Opinion |

The Stupidity of Marijuana

The opium wars served Europe’s interests in China. Whose interests are served by plunging Israel into a marijuana haze?

Alit Karp
Alit Karp
A woman smokes marijuana in a banana during the first world bicycle ride against drug trafficking and in favour of the legalization of self-cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on October 6, 2012.
A woman smokes marijuana in a banana, Medellin, Antioquia department, ColombiaCredit: AFP
Alit Karp
Alit Karp

If there’s one thing that’s been driving me batty lately, it’s the push in certain circles within Israel to legalize the use of marijuana.

I’m less bothered by the fight itself than by the central position the debate has assumed in our lives, alongside miracle tales about the healing properties of the moderate use of LSD, for example as described by the Israeli-American author Ayelet Waldman in her latest book, “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life.”

Yes, marijuana helps some people to cope with chronic pain and with the side effects of chemotherapy and other ills. But the debate over legalizing “soft” drugs and the beneficial effects of certain synthetic drugs goes well beyond the relief they can offer their users. If pain relievers were such a treat then people would be holding aspirin parties, and the fact is, they don’t.

It seems that there is a social aspect to the support of marijuana use, that reflects the agenda of certain parts of society. Or, perhaps more precisely, those parts without an agenda, who think that difficulty is a thing to be got around, not confronted. So when a difficulty arises, they rush into the embracing arms of drugs that bend the mind, dull the emotions and elevate the mood. Coping isn’t their bag. It’s easier to conceal the pain, however intense, behind a smokescreen.

Champions of legalization simply think that we are born to party – and judging by the amount of attention that certain Knesset members and media figures devote to the matter, one might think there’s nothing more important in the Israeli public sphere than making soft drugs legal. It’s fine to enjoy oneself, but anyone who wants only to enjoy themselves – and I suspect that is what the supporters of legalization want – is a spoiled, vacuous hedonist. That being the case, it’s no wonder that no one takes them seriously.

To me, the attempt to make soft drugs legal is forced. Nothing else seems to get these people to take up arms: not the state of education in Israel nor socioeconomic inequality, neither the high cost of living nor the destruction of democracy. So living in Israel costs an arm and a leg, and the occupation has been going on for 50 years? So what – that doesn’t move them. What does move them? Their high. They want it legal and cheap, too, if possible.

In the early 19th century, Britain sought to increase opium imports to China, in order to get its inhabitants addicted to the drug. That, in the hope the Chinese would settle into a stupor, allowing Britain to carry out its own plans in China. The first opium war ended with Britain’s annexation of Hong Kong. The market and Chinese society were exposed to the missionary aims of the British and the economic goals of the European powers. Who would be served by Israel’s sinking into a marijuana haze?

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