Should government legalize the consumption of cannabis in Pak?

  • The society is experiencing a sensational yet haunting transition in the area of drug legalization around the globe. The world has seen a massive increase in the consumption of drugs of various categories over the past few years. This research essay restricts its focus towards the consumption and consequences of a widely used drug known as the Cannabis. Cannabis is a genus of a flowering plant from which a drug known as Hemp or also known as the Cannabis Sativa is produced. This drug is associated with nearly 200 names over the globe such as Ganja, Hash, Marijuana and Weed. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to be the main ingredient in the Cannabis plant that pleases the consumer through brain relaxation and lowers the worry and makes one feel hungry. Cannabis plant is known to have its existence over more than 5000 years and it is still the third most consumed drug after Tobacco and Alcohol. Despite its illegal status in the majority of countries around the globe, its main producers include South Africa, Mexico, Paraguay, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. With reported utilization of it going back thousands of years; it's generally trusted that India may have been the local home of all cannabis strains. Pakistan is one of the world's biggest producers of hashish, a lot of which is trafficked by means of the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe, Africa and North America. Cannabis grows wild in numerous districts of the country; development is across the board, and is accepted to increment because of progressing political and financial instability. Cannabis is used widely in Pakistan for various purposes such as extraction of Hemp from Cannabis stem to produce Hemp fiber for industrial purposes, treatment of various ailments and diseases and used by people recreationally all over the world between the ages 15-65. The focal point of this essay is whether the illegality of Cannabis has been justified till today or not so in order to understand how Cannabis can prove to be an alternate to other harder drugs such as Alcohol, Cocaine and Smack. Although, Cannabis is considered to be a gateway to harder drugs such as Alcohol, Heroine and Ecstasy/LSD because drugs are addictive and they rob the user of the freewill, however the economic benefits resulting from cannabis consumption outweigh its drawbacks. Primarily, Cannabis has a stretched history of being used for medical purposes and the account of cannabis as a destructive drug has been predominant for so long, that numerous individuals experienced difficulty tolerating the plant's shown restorative impacts. The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom. There are numerous techniques of consuming Marijuana medically such as smoking it in a rolled cigarette, consuming in edible baked goods and use of inhalers. Firstly, Cannabis should be legalized since it is used for medicinal purposes and from legalization; we mean enhanced and high quality health standards. For example, “The FDA has also approved THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, to treat nausea and improve appetite. It's available by prescription Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone)” (Webmd). This ingredient acts as an anti inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-epileptic and lowers blood pressure. Cannabis is also a cure to various symptoms of AIDS since a well known effect of Marijuana use is the “Munchies” which helps in stimulating appetite; it also relieves from nausea resulting from Cancer Chemotherapy. There have been various cases in which medical Marijuana has proved to be a successful remedy, for example, “In the study at the University of Cologne, 42 patients randomly received either cannabidiol or amisulpride, an effective drug used for the treatment of schizophrenia, for 28 days. Comparison of the clinical effects found "no relevant difference" between the two treatments” (Live science). The usage of cannabis for medical purposes is the strongest reason to legalize it and thus a relevant medical Cannabis law should be passed in order to cater for the needs of the deprived patients suffering from diseases such as AIDS, Cancer and depression/anxiety. People have also experienced Cannabis to be a low-priced drug as it is not only inexpensive but an effective drug as well and some doctors also claim Cannabis to be an alternative to Chemotherapy. For example, “The amount of dronabinol (THC)….for a few months” (Understanding Marijuana 181) Secondly, various problems arise due to an absence of a proper medical Cannabis law in Pakistan. There is no specific mention of the term “Cannabis” in the constitution of Pakistan which creates certain ambiguities among the general public. According to a report of United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, “Cannabis is the most commonly used drug, with a prevalence of 3.6 per cent of the population, equivalent to four million users nationwide.” (DRUG USE IN PAKISTAN 2013). The government of Pakistan should implement the same Medical Cannabis Law in Pakistan that is being practiced throughout the United Kingdom: All the patients who suffer from Depression and anxiety have an access to the doctors and get a prescription of a medical treatment through Cannabis extracts. Figures state that 24 out of 52 states in the United States have legalized the consumption of Marijuana and the Food Drug Authority (FDA) has approved an ingredient in Marijuana which can be used for medical purposes. The Government of Pakistan can however consider support for medical research of Cannabis and its derivatives to ensure that their plans meet federal requirements and scientific