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).
Social exclusion and development
Young people are too ill-informed to take drugs, or so said prohibitionist, Maatoug. He argued that 15 year olds do not have the necessary information on the impact of drugs on mind and body. He turned to the psychiatric effect of cannabis, claiming that, with prolonged use, most users develop a form of schizophrenia.
Nilsson corroborated, dubbing cannabis “the drug that makes people close the door on society.” He linked its use with an increase in mental health problems, and finding that is mainly used by younger members of society. Zemouli instead claimed that those who suffer mental health problems after drug use are already predisposed to mental illness; “drugs do not create mental illnesses”. Maatoug argued that rules are not made to be broken and it is in the interest of the wellbeing of everybody that prohibition legislation is upheld and respected. Both he and Nilsson argued that drug usage distracts young people from their social lives and vital social development, which can only be reached by going out and meeting people.
Market for drugs
We already marketise alcohol and the discussion asks what it so different with other drugs? 20 percent of alcohol consumers have a problematic relationship with the substance, according to Nilsson. Despite restrictions on alcohol, it still causes major health and societal issues. He worries that restrictions on drugs will simply not work, judging by large numbers of underage drinkers. Due to political lobbying by large companies within the alcohol industry, alcohol is the only product in the EU that does not have its ingredients listed on its packaging, according to Nilsson. He argued that marketising drugs and letting companies make a profit, will make it much more difficult to regulate the market properly and protect the consumer.