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Stamping out a nasty weed

Dear Reader,

I saw with interest an article in the Local about how the Swedes are so opposed to cannabis, I would like to share something with you. Trust me it is not a joint, my idea of a nice joint is a cut of meat from a good butcher.

I think that the hard line of the Swedes on drug abuse is a good thing, from what I know the end goal of the Swedish government policy on drug abuse is a Sweden with no drug abuse. This is a noble aim, I am not sure if it will be possible to get to this point but it is a good target assuming that the state does not go mad. In some parts of the US school system some of the zero tolerance (zero common sense !) people have banned children from carrying an asthma inhaler, it is very hard (or maybe even impossible) to get high on salbutamol inhalers. Salbutamol is an indole (amphetamine) like drug in which the general CNS simulant effect has been designed out, the early days before salbutamol more people with the condition needed to use adrenaline as a treatment. This is a drug which can get you high and cause adverse cardiac effects.

The problem with weed, cannabis (marijuana) is that it is a drug which is associated with a serious mental illness, it can unlock a latent disease in some people. The worry is that a sizeable minority of people are predisposed towards psychosis, many of these people could live out their lives without experiencing any symptoms (staying asymptomatic) but exposure to cannabis can unlock the disease according to one paper. A meta study (P.Y. Le Bac et.al., Encephale-Revue de Psychiatrie Clinique Biologique et Therapeutique, 2009, 35(4), 377-385 ) found that in the majority of decent investigations of the link between cannabis smoking and psychosis, schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms.

The great problem with psychosis / schizophrenia is that it is condition which fouls up people’s lives and can transform healthy and productive people into people who can not work and need expensive long term care. For moral reasons we should provide medical and other care for the disabled, even for those disabled people who become disabled as a result of their own silly, reckless or stupid choices. For instance we should still offer lung cancer care to smokers, even while has been known since the 1930s that smoking causes lung cancer and a drunk driver who hits a tree should not be left to die of his wounds by the paramedics if they have a intense dislike of drunken drivers (I guess that clearing up the mess at a few horrible alcohol related RTAs will give anyone a hatred of drunk drivers).

But even if we ignore the moral argument for banning the recreational use of cannabis or the argument that it is harmful to the user, we have a strong argument for banning the drug to protect society as a whole from the unreasonable and avoidable burden caused by the long term harmful effects of the drug.

While all activities might carry some risk, for example I might fall out of bed and break something, or I might laugh myself to death if someone tells me a very funny joke (in the late 1980s a German man died as a result of laughing too much at a comedy film, it sounds like a wonderful way to leave this moral existence) while I could get injured while putting out a fire or dealing with a sea monster which has invaded the teaching lab (Trust me I found it hard to keep a straight face while typing the last one). All these varied activities have a key benefit to society.

To stay healthy I need to sleep, a good joke has great cultural value, as a “traditional” chemist I do not run in terror from fire (I stop think and decide if I will retreat or take the bull by the horns, the question of do I run or stand and fight it is not simple) I will fight a fire to protect humans and/or property and if a sea monster emerges from the sink in the teaching lab I think that as an associate prof I should subdue it to keep my students safe (I doubt if I will ever have to do that !).

But on the other hand smoking weed to get as high as a kite brings no reward to society, if I was to smoke “drugs” and fall down dead or go out of my mind then it would be a disgusting and pointless waste of human life. On the other hand if I was to fight valiantly against a sea monster which was attacking the students but sadly die during the battle at least the manner of my demise might motivate and inspire the students to strive to become better scientists and people. Maybe someone would name a teaching lab or a lecture room after me !

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