A survey carried out across the North and South of Ireland found that 32% of respondents between the ages of 15-34 had smoked cannabis. The majority of arrests for drug offences are related to the sale or possession of cannabis. The fact that cannabis is illegal, forces users to go to drug dealers to buy it.
Those who are opposed to the legalisation of cannabis argue that increased availability of cannabis will lead to an increase in the use of harder drugs such as heroin. In Holland, where cannabis can be bought legally in coffee shops, heroin use has remained stable since 1980, whereas in most European countries, particularly Ireland, heroin use has risen dramatically over the last thirty years. The average age of a heroin user in Holland is 37 years, whereas the average age of a heroin user in Ireland is between 20-24 years of age. This suggests that separating cannabis from other illegal drugs may have prevented a younger generation starting to take heroin.
This presents a case for the legalisation of cannabis. One way or another, use of cannabis is simply a reality, and criminalising users should stop. Legalisation under capitalism however, would mean that large corporations would use their resources to push cannabis sales, leading to increased consumption of the drug for profits. Instead, the production and sale of cannabis should be regulated under democratic public control. This would also allow those who need it for medicinal purposes, to access it through a national health service.
Poverty and hopelessness are often the main causes of drug addiction, which is why the most impoverished working-class housing estates have the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse. Young people see no future in a society of unemployment, low paid jobs and poverty and are looking to escape through alcohol and other drugs. Socialists do not want young people to switch off, give up and escape through drugs. We want to see an active, conscious, united struggle of young people. Calls for legalisation and decriminalisation must make these vital points.