Twenty years ago, narcotics were a taboo. Some would argue that it still is now, but evaluating the attitude people have on them today compared to the ’90s it can be said that the public have taken a liberal shift in their perception of these drugs. Of course US Schedule I drugs such as heroin and LSD are still considered evil, and the world continues to bear witness on the evils cocaine is capable of but the general consensus has become more open-minded and tolerant towards a sedative considered to be mildly hazardous: marijuana.
The Philippines of course has not been left behind in this growing trend that culminated in the Western world. South-east Asia has been a haven for Western tourists for marijuana consumption in recent years despite the fact that countries in the region poise the strictest and most cruel laws against the use of any narcotics anywhere in the world. There are stories of foreigners finding access to the most potent and best quality weed along red-light districts in South East Asia, Philippines included. Numerous anecdotes have also been told regarding raids done by drug enforcement agencies yielding millions of pesos worth of marijuana fields.
It can be conceded however that marijuana, or cannabis as it is called in pharmaceutics, has very negligible direct negative effects on the person’s well-being. In fact, it is legal to possess the drug in the Netherlands as well as US states such as Colorado and Washington. Medicinal marijuana on the other hand has been a gem in the field of medicine, legitimate test patients’ symptoms have improved using treatment with the drug. This fuels an ongoing debate in the US regarding the legality of the drug, it indeed has its uses but also poses some serious risks.
The idea of legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana has recently caught the attention of the Philippines lately, following news of the death of a child who suffered from an extreme form of epilepsy. Indeed the thought is one that needs to be properly addressed by Philippine lawmakers. But marijuana fanatics are quick to take advantage of the issue and misinterpret it to include recreational use as well, one which is much more difficult to convince the conservatives in the country to consider.
Rightly so I must add. The idea of making marijuana available for medicinal purposes is a legitimate and valid thesis to investigate, particularly because there is a need for it. But what about the use of marijuana simply for leisure or for relaxation? It’s hard to understand why that would be considered a necessity. As opponents of legalization of marijuana mention, science has yet to present facts and evidence to prove that cannabis indeed gives remedy to different ailments or if whether the effects of it are truly minimal at all. There has yet to be a proper research on what regular, recreational use of it may actually do, although Green Party advocates would assert a positive.
Suppose the Philippine Congress did enact a law legalizing marijuana, it would entail other responsibilities. First, they need to decide if cannabis production will be a government-owned industry or if it would be privatized. If they pick the former, they need to invest capital to start production and also need to decide which agency will serve as the caretaker for this industry: the DA? the DENR? Surely not the DILG? If they decide to privatize, the government needs to set clear provisions on its’ manufacture and distribution. They also need to carefully ensure that organized crime syndicates overseas do not tap the Philippine markets, otherwise consumption in the Philippines would fund their activities abroad. This will significantly damage the Philippines global reputation, something we had very little in the first place.
Regardless of what the government decides, setting up a cannabis industry would require their regulation. They need to set prices, enact legislation restricting the use for certain ages, where it can be consumed, which outlets or establishments are allowed to sell them and to prohibit users while under influence from driving motor vehicles. Not only do they need to set these rules but then they have to undertake the arduous task of implementing them; failure to do so poses catastrophic scenarios.
For instance, we might find minors abusing the drug. Studies have shown marijuana causes a decline in productivity, we do not want schoolchildren skipping school or missing their homework. Even for adults, progress as a country can only be done if there is an increase in both efficiency and productivity, marijuana certainly does not promote any of those positions. Marijuana also alters the state of mind of people, and studies have shown it lowers reaction time. This is very dangerous for motorists, being alert and on focus are important aspects of driving. Marijuana only impedes these traits.
Proponents would like to argue that responsible use of marijuana will lead to very minimum disruptions and would in fact promote a peaceful mood among people. That I will not argue, for it certainly is the case that cannabis foments a laid-back attitude to its users. But you would be delusional if you will assert that anyone who gets a hold of the drug will act responsibly. Alcohol and cigarettes, both are legal, are already subjects of abuse and irresponsible consumption. We do not need another problem in our hands, those two pose enough trouble for law enforcement and medical response agencies as it is.
Cannabis is listed by the US’ Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug, categorized as being culpable to abuse and presents no medicinal benefits. The second part of that classification is subject to debate, but the first one is accurate. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use only presents another problem for government agencies to worry about, not mention the charge being asserted earlier in the essay that it has no need at all. Is it really fair to imperil the safety of society as well as create more social strains just so a small minority would be able to relax? What about other already legal and scientifically-proven to be healthy modes of recreation such as sport, exercise or meditation? Promoting this kind of lifestyle gives the same soothing effects as recreational marijuana with much lesser negative effects and almost zero risks involved.
The study on the medicinal purposes of marijuana is one which is highly intriguing and a topic our lawmakers can chew on. But this is a different story from legalizing it for recreational purposes, that can be discredited simply because there is no need for that weed.