The new German federal government’s announcement in November 2021 that cannabis was to be legalised was met with a wide variety of reactions. Some celebrated, while others were a little more hesitant to crack open the champagne. These are the contrary opinions of two people situated on either side of the debate of whether cannabis legalisation is a force for good or not.
Berlin, July 19th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) – Perhaps it is age that is the cause of our differing outlooks, or maybe it is more to do with our different backgrounds and nationalities. Either way, it is clear that whilst we both understand the nuances of this complex issue, we each tend to fall more firmly on opposite sides of the argument to one another. Therefore, the Berlin Spectator‘s student guest author, Erica Smith, will argue for cannabis legalisation being a positive change for Germany, whilst the paper’s editor-in-chief, Imanuel Marcus, will present the potential drawbacks of this change in regulation.
Erica Smith: Pro Legalisation
Not harmful enough to warrant illegality: Let’s start with one of the more obvious reasons in favour of legalising cannabis: It’s not actually that unsafe as a substance – especially when you compare its track record to those of smoking and drinking. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis isn’t actually chemically addictive, unlike both tobacco and alcohol, meaning physical dependency is very improbable. Therefore, if deciding to engage in statistically more lethal alcohol or tobacco usage is viewed as a matter of personal choice under the law, then why shouldn’t cannabis consumption be treated similarly?
Prohibition doing more harm than good: Furthermore, the illegality of cannabis presently contributes to a needless use of state resources and funds. If cannabis doesn’t actually pose a huge risk to German society, then the levels of persecution for it (500,000 people since the 1970s) and police time spent pursuing the issue are arguably disproportionate. Berlin juvenile court judge Andreas Müller is a proponent of this argument, and says that “people who overdo it in any way” should be the responsibility of health policy in this case, not domestic policy concerning police and justice.
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Legalisation is the safest way forward: If we’re going to be brutally honest, it would do us well to stop and look at the current situation. Marijuana is always going to be sold whether or not it’s legal. Even the Federal Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach (SPD), admits that “the current repressive approach has failed”. Illegal sales are obviously unregulated, meaning safety concerns regarding dosage and cross-contamination aren’t even second thoughts. When given an option between this, and a safer, more regulated market, it really is a no brainer: The benefits are manifold and universal.
Positive economic impact: For a country so fond of free market capitalism, surely Germany can’t wait to reap the economic benefits of a lucrative new industry. Taking the US as an example again, Forbes reports that national legalisation could result in $128.8 billion in tax revenue, and an estimated 1.6 million new jobs – and this is all based on statistics taken from states that have recently legalised cannabis. This glittering future potentially awaits Germany too, if it plays its cards right.
Social and behavioural implications: Perhaps if the stigma around cannabis usage were to be lifted via legalisation and a change in governmental messaging, cannabis’s public profile would change and people’s habits around it would actually improve. Instead of being a substance primarily linked with antisocial activity (such as overuse and being a gateway to harder drugs), there’s a chance more people will learn to use it safely and it in moderation. The less mystery there is surrounding it, the better – think: Rebellious youngsters, for example, aren’t going to be as interested in experimenting dangerously with something that’s not presented as dangerous in the first place.
Imanuel Marcus: Against Legalization
Wrong approach and unpopular stance: Being an opponent of the legalization of Marijuana is not exactly popular in Berlin. But I do indeed feel the approach announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ ‘traffic light coalition’ in late 2021 is wrong. We should not be legalizing more drugs, but less. We should not make it easier for people to get stoned, but harder. We should not give in to pressure we might feel because we have not managed to curb the illegal sale of dope, but intensify the fight instead.
Awareness and procedures: Building awareness is one of the answers here. Smoking cannabis or eating marijuana cookies is not ‘cool’, but refraining from it is. The kind of mood and indifference pot causes is not cool. Being aware of what is going on around you is. Simplifying the persecution of dealers is another step that should be taken. In Germany, those who are in favor of a legalization keep on saying it would help the prosecution and the police get rid of a big workload. Well, change the procedures then. Shall we legalize speeding too, because less tickets would have to be written, printed and sent out? Since when do we give in and allow harmful things, only because the prosecution might be overworked? Employ more proescutors, if necessary.
Parallel market: Ready for the next problem? Legalization proponents say the illegal cannabis market will disappear if and when marijuana is legalized. No, it won’t. Examples in other countries have shown that dope will be sold illegally on some kind of a parallel market anyway. Dealers might try to make their product more ‘attractive’ by increasing its THC level or by adding more dangerous drugs to their mixture. Is this what we want? No, thanks.
Anxiety disorder and schizophrenia: We haven’t even talked about the direct effects of smoking cannabis. Pot consumers are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia and depression. How does anxiety disorder and psychoses sound? Delayed development issues have been registered among adolescents who keep on smoking their joints. Addiction is the next problem. Besides, cannabis is a gateway drug. Period. By the way: Why would we want to have many more cannabis addicts than we already do, only because alcohol might be even worse, in some ways? Fighting alcohol abuse a lot harder is the right answer, while legalizing more drugs is a mistake we would regret.
Stoned driving: On top of it all, we would have to expect secondary problems,. One of the most dangerous ones is stoned driving. The German Police Union says U.S. states that had legalized marijuana had reported more related accidents of the roads. Obviously, this is one of the issues the organization wants to avoid because it can kill.
Looking modern: So, the ‘traffic light government’ in Berlin wants to look modern? Good. Concentrate on speeding up the Internet and increasing the percentage of sustainable energy in Germany’s mix. Put in place an Autobahn speed limit. Legalizing pot is not modern, but wrong.
Note: Did Erica Smith spell legalisation the British way, while Imanuel Marcus stuck to the American way, with a ‘z’ instead of the ‘s’? Yes, exactly.