Radical Drugs Reform Needed

“The case of Billy Caldwell who needed cannabis oil for his severe epilepsy again highlights legalising cannabis not only for medical but recreational use. Although the Home Secretary (Sajid Javid) made an exception for Billy (by allowing cannabis oil use for 20 days) cannabis is still banned for recreational use. Sajid Javid said this week in the commons the position “We find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory”. Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. These are used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis or used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. Other ingredients from cannabis help children with epilepsy. Cannabis does have medical benefits.

Some countries have regulated legal markets for the non-medical use of cannabis. There are Cannabis Social Club, sometimes called a Teapad, that control the cannabis market as non-profit organisations for the purpose of relaxing or for social communion that are only accessible to members. These can be found in Spain and also in the US. There are also cannabis coffee shops that are operating as coffee shops where cannabis is openly sold. These are usually found in the Netherlands.

Also in the US to regulate cannabis they have cannabis enterprise set up like businesses that are tightly controlled and sell cannabis. Uruguay’s has the government-controlled system for cannabis regulation. These are some examples of models for regulating non-medical cannabis being used around the world.

A survey in 2009 showed that 60 per cent of UK population (aged 15 to 65) had consumed cannabis at least once in the past year. A survey by ORB in 2016 found that 47 per cent favour selling cannabis in licensed shops and 39 per cent were against it. A report commissioned by the Lib Dems identified that legalising cannabis would generate over £1 billion in tax revenue and take the drug out of the hands of criminal gangs.

Following the survey by ORB Norman Lamb told the media:

“The introduction of a legalised, regulated market would deprive organised crime of billions of pounds every year. It would protect people’s health far more effectively because you would know what you are buying – and potency could be controlled. And it would stop the ludicrous criminalising of so many people – which blights their careers and their life chances.”

Recently the former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb has reiterated calls for cannabis to be legalised for both medicinal and recreational use following former Conservative leader William Hague voicing his support for reform. Mr Lamb said:

“The evidence showing the benefits of medicinal cannabis for those with chronic illnesses has reached a tipping point, but the Prime Minister must heed this warning from a former leader of her party and admit the case for legalising cannabis for recreational as well as medicinal use.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party campaigning for a regulated cannabis market in the UK, with robust and responsible licensing, as opposed to a market run by criminals who have absolutely no interest in the welfare of drug users.

“It is time that Theresa May faced reality. The War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster and is now beyond any rational defence. We can continue to line the pockets of criminal gangs while putting drug users at continued risk, or we can follow the evidence and adopt an approach that puts the safety of drug users first.”

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

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  • John Marriott 20th Jun '18 - 9:25am

    We need to revisit the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which the Tories introduced to aid Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs’, which most people, with the notable exception of people like Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips, concede has been largely lost, certainly here and in the USA.

    I’m not advocating legalisation but decriminalisation first. Let’s then see how it goes before thinking of taking it further. How about a controlled experiment? Before 1971 we had ‘registered addicts’. Let’s bring back that concept (if, indeed, it ever went away). Let’s treat drug addiction as a disease and treat its victims accordingly. And let’s start with cannabis. I agree with William. Now is that liberal enough?

  • nigel hunter 20th Jun '18 - 9:31am

    It is interesting to note that certain people in the Conservative party do have financial interest in legal Cannabis farms. With the Chancellor involved in raising money for the NHS etc and the country taking a hit after Brexit this could be a money spinner. Handled correctly it will also help to reduce cost to the NHS and free up the police to chase other crimes To conserve (Conservative philosophy!?) holds back development, save resources but it is not always a good idea when a country needs to modernize and fund facilities for its people.

  • @John Marriott – “How about a controlled experiment?”

    No need. A number of US states have been doing this for a few years now, and Canada is just starting.

    The US experience indicates that that legalising cannabis results in virtually no long term increase in cannabis use, a reduction in drug-related crime and an increase in tax income. Those US states are also finding that cannabis can help with their chronic opioid addiction problems – rather than being a “gateway drug” it can actually help those addicted to medically-prescribed opioids for pain relief while significantly reducing overdose risk.

    What’s not to like?

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