Last month almost 10,000 young people from across Europe were hosted at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, for YoFest and the third annual European Youth Event, to debate issues affecting young people. In this two part series, Ellen Butler looks at the discussion on legalising drugs.
A debate at the EYE asked is it time considered the decriminalisation of marijuana? The panel included voices from both sides with French psychiatrist, Redwan Maatoug; Lucas Nilsson, director of Nocturum; and Kenzi Riboulet Zemouli, head of research at FAAAT (For Alternative Approaches to Addiction – think & do tank).
Minimisation, not legalisation
Advocating for the liberalisation of drug policy, Zemouli cannot see a need for the rules to be so restrictive. He asserted that one must consume four kilograms of cannabis in order to overdose. As a member of a cannabis smoking club in Spain, Zemouli believes they are a safe environment to use soft drugs. Upon arrival, he presents his ID as proof of age and is then told the levels and ingredients of the drugs he wishes to use. All of these users are over 18 and well-informed on what they are doing.
However, Maatoug claimed that, while drug usage is increasing, with now over one million users in France, it is also getting more dangerous. According to his figures, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC for short – the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) levels have increased from 6-7 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today. He believes that, with the production of drugs so opaque, it is safer to just avoid them.
Nilsson, an expert in alcohol policy, questioned why we are debating the legalisation of drugs, rather than the availability of drugs. He argued that, if we had a good knowledge of how to regulate these substances, we wouldn’t still have such widespread problems with alcoholism and binge drinking. He suggested our attention should firstly be focused on youth development, social inclusion, and the harm that drugs cause. Zemouli agreed that minimisation of drug use is an important topic, but so too is a person’s right to bodily autonomy and choice. Maatoug emphasised that this is not a debate on the individual but rather a collective societal issue. He said it’s difficult to tell who uses drugs and why they do so and urged the audience to not use drugs at all; “it’s simple – smoking kills.”
To see the first part of this series, click here.