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.