It’s no hidden reality that Pakistan is one of the largest cannabis producers and trafficker of the world; most of which enters Pakistan through the Afghanistan border and from there it makes it to Middle East, North America and Europe.
Pakistan is always going through some wild circumstances and seems like this could be a reason why the country has been blessed by the plant termed as ‘drug’ which grows wildly in many parts of the country.
Cannabis in any form is made illegal by law in the country, but it still has less severe punishment as compared to hard drugs such as heroin and amphetamines. Pakistani nation undoubtedly is home to millions of stoners. Ranging from wealthy businessmen and politicians to road side hawker people love to get high here.
The only difference here is that it’s less forbidden in scriptures and more in the statute books. If alcohol is the essence of Western culture than cannabis has its deep roots in Sufism and our centuries long history and traditions. From festivals to medicinal properties and bringing tourism to the land this plant has helped the region in more than one way. Then why is it such a taboo and detestable thing to consume or talk about in our society?
Here are 7 reasons which illustrate why Cannabis should be legal in Pakistan:
1- Manufacturing of Medicinal Drug:
Medicinal marijuana refers to unprocessed plant extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The cannabinoid chemicals in it are used in pills. Research shows that it decreases the Opioid (painkiller) addiction and use which causes deaths in many cases as it impossible to overdose on marijuana as compared to Opioids. Think about it, only consuming 30 pills of morphine (aspirin) is highly lethal while in order to overdose on marijuana you have to smoke 1500 pounds of it in just 15 minutes which is practically impossible for humans. No man has ever died of a marijuana overdose unlike other drugs and alcohol.
The chemicals derived from marijuana such as THC reduces nausea and decreases pain, inflammation and muscle pain in women. CBD on the other hand cannot make a person high and is used in epileptic seizures, mental illnesses and even addictions.
Studies show that it can kill cancerous skills of serious brain tumors if used with radiation. It even fights against HIV AIDS improving immune system. More and more US States are legalizing it and Pakistan cannot only improve the health conditions of its citizens but can revolutionize the modern medicinal techniques around the world by working along other countries on health policies and exporting the pure marijuana for medicinal manufacturing curbing harmful diseases around the world.
2- Growing Industry through Hemp production:
Marijuana and hemp both are cousin plants which comprise cannabis. In USA several states have legalized the hemp production. In Pakistan severe criminal penalties are attached to the cultivation but the truth is that hemp can save Pakistan’s economy. It only contains very small amount of psychoactive THC. The hemp oil is used in soaps and medicines etc. Hemp is best known for its historical use to make paper.
The US convention was written on it and the paper has survived the course of three centuries. It is used in household products, fabrics, fuels, plastics, construction materials and many other materials. This will not only limit the deforestation but will also reduce pollution as the environmental footprint of hemp is relatively low.
3- Countering Terrorism through Regulation and Legalization:
Drug prohibition has played a critical role in shaping the business of global terrorism. The war on drugs is further complicating the war on terrorism. Narco-terrorism is the term used for profits gained from trade of illegal drugs to fund terrorist activities. Alike FARC in Columbia; Taliban in Pakistan offers the biggest example of the relation between illicit drug trade and terrorism. Land-based drug mafia is well equipped with modern tracking state of the art tracking devices and modern warfare weapons including anti-rocket and anti-aircraft missiles. It’s the easiest way of generating revenues by the local terrorist groups to fund terrorist attacks around the world. This relationship between drug dealers and terrorists is emerging on an alarming rate in Pakistan. What Pakistan’s government has failed to realize is that the bomb vehicles and Talibans don’t come out of thin air? Our current drug policy is creating real opportunities for terrorist groups to fund their violent activities.
Government can cut this funding by registration of all farms and manufacturing zones, their monthly inspections and by regulating the legal sale and cultivation of cannabis plant and closure of all illegal and unregistered farmlands and manufacturing zones.
Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron writes that. “If drugs were legal, production would be widely dispersed and have no particular overlap with countries that harbor terrorists.”
