Should cannabis be legalised?

There is a lot of confusion across the globe regarding whether to decriminalise cannabis use with or without legalisation.  Some countries like Canada, UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium have been trying to make rules more permissive. The realisation that cannabis may have therapeutic value in certain situations like cancer & HIV weight loss, nausea associated with chemotherapy etc may be partially responsible for this. But there is strong international pressure, especially from the International narcotics control bureau (INCB), to abide by the global policies framed in accordance to UN conventions.

I recently presented a seminar in regard to this reviewing the evidence for and against cannabis use decriminalisation and legalisation.

These are the bottom lines-

Hazards related to cannabis use:

It is a well accepted fact that deaths related to alcohol and tobacco (which are legally permitted substances) are more than cannabis by a ratio of at least 10:1. So question is, what is the basis of cannabis being illicit while both alcohol and tobacco are not? Is it just that the countries which are major producers of alcohol and tobacco products have more clout in the international arena? Continue reading

Alcohol, age limit and Imran Khan’s PIL: Are we overdoing ‘freedom?’

Maharashtra has raised the legal drinking age to 25. Reactions have ranged from ‘strange’ and ‘absurd’ to downright ‘challenge to individual freedom’. Are these things so black and white? Most countries have used a cut off for legal drinking at around 21. And the advantages and disadvantages of raising it from 21 to 25 needs to be studied and debated. But the current insistence of the critics to lower it to 18 does not have much basis from a public health perspective.

First of all, raising age limit to control alcohol use and the related hazards is a strategy that has strong ‘evidence basis’ to support it. I am not talking ‘what I feel strongly…’ or ‘probably we can infer’ kind of facts seen in columns but hard evidence from methodologically robust studies. What is the nature of hazards  we are talking about?

Alcohol use is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. It has been estimated in India that while the gains in terms of revenue from alcohol sales are Rs 216 billion every year, losses from adverse effects of alcohol  are estimated to be Rs 244 billion, apart from the immeasurable losses due to multiple and rollover effects of alcohol use. Needless to say, the available estimates are merely the tip of the iceberg. Now coming to youngsters, it has been shown that some one initiating alcohol use after first two decades of life have much lesser chances of developing adverse consequences or pathological patterns of drinking than who starts before. In countries where it has been debated whether drinking age should be lowered from 21, considerable amount of evidence shows that it may not be a good idea (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). Continue reading

The way of the blade

He checked the bridge. No. Kalo was not there. Probably he has moved on to the metro stations.

It was his eighth day out of prison. He had made up his mind. He will have to go back to the blade. He didn’t want to. But he will have to. And he needed Kalo for that.

It is tough without an accomplice. Earlier he used to work with even three. One to create rush in the crowd near the station. One to distract the mark. And one to score and hand over the loot to the first one who would disappear at the station. The last step was crucial. A small detail which stood between many broken bones.

What does it change anyway; he thought. His mother didn’t even come out. His brother was standing on the portico, hands folded. ‘She don’t want to see you,’ he said. Not that it bothered him that much. She didn’t talk to him even before he went to jail. He was dead for her long time. He went hungry most of the days. He begged. To every one at sight. Even to other well to do beggars.

But what really bothered him was the crushes. Continue reading