Will Cannabis Be Legalised In Britain?

Most medical professionals agree that taking recreational drugs is not a good idea. Even that most ubiquitous of legal drugs, alcohol, has its downside. How many car accidents including fatalities, have happened on account of it? How many women have been raped because they had one too many? How many serious assaults and knifings including murders have resulted from someone getting “tanked up” and attacking someone who was perceived to have “dissed” the perpetrator.

Alcohol is controlled in the UK, but banning it would be a step in the wrong direction; if you don’t understand why, check out some of those old gangster films – fiction and documentary – from the Prohibition era.

In the US especially but also increasingly in the UK, politicians, social policy makers and even senior police officers are coming to see the folly of drug prohibition, that like alcohol prohibition, the cure is worse than the disease. There have been for some time moves to decriminalise or even to legalise recreational drugs here, starting with cannabis. Will it happen?

Broadly speaking, there are two types of people who use cannabis. Recreational users are in the majority, but there is a much smaller group who use it for medical purposes, primarily pain relief. It would be heartless to deny this latter group an efficacious remedy, but of course allowing medical use opens the door to recreational use.

For some time, cannabis seeds have been available for purchase openly on the Internet (subject to local laws); the active ingredients are cannabinoids, known generically as CBD, a group of around eighty organic compounds. The properties of CBD, which is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, can be useful for different purposes. Including getting high!

The big question: Is it worth the trade-off? That is a question every individual user must decide for himself, but as far as society as a whole is concerned, the answer must be an emphatic yes. It would enable us if not to empty the prisons then to free up space so that real criminals can be processed swiftly and efficaciously. It would also more importantly free up resources to tackle not simply crime but real social problems. Not to mention help unwind our burgeoning police state.

This month, the authorities in the United States voted to reduce the sentences passed on most of those convicted of federal drug trafficking offences, but don’t expect cannabis or any other recreational drug to be legalised anytime soon. Mere possession can still result in heavy sentences, on both sides of the Atlantic. And in some Far Eastern countries, convicted traffickers can still face execution.

[The above article was published originally April 26, 2014. The archived version of the original article can be found here].

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