Yes We Cannabis Or No We Can't? | James Spencer-Boyce

I don’t know what it is when talking about the legalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes but from anyone over the age of about 30 there is a huge stigma attached to this ‘taboo’ subject.  It’s almost as if anyone who argues for the legalization of cannabis for any purpose is some sort of junkie. The reality, however, is rather different.

In the press, over the past couple of months, there have been cases where the legalization of cannabis has been very strongly argued for. The home secretary, Sajid Javid only over a month ago authorized the use of cannabis in what was described as a ‘one off, mitigated circumstance’. William Hague, the former Conservative party leader announced a few weeks ago that his party ‘had lost the argument on legalization of cannabis’. The Liberal Democrats in their 2017 General Election Manifesto included the legalization of cannabis.

Of course, in many states in the US and Canada (as well as some European nations) cannabis has been legalized for either medicinal or both medicinal and recreational purposes. Many patients who desperately argue that they need cannabis to help cope with certain illnesses and diseases often travel to countries where they can benefit from the drug without fear of prosecution.  Now, however, many feel in modern Britain, cannabis should be legalized.

I have to admit, I am completely torn over the issue for recreational use. My instinct is that cannabis should be unequivocally legalized for medical purposes only, whilst it should still remain prohibited for recreational purposes. However many friends, family and people in wider society have made some very compelling arguments either way.

Some reputable studies strongly suggest that cannabis is not in any way harmful to humans whilst some propose there can be some damaging side effects. According to many people I have spoken to about the subject, the reason some cannabis is harmful is because of its provenance, and that by making cannabis legal, they argue, its origin can be tracked to ensure its material and use is safe. As far as medicinal cannabis is concerned, however, it is established by the global medical community that in most instances it is as safe as any other prescription drug, so why not legalize it?

In addition, with regards to recreational use, many argue that by controlling the cannabis industry, the drug will not only be safer to use, but also the ‘gangs’ that have monopolies in dealing in cannabis have their power significantly diminished which could, in turn, lead to a decrease in organized crime within the drug industry. I certainly see credence in that point of view.

And finally, the third argument for legalization of cannabis is the income produced by the newly created cannabis market. The alcohol and tobacco industries together are worth about £36 Billion in the UK alone, and some projections suggest that figure is only increasing. Some argue that the precedent set by the tobacco and alcohol industry shows that there is a place in the economy for a cannabis market and controlling the industry would generate a much needed boost to the economy.

However, I am skeptical about cannabis for recreational purposes. I don’t like the idea that many campaigners point to the alcohol and tobacco industry as almost an example to follow. In addition, alcohol and smoking are probably the two biggest threats to health in the UK and contribute to many deaths every year – whether its cancer, liver disease or the hundreds of possible health risk in-between. I think it’s fair to say that governments have failed to control both industries with regards to health risk, so why would cannabis be any different? It’s an interesting idea; it raises the perhaps valid point that if cannabis is criminalized, alcohol and tobacco should also be illegal? After all, large proportions are saying both smoking and alcohol are more dangerous than cannabis…

As with most polarizing issues there are some convincing points of view both sides of the argument. When, however, there is such a controversial issue on the table what can be done to satisfy both the pro-legalisation and anti-legalisation camps?

As I mentioned, I am unsure yet of which side I sit on with regards to recreational drugs, but I definitely support the medical use of cannabis because to the best of my knowledge, I know not of any damaging risk of cannabis in a controlled, medical environment that carries more risk than any other drug currently used in the NHS.

Like any drug used for medical purposes, there is a testing procedure in place to ensure its safety and effectiveness. I am of the opinion that the same process should be undertaken with cannabis – and when there is overwhelming evidence that proves the safety of cannabis, as many campaigners say there will be, then I see no reason not to legalize cannabis. If there is not significant evidence that supports the safety of cannabis, it should not be legalized.

Recreational use of cannabis is a more difficult one to solve. I certainly believe a consultation alongside health experts, doctors and the general public should be carried out. Also, I think the countries that cannabis is legalized in should also be part of the consultation and have their opinions heard so we can, before legalizing cannabis, ensure we understand what works and what doesn’t.  If there is a conclusion that strongly suggests all cannabis sold commercially would be safe, I would have no objections to legalizing cannabis.

In conclusion, there is no quick answer or solution, so I would hope that no government would rush into making a decision like legalizing cannabis. However, it is important to raise the issue as it is increasingly important for many. I wonder if in years to come there will be plain packaged cannabis behind the counter at Tesco with the words ‘cannabis kills’ on the front or a police officer putting 12 points on your license and issuing a £2500 fine for ‘cannabis driving’. Maybe instead of being invited outside for a cigarette, you may be invited out for a joint of cannabis, or the government imposing a ‘no smoking cannabis in public places’ ban. It’s just a thought…

Twitter: @jspencerboyce

Yes We Cannabis Or No We Can't? | James Spencer-Boyce Yes We Cannabis Or No We Can't? | James Spencer-Boyce Reviewed by Student Voices on 21:47 Rating: 5

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