To some, cannabis is more than just a plant, but rather a culture, a formidable way of life. To others it’s a dangerous drug and a toxic epidemic in our society, the division is clear amongst the people and remains an unresolved issue. In Ireland, there has been increasing public debate over the use of cannabis and its legality. I’m sure we all remember minister Flanagan’s proposal get heavily shot down on television, however, that whole situation was almost like putting a chicken into a lion’s den- there was no coming out of it alive- and just like the headshop era, it did more harm than good for the movement.
The biggest problem with the debate is the lack of knowledge and subsequently the bias negative perception of cannabis, its effects as well as those who choose to smoke it. I’m not saying that cannabis use doesn’t have some negative aspects, of course it does, but it reminds me of how tabloid newspapers treat of Wayne Rooney. I mean, he’s England’s current captain and highest ever goal scorer, as well as being four goals short of the Man U record for goals, he has won almost every piece of silverware there is- numerous premier league titles, a champions league and a FA cup- not to mention having displaying some of the most memorable moments in football history. Yet, still he is constantly under scrutiny, constantly undermined and disgraced time and time again; but is Wayne all that bad? I think not.
It seems that people are definitely becoming more and more open to the use of cannabis both recreationally and medically. People of all ages smoke it, people of all ages are in favour of its legalisation and that is a FACT. You would find it surprising the amount of people who smoke cannabis on a regular basis, not to mention the different types of people who do. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction carried out a study in 2013 which reported that 25.3 per cent of Irish people have smoked cannabis at some point in their life- one of the highest in the world. However, that’s just another statistic after all; it doesn’t really represent the mind-set of the people and the key issue regarding the topic.
I dare say that the debate of cannabis legalisation is really not all that different than say, divorce, gay marriage or even abortion. This may seem like a totally ludicrous statement but if you think about the underlining properties that all these debates share you will realise that it all boils down to one thing: personal liberty, freedom and choice. Throughout history people have consumed their lives with the disapproval of another’s actions, actions which more than often never come to affect those who protest. If you wish to smoke, or wish to have an abortion or get married with another of the same sex then what has it got to do with anyone else? Those who are against smoking wont smoke, those who are against abortions are the ones who aren’t going to get one, and those who are against gay rights are not gay. So why does it bother people?
Obviously everything is not as simple and black and white as that, for we seem to forever lie idle in grey zones shouting over one another instead of just listening to what each has to say. As I have said before, the biggest problem with the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland is the lack of accurate information regarding the substance. Last year was a big year for cannabis. More states in America passed legalisation and joined in the thriving market that has been branded a ‘green avalanche’. The annual revenue from the cannabis industry alone continues to grow rapidly as more and more states look into legalising it- and why wouldn’t they? I mean it’s the fastest growing industry the United States has ever witnessed, bringing in a jaw dropping $5.4 billion in 2015.
Sometime early last year Channel 4 produced a special first time experimental series about cannabis entitled ‘Drugs Live’ (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/drugs-live). When I first heard about it I thought, ‘oh here we go, another documentary about the dangers of cannabis’, but it was not to be the case. It went from a quite natural perspective, even though it was clear that presenter Jon Snow was not in favour of the plant, not to mention his partial breakdown after receiving an administration of the substance. Nevertheless, it discussed some interesting aspects of cannabis including its neurological effects and its positive creative stimulation and use in music and art. After watching it I came to the conclusion that legislation is moving a step closer, it was certainly clear that the United Kingdom is definitely considering it.
Inevitably society will have to adjust to legalisation, one way or another it will arrive, it’s in the post and there is no avoiding it; but first people need to become aware of the full spectrum of cannabis culture- both recreationally and medically. The medical side of cannabis is one that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. Over recent years there has been significant research undertaken which has suggested that cannabis may have highly effective medical properties. It has been demonstrated that it can used to treat a wide range of illnesses including MS, early onset of Alzheimers, severe autism, depression, anxiety and even cancer. Cannabis has been proven to have the ability to decrease cancer tumours, with many people, young and old, opting for the alternative treatment with many finding some profound results. American cult magazine and website VICE have released numerous documentaries about the cannabis culture as well as its use in medicine. Recently they have released a documentary entitled ‘Stoned Kids’ (https://www.vice.com/video/stoned-kids), which deals with child cancer patients who use cannabis to treat their illness. It revolves around a girl named Mykayla Comstock. Mykayla is an eight-year-old leukaemia patient who uses cannabis as an alternative treatment. When you watch it you will see that cannabis has increased the quality of little Mykayla’s life tenfold. Her mother talks about her behaviour whilst she was receiving chemo as having a very negative effect on her life. She was very tired all the time, would rarely eat or play but instead just lie around all day generally in a foul mood. From the first time she and her husband decided to give her cannabis there was a notable change in Mykayla. She was much more lively, had bags of energy and also got her appetite back. As well as this, the use of cannabis had also had a positive effect on her illness. It has actually been fighting and curing her cancer.
So how could this be?
Well, it’s all to do with the endocannabinoid system. The human endocannabinoid system covers all nerves and cells; it is basically the messenger of information communicated between our CNS (central nervous system) and immune system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for neuroprotection, and is the primary control system that maintains homeostasis, that is, our very well being. So where does cannabis come into all this? Well, to explain this I am better equipped to quote from an article featured on http://www.cureyourowncancer.org, which states that cannabis binds to cannabinoid receptors, so “when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it causes an increase in ceramide synthesis which drives cell death. The cancer cell dies, not because of cytotoxic chemicals, but because of a tiny little shift in the mitochondria. Within most cells there is a cell nucleus, numerous mitochondria and various other organelles in the cytoplasm. The purpose of the mitochondria is to produce energy (ATP) for cell use. As ceramide starts to accumulate, turning up the Sphingolipid Rheostat, it increases the mitochondrial membrane pore permeability to cytochrome c, a critical protein in energy synthesis. Cytochrome c is pushed out of the mitochondria, killing the source of energy for the cell”. Now this is some pretty scientific stuff which most people, without knowledge of biology, may find hard to grasp, but there is significant and undisputable evidence to back this up, both in the lab and in real life- as Mykalya’s story shows.
For Ireland, the future is unclear. Of course legalisation is in the pipeline, and with decriminalisation on the cards it appears we are moving a step in the right direction, but getting there may be an up-hill battle. As more and more states in America continue to legalise cannabis, the UK will be under increasing pressure to follow suit, and if that happens, then the country of a thousand welcomes will most certainly be next in line