Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 23rd 2013 Contents Sometimes I feel like I have spent
my life in court with teenage boys
charged for possession of marijuana. I m
sure that s part of the reason why I
support Chief Justice Ivor Archie s idea
of decriminalising marijuana.
I can personally testify that being
charged for possession of marijuana
means a case that will go on for years
in court. I can t tell you how many
hours or how many years I have spent
in court seeing one marijuana case
postponed after the next---usually
because the police didn t bother to
show up to argue their case. Eventually
many of those cases are thrown out of
Decriminalising marijuana would send
a clear message to everyone: police need
to be tackling major crime problems.
That doesn t include arresting a kid
who smokes a joint.
There are many issues that have to be
sorted out when it comes to courts in
this country: the endless postponement
of cases; police not showing up for
court or showing up unprepared for
their cases. Throwing out petty mari-
juana cases would be a good start in
saving everyone s time.
There are other good reasons for
decriminalising marijuana. Don t get me
wrong. I do think marijuana is a prob-
lem. Teenagers use it to zone out and
escape pressure. They use it to self
medicate. But these are issues that need
to be dealt with, and those issues would
be dealt with better if marijuana use
was out in the open.
I suspect many parents don t know
about the social and personal problems
their teenagers face because teens (and
even children) hide those feelings by
secretly smoking marijuana.
The issues that are plaguing many
teens never come to the surface to be
discussed by family members.
For many years, one of the main
arguments against decriminalising mari-
juana has been the notion that it is a
gateway drug to cocaine or other illicit
drugs. The verdict seems to be out on
whether or not that s true with more
and more scientific evidence leaning
towards the realisation that there is no
clear path to more serious drug use.
The best article I read concerning this
argument is, Marijuana as a Gateway
Drug: The Myth that Will Not Die, by
Maia Szalavitz. This Time Health and
Family article, which can be found at
that-will-not-die/ presents a com-
pelling argument to look at marijuana
usage in a more objective and scientific
The article says that National Institute
on Drug Abuse in the US finds that
marijuana smokers are 104 times more
likely to try cocaine if they tried mari-
But the article says the correlation is
not the cause for graduating to more
potent illicit drugs.
"Hell s Angels, motorcycle gang mem-
bers, are probably 104 times more likely
to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than
those who don t become Hell s Angels,
but that doesn t mean that riding a
two-wheeler is a gateway to joining a
motorcycle gang," says Szalavitz.
As far back as 1999 researchers have
been questioning the idea of marijuana
as a gateway drug to cocaine or other
Scientists associated with the Institute
of Medicine of the National Academy of
Sciences wrote, "Patterns in progression
of drug use from adolescence to adult-
hood are strikingly regular. Because it is
the most widely used illicit drug, mari-
juana is predictably the first illicit drug
most people encounter. Not surprisingly,
most users of other illicit drugs have
used marijuana first. In fact, most drug
users begin with alcohol and nicotine
before marijuana---usually before they
are of legal age."
I ll vouch for that. Every marijuana
user I know started with alcohol or
nicotine before marijuana.
Scientists argue that, "In the sense
that marijuana-use typically precedes
rather than follows initiation of other
illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway,"
drug. But because underage smoking
and alcohol use typically precede mari-
juana use, marijuana is not the most
common, and is rarely the first, gateway
to illicit drug use. There is no conclu-
sive evidence that the drug effects of
marijuana are causally linked to the
subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."
One study in the US in 2009 suggests
this is true. In that national study 2.3
million people reported that they had
tried marijuana, 617,000 had tried
cocaine and 180,000 had tried heroin.
This means most of the people who
smoked marijuana did not go on to use
stronger illicit drugs.
Researchers say taste has to be fac-
tored to any explanation of why people
use drugs. If finding a mind-altering
drug is the main reason people try
drugs then they will probably try drugs
besides marijuana. Again, there isn t a
"If you are a true music fan, you
probably won t stick to listening to just
one band or even a single genre (of
music). This doesn t mean lullabies are
a gateway to the Grateful Dead. It
means that people who really like music
probably like many different songs and
groups," says Szalavitz.
If evidence seems to be pointing in
the direction that marijuana is not a
gateway drug then why are we wasting
time punishing users? It is a colossal
waste of time and money that could be
better spent on fighting serious crime. I
have realised this every time I walked
into a courtroom.
Monday, September 23, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MARIJUANA A GATEWAY DRUG? JURY STILL OUT
Scientists argue that, "In the
sense that marijuana-use
typically precedes rather than
follows initiation of other
illicit drug use, it is indeed a
"gateway," drug. But because
underage smoking and alcohol
use typically precede
marijuana use, marijuana is
not the most common, and is
rarely the first, gateway to
illicit drug use.
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