This is part 2 of a 4 part series on the implications of marijuana on our society
Our present stance on cannabis has created a black market intent on fulfilling demand that is consuming our island and causing our crime rates to soar. Further we seem intent on attacking the problems at the surface while ignoring the root causes. Even worse we maintain a punishment scheme for users which outweighs the actual crime. It risks taking otherwise good people and turning them towards crime and effectively punishes those who are self medicating or are victims of abuse that should actually be seeking help. It makes little sense that crime is our great worry and yet we still hold a stance that makes things worse and not better. Perhaps it is time we revisit this decision and figure out if there are ways to discourage use but not allow it to get so out of hand we create worse problems in the process.
Cannabis prohibition has created a black market rivaling that which which we saw in the US in the ‘20s with alcohol prohibition. Gangs capitalized on a nascent demand for alcohol and found ways to supply it at great profit. These profits gave rise to gangsters who, fueled by alcohol smuggling profits, branched out to other areas of crime. It was not long before profits were so lucrative gangs felt it necessary to protect their interests. Guns and gang wars proliferated until petty thieves felt the need to equip and protect themselves and the incidents of gun crimes rose to startling prominence. Does this sound familiar?
Contrary to popular belief, those smoking cannabis aren’t the true problem for our society, it’s those who sell and distribute for profit. Yet the more we ‘crack down’, the higher the profits go. The higher the profits, the more stake criminal elements have in its distribution meaning people are more anxious to ‘protect’ themselves and their interests. Thus we see more guns on the island which filters out to others not dealing drugs who now feel they need guns to protect themselves as well. So now we’re seeing increasing incidents of gun related violence and Bermuda descending further and further into anarchy. It is a vicious cycle that spirals ever further down unless we do something real to stop the problems closer to the root.
We need to recognize and deal with the problems at their core. Inherently individuals are turning to cannabis regardless of laws against it. They do so for recreational purposes, they do so to self medicate or they do so out of psychological addiction. The recreationalists are going to do it as long as it the rewards outweigh the risks and really, recreationalists aren’t our problem. Those turning to cannabis to self medicate or suffer from addiction are a problem as they should be seeking proper help but instead could be scared away or reluctant to do so. Thus demand never changes, we don’t solve the root problems and profits for smugglers and distributors continue to rise, especially as we ‘crack down’ on supply.
Further we are intent on maintaining a punishment scheme for users which outweighs the actual crime. It is so bad there is a rather sick joke around the island that you’re more likely to be punished worse for smoking a spliff than you are for killing someone. This is the perception people hold on our streets, that people are more likely to get away with murder than they are with using cannabis. One act has severe consequences for our society, the other does not. Is this the message we truly want to be sending? Where are our priorities?
It is rather shocking that an individual caught with a small amount of cannabis can be given a criminal record and black listed from travelling to the US. Sure the argument stands that an individual should understand and accept the consequences of their actions but the punishment is extreme. The result? You may well be an otherwise upstanding citizen who breaks no other laws and suddenly you’re marked. You could face travel restrictions limiting your ability to get training abroad or have a job that requires travel. You could face discrimination with regards to employment, making it hard for you to have a job. You could become more likely to give up on society and turn towards crime. All this for a crime that is about as damaging to others as jaywalking. It does not make sense.
We are fueling crime with our policies and seem intent on ignoring the root causes while tackling the low hanging fruits. Our present stance on cannabis has created a black market that is causing our crime rates to soar. Further we’re only attacking the problems at the surface while maintaining a punishment scheme that outweighs the crime. We need to focus on actually solving problems, not paying lip service to them. It makes little sense that as crime is our great worry we still hold a stance that makes things worse and not better. Perhaps it is time we revisit this decision and figure out if there are ways to discourage use but not allow it to get so out of hand we create worse problems in the process.