What Could Australia Benefit from Making Cannabis Legal?
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug, it is also known as marijuana commonly. The drug is mainly used for recreational and medical uses. In Australia it is the most widely used illicit drug, even though it is illegal to use. According to reports cannabis is very easy to obtain and the users of cannabis administer it through a number of ways that may or may not be safe.
If we look at the legality of cannabis, then it is clear that the drug is illegal. However there are two main differences in how this legality is applied and these differences depend on the state a person is. There are certain states where it is not just illegal but possession and usage of cannabis is a criminal offence and therefore carries a criminal sentence. Then there are states where the possession and usage of cannabis is although illegal but not a criminal offence.
The illegal usage of cannabis is therefore more prevalent in states where it is not a criminal offence. Nevertheless it is, as of the time of writing this article an illegal drug in Australia.
In the last few years, a paradigm shift has taken place in the world where the medicinal uses of cannabis have been researched and the data that has emerged has proven that cannabis can be used to treat certain ailments and conditions. The data also suggests that cannabis can not or rather should not be included in the list of drugs that cause long lasting, severe harm to the human body because the benefits outweigh the harms.
It must also be remembered that the production of medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016 but the high cost of obtaining the license and other barriers, make production even for medicinal uses very difficult.
Pros and Cons of Cannabis
Cannabis is widely seen as a recreational drug and many people who advocate against the legalisation of cannabis, argue that it is a “gateway drug”. A gateway drug is a drug that starts the drug addiction for a person and then it takes that person to other drugs that may be more harmful or addictive.
The argument against this notion is that cannabis is not a gateway drug. If this is true for cannabis then this would make alcohol a gateway intoxicant as well and thus there would be a need to ban alcohol as it leads to cannabis and then cannabis leads to other drugs. This notion has been dismissed on the basis of research by scientists.
The reason why people consider it a gateway drug is because it is widely available, so a drug that is easily available and in large supply, becomes the demand for a lot of people in a country where it is illegal. Other recreational drugs such as meth and ecstasy are even worse and their availability is also less, therefore cannabis is thought of as a gateway drug, when it simply is the most easily available illegal drug.
There is however the very real issue of addiction. Cannabis may not be a gateway drug but it does have an addiction but we should try to understand that there are a lot of legal drugs that carry addiction as well. People are addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and a number of other drugs. This does not mean that we stop consuming these products, moreover cigarettes and alcohol do not apparently have any medicinal value whereas cannabis is now proven to have medicinal value.
Treatment of Chronic Stress, Depression and Anxiety
A more saner way to approach this issue is to regulate the usage of cannabis because it simply does not seem right to deem it illegal when it clearly has got medicinal uses. One of the most widely researched benefits of cannabis is that it can be helpful for patients of chronic stress, depression and anxiety. Studies published and Clinical psychology review and Drug and alcohol dependence have suggested that cannabis can not only calm down bouts of depression but also help calm down panic attacks that many people suffer from before major tasks, for instance before public speaking events. However, the dosage of cannabis needs to be regulated as all of the benefits mentioned so far are effective at low doses.
National academies of sciences have concluded that the administration of medicinal marijuana can be very helpful in dealing with chronic pain and nausea. Marijuana based medicines have also been found effective in treating muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. Similarly chemotherapy patients suffer from nausea and marijuana based products have been found to be effective in treating the nausea.
Although more research needs to be done, initial research on insomnia has revealed that marijuana based products can help overcome sleep apnea, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
One of the most important uses of cannabis has been documented by New England Journal of Medicine, where studies have reported a reduction in seizures in children having Dravet syndrome by almost 39%. Dravet syndrome is a very rare form of epilepsy that can result in a crippling and debilitating condition for the children suffering from it. Cannabis oil used on children with Dravet syndrome did not induce a “high” state among the patients because the psychoactive compound THC was removed from the oil.
Earlier on we stated that some people consider cannabis to be a gateway drug, in 2016 a review published in Trends in Neuroscience stated that researchers suggest that cannabis may very well help people suffering from opioid addiction. There is however an obstacle in the path of this research and that obstacle is that cannabis has been classified as an illegal schedule 1 drug, which is why human trials had to be restricted thereby limiting the scope of the research.
Limited research of cannabis oil done to treat cancer has also proven fairly positive results but there is a dire need for more research on this subject in order to produce any meaningful result.
The Case for Legalising Cannabis
Australia has got a multi billion dollar pharmaceutical sector and according to conservative estimates, the value of the pharma sector in Australia is between $25 billion and $30 billion. This is approximately 1.5% of the Australian GDP and although this may seem insignificant but if we look at the current need of the Australian economy to diversify itself and strengthen non core sectors, then the pharma sector is one important sector that can be focused upon.
By legalising cannabis and regulating its usage, Australia can transform the pharma sector and allow multi billion dollar funding to come into the country for research and development on the uses of medicinal marijuana. The potential for medical breakthroughs here is immense and this is why countries like the USA and Canada are trying to capture the research and development funding. Even countries like Pakistan, that sits in an area that is rich for cannabis cultivation, is now looking to legalise cannabis for medicinal research and uses. Australia does not want to lose out on this opportunity that clearly other countries have seen.
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