‘Kochie, you look like an idiot’
IT FEELS like every time a new drug law reform policy to decriminalise weed for adults in Australia is suggested, people lose their minds and immediately begin fear mongering about why letting people smoke marijuana legally will lead to anarchy in the streets.
It's actually quite easy to see why this opinion is held given the disorder and mayhem seen in America after Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington DC legalised recreational earlier on January 1 this year.
Actually come to think of it, these US states have only seen a decrease in weed-related arrests, a stimulated economy from taxing marijuana and medicinal benefits for users.
If this is the case, why does Australia feel the need to peddle outdated anti-weed propaganda with pitchforks in hand?
My guess is a lack of education about the drug and an unwillingness to have an open mind when discussing whether it's time to let adults - who already smoke weed anyway - to purchase it legally so they can stop dealing with criminals.
One only has to look at David Koch's interview with Green's leader Richard Di Natale on Sunrise earlier this week to see how embarrassingly stuck in the dark ages some Aussies are when it comes to the debate of legalisation.
The awkward interview, which Kochie appeared to research by watching the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness that explores the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students try marijuana, was nothing short of cringe-worthy and an embarrassment to those wanting to be heard in an educated and modern discussion.
"Most Australians would be going, look, you've been smoking marijuana," Kochie said in response to Di Natale's proposal.
Di Natale's basis for legalisation was it would raise hundreds of millions of dollars in tax, would remove the power from the crime syndicates and would prevent innocent Aussies just wanting a smoke from obtaining damaging criminal records.
"We have got to get real about cannabis, nearly seven million Australians use it," he said.
"The reality is that's a choice that feeds big criminal syndicates, they are the ones that benefit from the current system.
"This is taking it out of the hands of criminals and putting it within a tightly controlled health framework."
Kochie took offence to common sense and immediately reverted back to outdated "facts" about marijuana and even admitted that while Di Natale's professional experience in the field as a drug and alcohol doctor made gave him more knowledgeable, he still wasn't convinced.
To help break down the flaws in Kochie's argument or to help sway those who are actually willing to have a discussion about the legalisation of weed, here's some modern research.
ALCOHOL IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN WEED
Yes, Kochie was shocked when the Greens leader said weed was safer than booze. As Di Natale pointed out, people die from acute alcohol toxicity all the time, yet there have been zero recorded cases of overdosing on marijuana.
OK, sure you can't die, but what about the other health risks that have been linked to weed over time?
In an attempt to sort fact from fiction, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine completed the world's most comprehensive study into marijuana last year.
After examining more than 10,000 scientific abstracts dating back to 1999, the extensive 395-page report unearthed more than 100 conclusions about the health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use - many of which support arguments it should be legal.
"The evidence suggests that smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for certain cancers (ie. lung, head, and neck) in adults," one of the findings read.
And while it did admit smoking cannabis on a regular basis is associated with chronic cough and phlegm production, it explained taking the drug orally will likely reduce these symptoms - legalisation of weed means you can buy eatables and not be forced to smoke.
The report also confirmed the many therapeutic effects of weed.
"In adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics," the report read.
"In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms.
"In adults with multiple sclerosis (MS)-related spasticity, short-term use of oral cannabinoids improves patient reported spasticity symptoms."
When looking at cannabis use and mental health, the findings offer mixed results.
"Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use the greater the risk," the report read.
However, it added that a history of cannabis use in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses may be "linked to better performance on learning and memory tasks".
The research found smoking weed did not appear to increase the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety or PTSD, and heavy cannabis smokers more likely to talk about their thoughts of suicide than non-users.
WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN
One of the most common arguments with the legalisation of weed is that more children will have access to the drug at a young age.
These people seem to forget that it will be treated with the same age restrictions used for the sale of alcohol - plus there's nothing stopping a 15-year-old who wants to smoke pot from buying it off the street already.
But let's forget the age restrictions for a minute and take a look at places that have legalised marijuana and how this has impacted underage use.
As it turns out, fewer teenagers are using cannabis in Colorado since the state's tightly regulated legal market launched at the start of 2014.
According to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana use by kids between 12 and 17 had dropped 11 per cent from year prior and 12.5 per cent from the previous two years in Colorado.
This drop is attributed to the amount of money that Colorado has poured into awareness and education programs, plus making it harder to obtain by removing it from the black market.
IT CAN'T BE WORTH THAT MUCH TO THE ECONOMY
According to marijuana industry analyst Tom Adams, the industry in the US took in nearly $AU11.7 billion in sales in 2017 - equivalent to the entire snack bar industry.
But with weed now legal in a number of US states, Adams estimates that national marijuana sales will rise to $AU14.3 billion in 2018, and to $AU27.4 billion in 2021.
State senator from Nevada Tick Segerblom has also praised the legalisation of weed, with the state reaping more than $A36 million in tax revenue since recreational sales started.
"It's a great thing because the money was already being spent [when it was illegal] it's just now being taxed," he told CNN. "And cops don't have to waste their time arresting users."
Earlier research conducted by the Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University found the legalisation of weed raked in $AU74 million in tax in 2016, with $AU29 million of that put toward marijuana-related programs to educate users.
DOES WEED MAKE YOU LAZY?
Recent times have shown a huge surge in people smoking weed to help athletic performance as it deepens concentration, increases tissue oxygenation, and decreases muscle spasms before, during and after exercise.
Ultra-endurance athlete Avery Collins, who runs 240km per week, said training stoned helps him achieve flow quicker as the "runner's high" acts upon the same receptors that receive the THC in marijuana.
"I use it as a way to intensify and enhance the run. It makes the longevity of the runner's high last longer because technically you're already high," he told Motherboard.
Cannabis has long been accredited with anti-inflammatory properties and Mr Collins said he also smokes weed for the pain relief after gruelling training sessions.
"I'd be lying if I said [cannabis] doesn't help soothe my muscles," he added.
It's not just runners who benefit either, with UFC commentator/stand-up comedian/podcaster Joe Rogan talking about its benefits for fighters.
"I think it (marijuana) is a performance-enhancing drug. If it wasn't, a huge majority of jiu-jitsu guys wouldn't be using it before they train," he said on The MMA Hour. "They don't do it because it hurts them; they do it because it helps them."
He also claimed to have seen the benefits first-hand.
"I like to smoke pot and work out," he said. "Getting high and working out is one of the least talked about and least appreciated pleasures of fitness."
HOW AUSTRALIA CURRENTLY SITS WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD
Our country is slowly taking steps to change its stance on weed, with Victoria becoming the first state to legalise marijuana for young children suffering from epilepsy, while NSW also allows use for patients suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer or multiple sclerosis.
Queensland's laws are the most flexible in the country, which grant patients of any age or suffering from a range of illnesses access to medicinal cannabis products.
Tasmania allows medical cannabis in limited circumstances where conventional treatment has been unsuccessful, as does Western Australia, South Australia, the NT and the ACT.
While the use of medical marijuana is a step in the right direction, we also need to be talking about legalising it for recreational use, which would bring us on par with a number of countries across the world.
In addition to the earlier mentioned US States, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, parts of India, Italy, Jamaica, Luzembourg, Malta, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Solvenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and Uruguay all have made recreational weed use legal or have decriminalised it - and the world hasn't ended yet.
So maybe Kochie just needs to understand that letting adults enjoy a cheeky toke or two is not going to lead to the end of the world.