standards. Moreover, legalization of Cannabis can contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy if it is properly regulated in the economic system. After its successful implementation, it can also yield a new tax system for the government and hence contribute to the government revenue. It can be noted that this argument makes a lot of sense since over the past few years there is a rapid increment in the cultivation, distribution and consumption of Cannabis throughout the world. Pakistan being the main source of production of Hashish has a great comparative and absolute advantage in the trade market. Legalizing Cannabis can generate sufficient revenue for Pakistan’s economy in order to improve its trade position in the world market and minimize the budget deficit as much as possible. The proceeds earned from Cannabis sale can prove to a great source of welfare for the state that includes the improvement in infrastructure, resolving the energy crisis and provision of merit and public goods to the general public. According to the United Nations report, Cannabis is the most consumed drug in Pakistan and its users hover around 4,000,000 and thus if person spends an amount of PKR 1000 annually that multiplies to make a plentiful amount that can actually prove to be beneficial to a great extent. There are various sources of earning for the government such as Excise Tax, Sales Tax, enforcement savings and hemp industry. According to some figures from the states where Cannabis has already been legalized, “Legalization of cannabis would also divert demand from other drugs, resulting in further savings. If legalization reduced current narcotics enforcement costs by one-third to one-fourth, it might save $6 - $9 billion per year.” (Gieringer) According to another source of the Sunday Times, “Shopkeepers in the Pakistani town of Bara purchase kilograms of marijuana at prices $530 to $690 (50,000 to 60,000 Pakistani Rupees). The price of a kilogram of marijuana increased in 2012 from the previous price of $200 (20,000 Rupees) due to violent conflicts between militants in the valley region.” (Sunday Times) These figures only state the sale of Cannabis in the Northwest region of Pakistan, thus it can be deduced that legalizing Cannabis on a national basis could save billions of rupees annually. Secondly, in fact, that is the situation since right now, a large portion of the profits from cannabis business winds up with criminal groups that control its exchange in different districts world over. However, that situation would be changed since if marijuana was sanctioned, the government would control its trade within the country. Its legalization would lead to closure of most of the criminal activities and drug dealers that make illegal profits and restrict it to the shadow economy or Black Market. The production of hemp along with a proper regulation and scrutiny can lead to an elimination of the illegal Hemp industry being run by various cultivators in the rural areas of Pakistan. Furthermore, another aspect that demands Cannabis legalization in Pakistan is the comparison of Cannabis as a harmless drug with other harmful and lethal drugs such as Alcohol, Cocaine, Heroin and Smack. Pakistan has a long history of Alcohol consumption as 30 years from now, Karachi used to have an array of clubs and pubs that served Alcohol legally with the consent of the government of Pakistan. There are various drugs throughout Pakistan that are more detrimental as according to a report, “Caffeine is supposed to be just as addictive as Marijuana” (Times of India). This basically shows that Cannabis can prove to be to an alternative for the other harder drugs such as Alcohol since Marijuana causes dependence but doesn’t kill. As a matter of fact, there have been very few deaths reported due to Cannabis consumption over the past 10 years. On the other hand Alcohol consumption has lead to various devastating incidents throughout the world that maybe because of drunk driving and road accidents. According to some official figures of reported deaths, “Nearly 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women9) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”(Alcohol Facts and Statistics) Thus it can be inferred that Alcohol and other popularly consumed drugs are way more destructive than Cannabis. According to another report of the times of India, “Cannabis is 114 times Less Toxic than Other Legal Substance such as Alcohol.” As mentioned in the earlier paragraph that Cannabis has various health benefits to the patients of different diseases so legalizing Cannabis will provide an alternate drug to the existing harmful drugs. Moreover, Cannabis has various different uses as well such as Hemp extraction and its usage in the Hemp industry. Hemp is presently being produced in the North American and European region on a restricted business scale. It develops in the wild all over Pakistan, however to develop it for business purposes a permit is required from the Pakistan Narcotics Control Board. In addition to the aforementioned arguments, Firstly, Cannabis has been viewed as an immoral and illegal drug among the society. This has lead to the formation of special task forces such as Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) which are assigned to control and eradicate drug production, distribution and sale all over Pakistan. Over the past few years, ANF has made numerous efforts and conducted several operations to demolish the drug houses and arrest the criminals who illegally control the black market. ANF has carried out several operations in the past to restrict Cannabis use among the citizens: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been the hub of Cannabis production in Pakistan. Pakistan has been a victim of drug