Time to shed medieval mindsets as we wage war on marijuana
Yonden Lhatoo is not impressed by record cannabis seizures and arrests in Hong Kong while the rest of the world moves towards legalisation of marijuana – at least for medical use
How does it feel to watch the world pass you by while you can’t shed the shackles of narrow-minded and stubbornly traditional thinking?
On New Year’s Day, California became the largest American state to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, allowing people above the age of 21 to possess up to 28 grams of it and grow up to six marijuana plants at home.
California legalised medical marijuana long ago – in 1996 – and is now one of eight states that allow both its recreational and medicinal use. Another 22 states permit sales for medication and 15 allow a milder medical extract.
That’s the United States. Here in Hong Kong, the authorities are going medieval on marijuana, regularly seizing it by the sack load and arresting scores of suspects – one in seven aged 20 or below – in one widely publicised crackdown after another.
Police seized a whopping 757kg of cannabis and 5,888 marijuana plants in the first 10 months of 2017, a surge of 238 per cent over the previous year.
The number of arrests over the same period shot up 45 per cent to 228. About 90 per cent of the suspects were using cannabis at home or at friends’ places, the Narcotics Bureau said.
Is marijuana really a big, bad dangerous drug that will ruin lives and destroy society?
Scientific studies have shown it’s actually the least harmful when compared with alcohol or tobacco – the most widely accepted and celebrated drugs that are easily the biggest killers.
Here’s the inconvenient truth that people just don’t get: alcohol kills you, cigarettes send you to an early grave, but no one has actually died of using marijuana.
The historical use of the plant for medication dates back thousands of years across cultures. Modern-day scientific research has found strong evidence that it can be used to treat symptoms of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea from chemotherapy, and anxiety.
There is also evidence it can help tackle post-traumatic stress and sleep disorders as well as Parkinson’s symptoms, while advocates claim it’s good for anything from depression and dementia mood problems to epilepsy and curbing cancer.
It seems an eternity ago that two top High Court judges called for the decriminalisation of cannabis in Hong Kong, arguing that enforcement legislation was outdated and good citizens were finding themselves on the wrong side of the law over its use.
“Cannabis use is now so widespread that [keeping it illegal] makes people think the law is an ass,” Justice Kaplan said.
“There is clearly a growing demand for the drug and a lot of money to be made from it. So if someone is going to supply it, why should it be criminals? Why not have the government supply it? That way its use could be much more easily controlled, its use restricted and its users educated and separated from criminal elements.”
Justice Godfrey added: “Since human beings are allowed to smoke themselves to death with cigarettes they ought to be allowed to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.”
That was back in 1994. It’s 2018 now and their words of wisdom have fallen by the wayside. All we have left are fringe groups like Legalise Medical Marijuana, fighting a losing battle to change medieval mindsets.
“We would like to see a society where a government goes after criminals who bring harm to others, such as those who commit murders, manslaughter, theft and other similar crimes,” founder Laurence Pak told the Post earlier. “It is time for Hong Kong to not stay behind.”
I think I’d better stop before my message is completely misconstrued and I’m accused of advocating drug abuse.
I’m just saying maybe it’s time to get off our high horse and embrace enlightenment.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post