Jeremy Cammy is certainly one of the most dynamic teachers I have had at Centennial. His unorthodox teaching methods coupled with style, personality and choice words, makes his presentation skills class one of the most looked forward to. However, every upturn comes with a downturn so to say. The guy had exacting standards – grab attention within the first few seconds, look people in the eye, be authoritative, generate your “a-ha” moment and conclude with a punch. But most of all, his presentation gem – tell stories!
So when I had to make a presentation in class on a topic of my choice but on one that I had to persuade the audience, I was in a quandary. What topic would interest a North American audience. My competencies were on issues far away from reality in this part of the world. Should I speak on the death penalty or perhaps euthanasia or on a contemporary issue in Canadian politics? On the latter, I had no authority and the audience most likely knew more than me so I dropped it. The topic had to be close to my heart which would make it easier for me to sound convincing but also something the audience could relate to. After thinking long and hard for two days, I had my “eureka” moment. Cannabis sativa (or in common parlance hemp, weed, ganja, marijuana or pot) and why its use should be legalized? Well! This was an issue here with the USA spending millions every year trying to bust cartels from Mexico to California to Miami, and Canada being the first country in the world to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Plus, MANY people smoked the leaf, whether legal or not! The UN estimates 190 million users the world over. So I set to research on the subject for a 5-6 minute presentation. The end result, a highly engaged audience and thunderous applause with, of course, a complimentary remark by the teacher, albeit for presentation skills.
The presentation was so well received that I thought of summarizing here the arguments used as well as others that I couldn’t mention due to paucity of time. These reasons are a collation of arguments available on internet sources but when put together presents a very comprehensive case. So here goes:
1. Every year thousands die from abuse of alcohol, tobacco and legally prescribed drugs. The figures are mind-boggling. In Canada every year 17 per cent of total deaths in the country is tobacco related. Around 75,000 in the United States die every year from alcohol abuse and over 100,000 people die from abuse of legally prescribed drugs. On the contrary, nobody has died from marijuana abuse. In fact, studies show that to die from marijuana abuse one would have to smoke twice one’s body weight in less than an hour. One, functionally it is impossible. Two, even if one got close, the death would be due to carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide poisoning rather than from smoking pot!
2. The medical benefits of marijuana are well known. It can be used to treat a number of conditions like lower intraocular (eye) pressure, increase appetite in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, as a pain killer, as a treatment for nausea and vomiting etc. Plus it is much better health-wise than drinking alcohol. soda drinks or tobacco smoking.
4. Humans have been interfacing with the hemp plant for thousands of years. The ancient drug soma mentioned in the Vedas is believed to be a reference to marijuana. It was also known to the Assyrians, in the Xinjiang region of China and in Africa and the Americas.
5. The founding fathers of the USA, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it in their farms in Virginia. The original drafts of the US constitution were written on hemp paper. Hemp was even used as legal tender. One could pay taxes with it! Kings of England issued decrees from time to time to use its colonies to grow hemp.
6. At the heart of the “war on drugs” carried out for decades since the mid-20th century by the US government, lie a convergence of corporate interests, racism and greed. This is what Wikipedia has to say on it:
In 1937 in the United States, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to cannabis. The reasons that hemp was also included in this law are disputed. Several scholars have claimed that the Act was passed in order to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family. With the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry. Hearst felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America, had invested heavily in the DuPont‘s new synthetic fiber, nylon, and considered its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp. The claims that hemp could have been a successful substitute for wood pulp have been based on an incorrect government report of 1916 which concluded that hemp hurds, broken parts of the inner core of the hemp stem, were a suitable source for paper production. This has not been confirmed by later research, as hemp hurds are not reported to be a good enough substitute. Many advocates for hemp have greatly overestimated the proportion of useful cellulose in hemp hurds. In 2003, 95 % of the hemp hurds in EU were used for animal bedding, almost 5 % were used as building material.
7. A research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that occasional use of marijuana (two to three times a month) actually increases lung capacity even more than non-smokers.This was in contrast to a decrease in lung capacity of tobacco smokers.
8. The war on drugs in Mexico has killed over 47,000 people since December 2006 to end of 2011 according to government statistics. This is the natural result of criminalizing drug use. In a market economy one can’t just ban a product for which there is a demand and expect it to go away. It would simply generate a group of criminals supplying the drug. Moreover, due to its illegal and criminal status there is no civilized way to settle business disputes. So cartels end up killing each other for control and profits.
9. It is time each country re-assessed their respective drug policies in light of their traditions and the livelihoods of its people. There are positive examples from Netherlands and Portugal (where all drugs are legalized). In Portugal, all drugs including marijuana were legalized in 2001. The reason, PUBLIC HEALTH! The argument was that it was better to treat a person suffering from abuse than to lock them up. Since then, negatives related to drug use such as crime and HIV transmission has DECREASED. In the Netherlands, where marijuana and other drug use is decriminalized and regulated, hard drug use has DECREASED over the years, effectively bunking the theory of marijuana as a gateway drug.
A historical wrong needs to be corrected. Last year, Bolivia supplied an important milestone regarding a different traditional plant in their country. It became the first country to withdraw from the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs for the charter’s failure to recognize the traditional use of coca plant (from which cocaine is made). Chewing coca leaves has been a part of the way of life and its criminalizing only brought with it death, poverty, destruction of livelihoods and despair. It is time to follow suit.
1. Marijuana a chronic history. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hqFYC8pVP0&feature=related
2. Health Canada, Smoking and mortality. Available at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/legislation/label-etiquette/mortal-eng.php
3. Marijuana, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marijuana
4. Marijuana smoke not as damaging to lungs as cigarette smoke. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w6weNkKoJI
5. ‘Mexico drug war deaths over five years now total 47,515’, BBC, 12 January 2012. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16518267
6. Llana, S.M. and Shahriari, S. 2012, ‘How Latin America is reinventing the war on drugs’, Christian Science Monitor, 30 July. Available at http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2012/0730/How-Latin-America-is-reinventing-the-war-on-drugs