Even if you missed Drugs Live on Channel 4 earlier this month, you have likely seen a video of Jon Snow having his soul “wrenched from [his] body” while pulling the whitey of the year.
Whether you see this as confirmation that cannabis is a dangerous drug or evidence that being inside a loud, claustrophobic MRI machine is a terrible place to be high, this programme has opened up the cannabis legalisation debate to the mainstream once again.
This is a debate we should be having. There is a growing trend around the world of countries adopting a more progressive drugs policy; from Portugal, where possession of all drugs has been decriminalised since 2000, to Uruguay, where personal use and growth of cannabis is now completely legal, albeit heavily regulated by the Government. Yet the U.K. Government seems unwilling to even consider drugs reform; going so far as to ignore its own report on the issue towards the end of last year – a report which concluded that tough drug laws have no impact on drug use.
One would assume that the basis for deciding whether or not a drug should be legal would be to compare it to other drugs to assess how harmful it is; worryingly this is not the case. Professor David Nutt gives an objective analysis of cannabis and alcohol harms in his lecture “The Inconvenient Truth about Drugs” (it’s on YouTube!) where he concludes that alcohol is far more harmful than weed by looking at data collected over many years. It also doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to understand that alcohol is involved in many incidents of assault, rape and A&E admissions. Conversely, I don’t think anyone has ever smoked a joint then gone out looking for a fight. I am by no means saying that cannabis is a harmless drug, but the reason it is illegal is not because of how harmful it is but because we are stuck with an outdated dogma, incapable of rational discussion of the issue. If we can tolerate and justify the societal harms of alcohol, we can likely tolerate problems caused by weed.
The argument for legal pot goes beyond personal freedoms; there would also be benefits of regulating it, the perfect case study being Colorado. Colorado businesses sold over $300 million of recreational marijuana last year corresponding to $44 million in tax; that is a lot of money going to schools and even more not finding its way into the hands of criminals. Early indications are that violent crime has fallen and incidents of drunk driving have also decreased since cannabis was legalised, although it is far too early to directly correlate these stats to legalisation.
As a medicine, weed helps cancer patients to eat and helps people deal with chronic pain. There is a form of medicinal cannabis called Charlotte’s Web, named after a girl who suffered 300 epileptic seizures a week due to Dravet syndrome. The parents had exhausted every medical option available to them and the seizures were so violent that they placed a “do not resuscitate order” on her medical records. This was before they came across this strain of medicinal cannabis, developed by the Stanley brothers and originally called Hippie’s disappointment due to its low THC content. The oil extracted from this strain was used as a medicine for Charlotte and her seizures have now reduced to two or three per month. In this case, marijuana literally saved a girl’s life. How many children won’t be so lucky because the medicine they need isn’t available where they live?
There are so many more arguments to make, I haven’t even touched on needless incarceration for possession for example, so I implore you to research this yourself. I think anyone who has looked at this discussion in detail will find that there is no real, objective reason why alcohol and tobacco are legal while cannabis (or any other drug for that matter) is not. Legalisation is just a matter of time.