Let us light-up: Smokers voice support for legal pot

Marijuana users speak to the Copenhagen Post about what legal smoking would mean to them

Female students are predominant on five out of the six Copenhagen University faculties (photo: iStock)
November 24th, 2011 11:18 am| by admin

Cannabis users have a variety of reasons for supporting the City CouncilÂ’s proposal to legalise the drug, but taken together, their arguments paint a picture of a society already largely tolerant of marijuana and users unafraid of punishment.

Rebecca* is a student in her early 20s. She smokes marijuana regularly and hardly ever drinks. Growing up, her parents knew of her habit but thought as long as she was doing well in school, it didnÂ’t matter. Her father, a successful doctor, also smokes marijuana.

She doesn’t feel that legalising marijuana will make people more likely to take it up – she found it exciting as a teenager precisely because it was illegal.

“I was taking more risks as a kid, but now I’m more conservative. I used to smoke it outside pretty much everywhere. Now I just smoke in my apartment. And anyways, even if I did get caught, I would only have to pay a small fine.”

Rebecca buys her marijuana from a dealer in Christiania, though she would prefer to buy it from a legal source so the state could collect taxes on it.

“I definitely worry about the fact that it’s scary gangs who are providing it. But I don’t think about it, I just want to buy. Everyone smokes weed, my dad’s a doctor and he smokes. You can be a weed smoker and be talented and successful. Why’s drinking legal? It’s got worse side effects.”

Jacob* is a graphic designer in his 20s from northern Copenhagen. He has smoked cannabis since he was a teenager but never really felt it was particularly risky to buy.

“I might have thought about it when I had it in my pocket. But it’s not a serious criminal offence; you’re not killing anyone so it doesn’t get treated that way.”

To Jacob, selling marijuana in state controlled shops would be ideal.

“The important thing in regards to mild recreational drugs like weed or alcohol is to detach them from the harder drugs. By legalising them you separate it from cocaine and ecstasy, so someone buying alcohol at an early age isn’t offered the harder drugs. The main point is to differentiate between them.”

Henrik*, in his early 30s, is a promoter and events planner. He didnÂ’t start smoking until his early 20s, though it wasnÂ’t out of fear of punishment.

“I’m not put off by the penalties. I’m not afraid of them and I’ve never been caught. I know very few people who’ve ever been caught by the police anyways.

“Smoking weed is completely fine; people don’t really care. There are some places where it’s expected, and some places you know you shouldn’t, but generally it’s completely tolerated. In a way it’s almost already legalised because it’s out in the open in Christiania and no-one does anything about it.”

He acknowledged that there were risks associated with smoking marijuana, but argued that the tax revenue it generates could be used to fund treatment and prevention.

Rebecca also said she thought marijuana could be a dangerous drug for some, but argued that criminalising it had hardly prevented its widespread use.

“I think that it can probably act as a gateway drug, not for me but for others. I would say I’m an addict, but I still have a job and go to school and manage to balance everything, even though I smoke weed every day. But there are a lot of people who can’t manage the balance and they need to be given help, not treated like criminals.”

Alan*, a former marijuana user in his late 20s, agreed with Rebecca.

“I had to stop because I was become increasingly paranoid and insecure – even in the days after I used it. A state-controlled sale could have brought me closer to experts who could have helped me.”

But Alan argued that criminalisation is not the best way to protect vulnerable people.

“Ultimately, there’s a lot of ordinary things that people can develop addictions to like sex, computer games and work. Marijuana will always be available and just because a small portion of people develop side effects, it doesn’t mean it should be a criminal act.”

*All the names in this story have been changed.

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