The use of marijuana is still a slippery slope
Published on: Sunday, September 25, 2022
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THE recent news that Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling admitted taking cannabis in Hanoi is only the latest controversy involving weed that has hit close to home. 

Singaporeans appear divided as to whether their government was overly harsh in meting out a punishment for Schooling, who is no longer allowed to take leave to compete and train overseas.

On one hand this move, which will effectively end Schooling’s career, doesn’t seem to fit the crime. On the other, the world swimming body, Fina, prohibits the use of such substances and, of course, what sort of “message” (whether intended or not) is Schooling sending out as a “role model” (whether real or imagined)? 

This came almost concurrently with our Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin visiting Thailand on a fact-finding trip on the medicinal use of marijuana. Khairy appears convinced that prescription-based medicines containing cannabis compounds are safe and effective, as opposed to self-administered treatment and recreational use.

It has to be said at the outset that Schooling’s case and Khairy’s trip are, technically speaking, unrelated. One used marijuana as recreation while another specifically rejects its recreational use. Nevertheless, no one can deny that there’s a line from one to the other. 

While I’m glad that Malaysia and Singapore continue to criminalise marijuana for recreational purposes, only the very naïve would deny that such use would become more likely should the medicinal aspect be widespread.

The long and short of it is that marijuana has a slippery slope. In “Marijuana, mental illness, and violence” (Missouri medicine 116.6 (2019): 446.2020), award-winning novelist Alex Berenson warned Americans that there is very strong evidence marijuana use is tied to mental illness and violent crime. 

In societies where marijuana use is accepted, these outcomes have borne out. 

- In 2012, a study of more than 9,000 American men concluded that marijuana use was linked to a doubling in domestic violence cases. 

- Studies in Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness very comprehensively, showed a significant rise in psychosis since 2000 following an increase in marijuana use. 

- The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported in 2015 that people addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

- In 2017, David Brooks noted in The New York Times that there were two and a half million Americans addicted to opioids (https://nyti.ms/3DDWA0i). 

- A 2018 study shows that cannabis users were three to five times more likely to have opioid problems three years later.

- In the United States, opioids overdose results in more than 100,000 deaths annually.

There are many other studies, but I think I have made the point that marijuana is not harmless. It is, in fact, a gateway drug to numerous problems in communities, as seen in Europe and the US.

And since Malaysia is already plagued with tragic levels of alcohol addiction, homelessness, drug abuse and other social issues, let’s be VERY careful about introducing something like cannabis into the population.

I wish to emphasise, though, that I’m no expert in this area. But even a cursory reading of the literature will show there are many aspects to the cannabis controversy that remain unsettled. 

Questions like, “Is marijuana a legitimate form of medicine?”, “Does marijuana truly cause psychosis or is there merely a correlation?”, “How likely does the legalisation of medicinal marijuana result in heightened use of recreational marijuana throughout the population?” and others continue to be hotly debated.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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