Reefer Madness – Tackling Misinformation

Nicholas touches on the recent article published by the Irish Times where the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland warn of the effects cannabis have on young Irish people in the wake of the covid pandemic.

While propaganda has always been a means to constrain the truth and limit people’s perception of certain issues and hardships, it has always been a tool of oppressive beliefs that serve to control people by telling them what’s best for them.  There has been no better example of propaganda serving to perpetuate a stigma on the issue of cannabis legislation than “Reefer Madness”.   The infamous film where the term comes from, released in 1936 contains recklessly over the top representations of cannabis users in the form of delinquents who engage in manslaughter, rape, conspiracy to murder, and fall into a descent of hallucinations and lunacy.  While the film served to instil fear into middle America at the time of its release, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the film saw an emergence of interest in the form of unintentional satire among supporters of cannabis policy reform. It has quickly taken the reigns as one of the worst films ever made, as asserted by many film critics.  What was originally an attempt to create a narcotics scare has evolved into the proverbial soapbox detractors of cannabis use to tackle information that supports the belief of drug reform.

In April 2021, an article published by the Irish Times sent ripples throughout the cannabis community in Ireland.  Unlike many takes on the subject of cannabis reform, the piece titled “Cannabis ‘gravest threat’ to mental health of young people” was more than your usual fundamentalist fodder but instead a casual throwback to the era of Reefer Madness.  In these disconcerting times of homelessness, lack of mental health services, covid-19, alcoholism, cyber-bullying, and a resurrected recession, it makes perfect sense that the Irish College of Psychiatrists put the onus of these issues squarely on the shoulders of cannabis use.  Any opportunity to throw shade on cannabis usage is seen as a good one especially when the problems we currently face aren’t going away anytime soon due to the sheer ineptitude displayed by the Irish government.  No different than Reefer Madness, the message is to distract the public from the real issues young Irish people will suffer the burden of. 

While I’m sure the article intended to further the narrative of cannabis criminalisation, the reaction proved to be more detrimental to their cause than if they said nothing at all.  The response from advocates of cannabis use in Ireland has been overwhelming with more attention brought to the counter-arguments than the original article.  The main case for cannabis prohibition is that it is harmful to developing minds and should remain illegal to keep it out of the hands of teenagers.  It is getting harder to believe that people are unaware that the crux of their argument is what contributes to the issue.  The lack of regulation is what contributes to cannabis finding its way into the hands of Ireland’s youth.  It’ll be a long time coming before you’ll come across a drug dealer that asks for I.D for a transaction can occur.  The black market is the wild west where even synthetic cannabis will be sold, among an array of class-A drugs on offer to anyone willing to pay. 

The effects the covid pandemic have had on the health and wellbeing of young people have taken their toll as seen with the increased consumption of various drugs to escape from the stress and anxiety of the lockdown.[1]  But to put the fault solely on cannabis shows the lack of awareness and ineptitude leaders have in this country to tackle the issue of mental health. Cannabis seizures in the last year have increased significantly.  Those with unnecessary convictions to their name from previous arrests involving cannabis have to face a life with fewer employment opportunities which harms mental health more than it serves as a detriment to seeking out cannabis.  The stress that comes from purchasing cannabis for this fact alone doesn’t aid the welfare of anyone.  The lockdown in 2020 saw a massive increase in raids due to restrictions on travel and imports into the country.  Of the arrests, some were for possession of plants with no intent to distribute.[2]  An act that doesn’t provide the black market with any monetary gain will somehow receive a harsher sentence than possession of multiple grams. 

The black market and its uncontrolled system producing untaxed unregulated drugs is the true enemy of young people who regardless of the law, will seek out substances to experiment.  The current state of Irish drug law is akin to a dog chasing its tail.  We’re in a constant limbo of procrastination and misinformation spurred by leaders with a fear of the unknown that follows change.  Change that will benefit people more than it will allegedly harm.  In a roundabout way, the Irish College of Psychiatrists have facilitated in putting the spotlight on the ongoing movement for cannabis legalisation as discussion on this topic can only go one way with the amount of evidence proving the advantages of a regulated cannabis industry. 




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