trafficking and smuggling as it shares a long border with Afghanistan and therefore tribal areas have been the sufferer due to political unrest and terrorism in that area. Legalizing Cannabis means regulating it in the system in a way that under age people are restricted to its access and only licensed authorities have an access to the Cannabis distribution. ANF has not been able to restrict its use till today because of its large scale consumption by people all over Pakistan. Huge amounts of money are spent every year on the incursion on criminals and the material they posses. According to the official drug war statistics the amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs is More than $51,000,000,000, this shows the money wasted on raids by the special task forces and hence it could be used for the welfare of the society in some manner. Secondly, its critics state that Cannabis is considered to be an immoral and an inexpensive drug which is easily available, thus if it is legalized we might see a massive increase in its consumption among young people. However, this might not be the case since the 24 states in the United States of America have legalized Marijuana and produced shocking results. Rate of Marijuana consumption has actually decreased in some places where it has been legalized till now that includes several states of United States and New Zealand. According to the figures of Colorado Department of Health and Environment, “This study supports the 2013 report from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment that found that high school marijuana use decreased from 22% in 2011 to 20% in 2013.” (Forbes) Thus, Cannabis consumption actually decreased among the teenagers as its use did not send a good message to the public to use it. Theoretically if Cannabis consumption is legalized and regulated in an efficient manner in the form of regulatory and licensed authorities would lead to lower consumption rates all over Pakistan. The facts and figures stated above are an illustration of the fact that Cannabis consumption actually decreased after legalization and hence government can focus on other important issues faced by the state. On the other hand, its critics argue by using the gateway drug theory which states that utilization of less deleterious drugs goes before, and can lead to, future utilization of more unsafe hard drugs or offense. Therefore, Cannabis is considered to be the gateway to other harder drugs such as Alcohol, Cocaine and Ecstasy/LSD because it is easily accessible and inexpensive. Young children nowadays are more tempted to misuse this drug on a recreational basis without knowing its prescribed dosage and thus have to suffer from mental illnesses in the long term. A lot of research has been done by various organizations to gather the data for the misuse of Cannabis and the gateway effect that it leaves on the young children. One study found that, “Youth (12 to 17 years old) who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than kids who do not use pot, and that 60% of the kids who smoke pot before the age of 15 move on to cocaine.” (Drug Free World) Secondly, young children nowadays are vulnerable to the nuisance of electronic media which plays an important part in brainwashing and nurturing children’s mind through their exceptional appealing techniques. Children are tempted to follow such unconstructive and misleading things such as use of Alcohol and other hard drugs in movies and music videos. This is considered to be one of the biggest problems that a society has to face due to the fact that millions of people engross in drug abuse that leads to numerous health problems. Moreover, a state functions by various different procedures that a government undertakes for its citizens. Thus it cannot be involved with the distribution of such substances considered immoral by relevant lots of the population as a state’s duty is to protect its citizen’s health and not expose them to risk. In fact, some of the developing and under developed nations such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh: people are deprived to acquire education and exercise freedom that leads to a sense of enigma among the society. Therefore, a state has to function according to the voice of the majority as it might face a huge opposition in legalizing Cannabis. Cannabis is considered to be an immoral and inexpensive drug in Pakistan as it is presumed to be the drug of unethical people. Secondly, a strong check and balance has to be maintained on the regulation of Cannabis by a regulatory body of the government. Therefore, a government has other important areas to focus upon such as state welfare, world trade and defense that are functioning on idle capacity in Pakistan. It is of great concern that countries like Pakistan are vulnerable to drug trafficking cases due to the insurgency in Afghanistan over a couple of decades and thus it makes it complicated for the government to allocate its resources efficiently. In the light of the above, it can be concluded that this as this research is based on legalizing Cannabis in Pakistan therefore it aims to provide its readers with a comprehensive knowledge of Cannabis and its pros and cons with exact facts and figures. As of today, Cannabis is an illegal drug in various parts of the world due to the disadvantages that it carries because of misguidance and lack of knowledge among people. Since Cannabis has been legalized in some parts of the world such as United States and Amsterdam; it has been successfully implemented and no cases of an unrest and smuggling have been reported. Therefore, government of Pakistan can propose a law regarding the medical and recreational use of Cannabis which has numerous advantages to the economy and its people.