget about them once the going gets tough. Also note that these ways may not all apply to each and every student, so feel free to pick out and adapt the ones you prefer.

 

1. Use highlighters and sticky notes. The reasoning behind it is simply to have notes which are more interesting to look at for hours on end. Line after line of black sentences on white paper tend to get boring after some time, so going for a more colourful approach might help to make the whole process slightly more bearable.

2. Shorten and repeat your notes. If, like me, you tend to give up when going through whole pages of block text, another piece of advice would be to take only the most important points from that text and write or type them elsewhere in the form of separate sentences, therefore creating a much more concise summary of what you need to study. This will prove beneficial when you get to your final revision the day before the exam because, by being able to go through your brief notes quicker, you have more time to repeat them and get them into your coffee-stricken brain.

3. Go for healthy food and drinks. Speaking of coffee, even though it might keep you awake, we all know it’s not that positive in the long run to use it as your only constant beverage. A simple glass or bottle of water by your desk will keep your brain going, especially now that the summer temperatures are starting to kick in. As for food, we all know what is the most accessible and enjoyable to consume while we’re trying to study, but increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet during the next few weeks is guaranteed to help you in many subtle ways.

4. Note down and plan out what you need to study. Instead of starting from your very first lecture and just seeing where it takes you, make sure you make a concrete list of all the topics you have to revise. Keep it with you at all times to make sure you leave nothing out and, at the same time, not to go overboard by going through stuff you don’t actually need to know for your exam. You can also attach each topic in the list with the corresponding pages or chapters you can refer to from your books or other source material you have.

5. Do not study by heart. Unless your lecturer told you do this word for word, in which case he or she might also be wrong, stick to your own unique method of studying instead of forcing yourself to develop photogenic memory. Face the fact that during the exam you will not remember every single detail you would have gone through. Try to repeat and remember the most important points and you should be fine.

6. Take plenty of productive breaks. This implies two things: firstly, make time for short breaks every hour or so that you’ve been studying. Secondly, instead of limiting your study breaks to going on Facebook or watching an episode of your favourite series, try to go for motivational breaks, after which you will actually have the determination to continue studying. Common examples would be going for a short walk or jog, or having a coffee with one of your friends. As long as you are able to unwind and relax during that break, and simultaneously not staying at home stuck by your bedroom desk.

7. Find your own way to stay relaxed. Whether it’s your favourite genre of music in the background, studying on the couch, having scented candles in your room, yoga stretching or squishing the hell out of a stress ball, it’s vital that you find methods to keep calm and decrease your stress levels which work the best for you. And the best way you can achieve this is pretty much by trial and error.

8. Maintain your social life. Sure, clubbing is pretty much out of the question. But locking yourself inside and studying for days on end is not healthy at all. Keep your friends close during this period by occasionally meeting up so you can keep each other’s morals up. It’s ok if you inevitably end up talking about exams or a particular subject you’re finding difficult to get through, as long as you don’t end up psyching each other out, and as a result doing more harm than good. And if you still are not willing to leave the house, especially in the last days before your exam, you can always phone your friends or Skype with them. Just try to opt out of endless hours chatting on Facebook.

9. Use past papers. This is a very effective way of testing yourself and, at the same time, of attaining a clearer idea of what you need to study and what you can expect in the final exam. Get your hands on recent papers and try them out once you feel you have grasped the topic at hand. Ask your course mates, or contact your lecturer if possible, whenever you find difficulties, or you can even organize a study group during which you can go through past papers together. See, that’s another way of keeping your social life on track during exam period.

10. Do not force all-nighters. I myself can never stay focused after midnight, which means I can never do all-nighters. If they work for you its fine, but personally I’ve found that sleeping earlier will help you wake up early too, which works for me since I tend to go through more material in the morning when my brain is a fresh clean slate. I also wouldn’t advise an all-nighter the day before your actual exam. Even if you still have a lot to revise and not enough time to do so except if you spend the night awake, an all-nighter will only exhaust you and drain your energy once you come to the point of sitting down for your exam. If you want to keep nerves on the down low, start early and you will not be disappointed.

Posted in Opinion