US cannabis law a ‘social experiment’

ONE of Tamworth’s leading addiction experts has warned residents the legalisation of marijuana in an American state is not an indication that the drug is safe.

Local GP Michael Campbell-Smith described Colorado’s allowance of the sale of marijuana for recreational use to people aged 21 and over as an “interesting social experiment”.

However, the staff specialist at Tamworth’s drug and alcohol clinical service said no one should mistake the decision as an endorsement of the drug.

“Cannabis is not a healthy drug to have,” he said. “It affects your thinking, planning and memory.

“We know it increases your risk of depression, we know it increases anxiety and we know that it increases the risk of psychosis.”

Dr Campbell-Smith, 60, who has 25 years’ experience in the field, would not be drawn on whether he believed marijuana should be legalised in Australia.

He did say though that other countries around the world would watch Colorado closely to see what social and health impacts stemmed from the law change.

“I think we’re really lucky that we’ve got someone else trying this before doing it ourselves, because we can watch the outcome,” he said.

“It’s going to be an interesting social experiment and we may not know for up to 10 years what the result is going to be.

“The real question is whether this will increase use and theoretically you’d say probably not because it’s already used so commonly that anyone who wants to use it is already using it.”

The Leader’s Facebook page was inundated with views on both sides of the debate yesterday when followers were asked whether Australia should legalise cannabis.

Tamworth woman Sheridan Bradley was horrified at the thought, saying: “No way – have known too many people who have developed psychiatric issues as a result of smoking this junk,” she said.

Local man Geoffrey Ward said he did not believe Australia should “follow the trend” and soften its laws.

“While the drug has some very specific medical benefits in limited situations, it has been proven to have psychological effects,” he said.

However, Tamworth resident Kate Johnston said the drug should be legalised, but only if people were properly educated about its use.

“What we need to do is take the value out of the trade. Legalise it. Let the government be in control– not the drop-kick bikies,” she said.

“People who take drugs and abuse drugs are going to do it whether it is legal or not.”

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