4- Increasing National Tourism:
The Karkhano market in Dera Adam khel known as the world largest smugglers market has long been part of the Pakistan’s tourist experience, after all where can one see bricks of opium and fire Kalashnikovs. These markets generate millions of dollars in black per year which are going out of Pakistan. Like guns; drugs too are a main part of Pashtun culture. During the 60s and 70s Pakistan proved to be a happy trail for the tourists going through cities of Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi. Now due to the illegal status of cannabis the hash markets established then are in hands of militant groups instead of a government regulating authority.
Netherland has the policy of legalization with strict regulation for those under 18 and tourists outside Amsterdam. The coffee shops in the city account for 40% of the cannabis grown in Holland. Dutch marijuana exports are a significant economic activity and has largest market share after tomatoes and cucumbers.
Commercial potential of marijuana tourism can be seen in the 23 US states where it has been legalized. Though legal; still it is regulated by laws such as no smoking in public or some hotel rooms. Tourist industry is earning $1,295 per person.
Legalizing marijuana sale in only one city for instance the capital can attract tourists from all corners of the world as Pakistan has one of the best hash to offer and tourism industry can benefit from it many folds.
“Pakistan in this order can become the Amsterdam of the Asia.”
This will open new opportunities for business as it will give rise to coffee shops, candy shops and other products containing marijuana. The marijuana will be processed and free of harmful toxins as it will be regulated by government health authorities.
5- Door way to Stronger Economy and International Collaboration:
Pakistan should adapt the Portugal’s decriminalized policy. Through this the addicts can be treated instead of getting punished. The money government invests in the prisons and courts can be invested in the rehab centers and health treatments of the drug patients. Colombia, Israel, Croatia, Spain and Czech Republic legalized personal use. The opportunity to regulate cannabis to mitigate those risks – something that cannot effectively be done under prohibition or decriminalization.
Pakistan signing a treaty with other countries for strict border control for any kind of illegal drug trade and signing trade treaties with the governments which will allow free trade of marijuana and related products freely through the borders through the legal channel with governments having total check and balance.
6- Strong Religious and Cultural Significance:
It is an undeniable fact that cannabis has always been a major part of religious sects in the region including Sufis and Hindus. For centuries it’s been consumed as a means of gaining spirituality and euphoria and this has gone unchallenged by even the authorities. Chillum and Bhang are consumed during Urs and Religious festivals and even by the local wrestlers to beat the heat. It is often used as a recreational drug and not socially prohibited in certain areas as compared to alcohol which is detested by the local community. Plus you don’t have to smoke it to get high. You can consume it inform of cannabis oil, hash brownies, candies and a hundred other forms.
7- Safer Drug for Youth:
There is a reason why Islam forbids alcohol and it should always be banned in our country, but then we have to give a safer option to the ones who just want to have a good time with their folks, because if you won’t they will look towards unhealthy means.
Cannabis is still used as an herbal traditional method in the form of Bhang to cure dysentery and sleeplessness in young infants. Cannabis in the form of recreational drug and medicinal marijuana is legal in Canada, Colorado and some other states of US, Netherland etc. Tobacco causes cancer and deaths in a year while cannabis has been proven to not cause a single casualty.
There is no better way of keeping youth away from alcohol poisoning and hard drugs such as meth and heroin then to legalize a substance next to harmless.
Researches show that smarter teens are twice more prone to smoking as compared to average youngsters. In case you are wondering if this will affect the young brains negatively then here are few most successful names which had smoked marijuana throughout their life. This includes famous politicians like Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John Kerry, media persons such as Robert Downey Jr, Johnny Depp and even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
To Conclude, Hashish making industry is old and well established and a doorway to the economic prosperity of the region if regulated wisely through strict policies and effective administration of the government. Now of course the pharmaceutical and paper companies will not be too happy as this will make them lose a millions dollar business. And this brings us to the very reason behind why cannabis was made illegal in the first place. The monopoly of super powers such as USA is evident in the case, it’s the international pressure under which Nepal closed its cannabis trade in 70s and Pakistan could never earn its profit, but US in making millions once again in the 21st century.
About the Writer:
Aruba binte Khalid is a student of Public Policy and Governance at NUST, Islamabad. She has served as a youth cultural Ambassador to US and is president of Youth Thinker’s society Pakistan chapter which operates in SAARC Nations.