The weed question has been persistent in many societies and cultures for ages. Throughout history, the cannabis leaf has been consumed in various places around the world, sometimes in spiritual or cultural rituals, or simply for recreation. Today, cannabis is generally illegal in most places, except here, where weed consumption is tolerated and thus considered not illegal in Dutch society. Consequently, availability is easy, safe and reasonably priced – visitors to the Netherlands are attracted or at least tempted to experiment with weed, and this includes the large contingent of international students.
Many of us are curious, interested and even surprised to see and observe firsthand a society that has grown up and lived with a ‘drug’ that is illegal back home. Here, people don’t have to go underground to street dealers if they want to try; rather, they just walk into a shop and buy, as simple as buying bread.
Yet international students coming to the Netherlands also often find themselves facing another dilemma - the moral one. Yes, weed is legal, and perceptibly not something that causes harm, which international students can easily observe. But for many of us, raised in fairly or extremely conservative societies, where ethical or religious mores outlaw weed consumption, we’ve been raised to believe that smoking weed isn’t right. But once here, each individual student must make a choice, something that brings into conflict the rational versus moral sides of the issue.
Interesting rational questions arise, such as for instance the question of why alcohol - which also significantly impacts health, has far more devastating social consequences and is equally if not more addictive than marijuana - is legal, but marijuana is not? Comparatively, even cigarettes are equally addictive, more widely and cheaply available, and definitely pose far more serious and potent health risks, yet are also legally sold.
The thinking on this should be clear: either a choice should be given to individuals to make their own decisions regarding all types of legal addictive products – alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana - or, at the very least, there should be a realization that the moral lesson we were taught when young was wrong. The thought processes and debate that is provoked at the beginning of such a social dilemma is essentially what initiates reasoning and rational decision-making - the student will, irrespective of his final decision on smoking weed, start to question assumptions before believing, argue with strong reasoning and think more deeply, because his environment has provoked this thinking during his experience here. This is a true choice worth preserving for each of us to make. After all, God created marijuana, man created alcohol, so you choose?
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