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Social issue conflicts case study- social conflict over cannabis legalization; a

look at the Netherland experience

The Dutch have always embraced the value of allowing others to "live and let live", so
long as it doesnt interfere with the whole of society. During the political and social
unrest of the 1960s many young Dutch traveled and during their travels adopted many
foreign practices; one of them being the use of cannabis (marijuana). Upon their return
to the Netherlands, they brought this new found activity home with them and with that,
coupled with the Dutch "Laissez Faire" approach to life, drug use (marijuana, speed,
heroin, LSD) continued to be used by much of the populous. Naturally, some of these
drugs were noted to have extreme health risks over marijuana, so the Dutch
government got involved (Uitermark, 2004).

To address the health concerns of the "harder" drugs, the Dutch government
determined two things. Cannabis was considerably less harmful than the other "harder"
drugs and the way most drug users were introduced to the harder drugs (over
cannabis) was directly through drug dealers. To combat this, the Dutch government
declared the personal use of marijuana to be "decriminalized" (not legal, there is a
difference) and even went as far as to allow the existing "youth clubs" (which eventually
became Holland's famous "coffee shops") to become locations where one could
purchase and use marijuana (Uitermark, 2004).

So, as of today, marijuana use/possession in Holland is not legal, but the government
has "decriminalized" the possession/use of personal use qualities (5 oz or less).
What that means is one can possesses and use marijuana without fear of being
criminally charged by law enforcement as long as the person does not possess more
than 5 oz (citizens are also allowed to grow up to 5 marijuana plants at their personal
residences, but the plants must be kept outside). What the "decriminalized" part of this
equation means if you are found in violation of these limits, the police simply seize your
marijuana/plants and do not charge you with a crime (Grether, 2016).

So, with all of this you ask, where is the social conflict? It lies within the differing views
of the pro vs. the cons of the legalization and the use of marijuana. While there are
many pros vs. cons, for the purposes of this case study, here are the pros vs. the cons
we will use;

Pros:
Revenue-Many say the legalization of marijuana could be revenue generator in
the form of new taxes applied to its sale and distribution (Malinowska, 2013).
More Effective Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement-Many feel the
legalization of marijuana would provide law enforcement, judges and prosecutors
more money/time to pursue more violent crimes. It is also believed less drug
cases would mean less crowded prisons (DrugWarFacts.org, 2017).
Medicinal Use-Some medical professionals believe marijuana can be effective in
treating a range of health conditions, including Crohns disease, epilepsy,
multiple sclerosis (MS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If legalized, it
would be available for this type of use to everyone (Senthilingam, 2016).
Commercialized Distribution- Many who support the legalization of marijuana
would point out due to the absence of competition and thus the high street prices
of marijuana, drug dealers keep the price high. The argument goes if there were
open competition and lower prices, the price of marijuana would drop, giving
people more disposable income. In addition, legalization would make the drug
more safe by ensuring it is not "cut" with a dangerous substance. They claim
legalization/commercialization would create a framework for a safety control
system, thus ensuring a more safe product (NORML, 2017).

Cons
Addictive Nature-Some researchers say some marijuana users have developed
a dependence over time and stopping marijuana use can/will lead to withdrawal
symptoms, which ranges from anxiety to irritability (National Institute of Drug
Abuse, 2016).
Gateway Drug Status-It is believed by some (and has been supported by some
research) that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that potentially introduces users to
more serious illegal substances of abuse. As a result, the argument goes that
Marijuana legalization may increase societal and financial costs for the treatment
of those introduced to heavier drugs by smoking it (National Institute of Drug
Abuse, 2016).
Increase in Driving Under the Influence and Related Cases-Even though it
has been called a victimless crime, many say its use is tied directly to other
crimes, such as drunk driving, burglary, robbery and rape (Science Daily, 2016).
Poor Physical/Mental Health- Some researchers say blood vessels in the brain
of a marijuana smoker experience restricted flow. Marijuana is estimated to have
levels of carcinogens that are almost double of that from tobacco smoke. Some
studies have shown marijuana use raises the heart rate from 20 to 100 percent
for up to three hours after it has been smoked, increasing the risk of getting other
health problems, such as arrhythmia, heart palpitations and heart attack. In
addition, some research, while not necessarily established, has discovered a link
between marijuana use and mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and
depression (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2016).

Case Study Focus Question

Using the listed pros and cons, do some research and determine what the effect of the
"decriminalization" of marijuana has been in the Netherlands and do those results tell us
anything about the hotly contested (conflict) of legalizing/decriminalizing marijuana in
the rest of the world?
Considering/using the conflict resolution tactics discussed thus far in the course
textbook, can you suggest a solution to this social conflict?