Mary Mary, quite contrary

Ruaridh Frize

smoke

Everyone loves a celebrity drug scandal; Kate Moss doing cocaine, Lindsay Lohan doing just about everything and now we have Justin Bieber of all people, being caught smoking what looked suspiciously like marijuana. Considering this is not the first time a young teen star has been caught ‘experimenting’ with drugs – Miley Cyrus was controversially taped taking saliva in 2010 and later admitted to smoking weed – I can’t help but ask; why is this such a big deal?

Firstly, let me say that contrary to what some red-eyed stoners might say, marijuana is in fact a drug; just like cocaine and ecstasy but also just like alcohol and caffeine, as after all, a drug is merely a substance that is easily abused and easy to become addicted to. But one of the negative effects of our society’s war on drugs is that everything that is deemed abusive and illegal is all dumped into the same category; the ‘drug’ category. Even as far back in Primary school I remember the obligatory talks we would get from the police or teachers warning us about people who ‘do drugs’, and although the names of the various different types are always thrown around, were we ever really given all the information?

Some people rather stupidly seem to believe that legalising all drugs will make it seem less ‘taboo’ and will therefore actually result in less drug use, but I could not think of anything more counter-productive and overwhelmingly dumb. After all, why do we have a culture of binge drinking? I would say it probably has something to do with the fact that alcohol is legal. The end of prohibition in the USA didn’t make alcohol seem less ‘taboo’ or decrease consumption of it at all. But the most important thing here is that people don’t binge drink solely because it’s legal – they drink because of the effects of it; increased confidence and that feeling that everything is far funnier than it actually is that usually leads to a good night out.

The logic behind this is extremely important in attacking the slippery-slope argument against marijuana legalisation; that it will lead to more drugs being legalised. I know a significant number of friends who I strongly believe would never use Class A drugs and I know for a fact that it is not just the illegality that deters them, but the effects; cocaine, ecstasy and the like are not only far more addictive than marijuana but can and often kill people from the first pill or sniff. This is what deters most from serious substance abuse.

But I myself will admit there is an inconsistency here; the illegality of marijuana, at least in the UK, is partly to blame why there is still such a stigma attached to those who regularly or occasionally get down with Mary Jane. But another reason is down to sheer ignorance and misinformation; I have grown up with a lot of people who would probably class marijuana in the same category as ecstasy or cocaine with the same dangerous effects but nothing could be further from the truth.

Unlike with tobacco and even alcohol, there is no evidence that suggests marijuana causes cancer, or even brain damage. With marijuana, there is also no risk of immediate fatal health effects – such as heart-attacks with cocaine or ecstasy-related hypothermia – that can cause somebody to die from the first time they use the drug. Basically, frequent drinking or tobacco smoking will have a far more negative effect on your health than recreational marijuana use. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to get hit by a car on your way to Uni than to have your health damaged by marijuana smoking.

So why should we hate on Justin Bieber for his weed-smoking? It only distracts us from logical reasons to loathe him such as his chipmunk voice and painful music. In theory, legalising marijuana would remind us that Class A drugs like cocaine and ecstasy are illegal for actual reasons and should be left alone, unlike a substance which is used frequently amongst students and is more or less harmful. And let us not forget that if we indulged in a little harmless weed smoking, then perhaps we would all be so high that Justin Bieber’s music would be tolerable.