THIS is with reference to the letter ‘Addiction and campuses’ (May 11). The recent legalisation of recreational cannabis by Germany for those aged 18 or above has sparked a global debate. While advocates argue in favour of individual liberties and prospective economic windfall of a regulated cannabis market, estimated to be worth billions of dollars, critics cannot overlook its potential downsides.

Moreover, studies have established a correlation between cannabis use and cognitive decline, memory impairments, and an elevated risk of psychosis as well as schizophrenia, particularly among adolescents whose brains are still in crucial developmental stages. In countries with relaxed cannabis laws, data shows a significant rise in cannabis use among youths, raising concerns about a generation potentially impacted by its detrimental effects.

Furthermore, a domino effect could ensue, with other nations potentially following suit. A casual attitude towards cannabis could precipitate a public health crisis, particularly in developing countries ill-equipped to tackle addiction and mental health issues.

Therefore, age restrictions, robust public awareness campaigns, and stringent regulations on marketing and commercialisation are indispensable. Additionally, international collaboration on cannabis research and evidence-based guidelines is essential.

In the current scenario, with a youthful population, widespread drug abuse, and scant addiction treatment resources, Pakistan cannot afford a spike in cannabis usage. Rigorous enforcement of existing drug laws, coupled with targeted public awareness initiatives highlighting the scientific evidence against cannabis use, especially among the youth, is paramount to avert a potential crisis.

Ensuring cannabis-free zones around educational institutions, recreational spots and all public spaces is imperative. Clear-cut regulations and enforcement mechanisms are requisite to shield vulnerable sections of demography from second-hand exposure, and prevent the possible normalisation of a social menace.

Majid Burfat
Karachi

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2024

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