Cannabis debate starting in UK, why not here?

The UK and the US are now moving to debate cannabis laws. Instead of militant stoners boring everyone crazy with illogical arguments the debate is now focusing on eradicating gang influence, economics, and the health benefits of cannabis.

The problem though is the huge amount of mis-information and in many cases out-right lies that have been told about cannabis.

IN 1952, Donald Macintosh Johnson, later the Conservative MP for Carlisle, published a study entitled “Indian Hemp: A Social Menace”. Even small doses of the drug could lead to violence and mental-health problems, he fretted. More than 60 years later, politicians from all Britain’s major parties are just as worried and resist legalisation. Yet the evidence in favour of making pot legal is as persuasive as ever.

We keep cannabis illegal yet mandate a regulatory regime for synthetic cannabis…it flies in the face of all evidence to allow such a bizarre situation to exist.

The latest research suggests Britain could profit from decriminalising cannabis. A new report from the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Essex evaluates the costs and benefits of introducing a licensed and regulated marijuana market in England and Wales. The most plausible model would mimic tobacco, with direct control of the product and suppliers, a ban on advertising, and plenty of health education. 

Everyone  is looking at the economic benefits…first up best dressed will win the day, because once one first world country decriminalises then the rest will follow.

If smoking rose by 15%, savings would be made in policing and the criminal justice system, among other places. Income tax revenues could rise as some smokers would be at work, rather than in jail. Once the costs associated with things like regulating the market and medical treatment for abusers are knocked off, the overall savings could be £361m ($574m) a year. On top of this the tax gain from levies on cannabis sales could reach as much as £900m.

Legalising cannabis would yield other benefits too. Many fear that smoking pot can lead to greater consumption of other drugs—the “gateway effect”—but licensing weed would also mean fewer people involved in the illegal drugs trade, offsetting those costs. Legalisation would not be risk-free. In the authors’ most pessimistic scenario, consumption soars by 40%, with a £1.4 billion crime wave fuelling the binge. They attach little weight to this, though: drug crime is more often linked to heroin users. So even if a lot more pot was smoked, savings could still hit £400m.

The gateway myth is one that needs to be challenged. Nevertheless regulating and controlling like alcohol and tobacco will reduce gang activity and that is a given.

Despite these arguments, a change in the law looks unlikely. Politically there is little appetite, says Harry Sumnall, an expert in substance abuse and a member of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. In March the government declared that it saw no case for fundamentally rethinking Britain’s approach to drugs. Most politicians would rather leave the subject well alone. In a poll last year 75% of MPs who participated said objective debate about reform was difficult because drug policy is so contentious.

Nor are they under much pressure from the public. According to the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey, 58% of Britons think cannabis should remain illegal. Just 4% think it should be legalised without restriction, and 34% say it should be legalised but sold only in licensed shops. Those views are more liberal than in 1993, when 67% said it should be banned, but less so than 2001 when only 46% thought so.

Change will come. People are realising that prohibition hasn’t worked, and never will work. The Police have already given up on users, and barely concentrate on growers unless they come across them in relation to other drug or violence crimes.


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