Friday, 16 October 2015

Legalise cannabis?

Image by J. Patrick Bedell from Wikipedia
According to an article in the i and Independent newspapers, legalising cannabis could bring in £500 million annually in tax revenues in the UK, on top of removing the expensive enforcement costs, reducing the risk of buying from dubious sources and stopping a flow of cash to organized crime.

Given all this, we really have to ask why on earth we are not legalising cannabis as soon as possible? I ought to say here that I have never smoked or otherwise consumed cannabis, and have no intention of doing so. But the case for legalisation is huge.

I know the anti- lobby will come out with arguments about cannabis being bad for you - and I'm not disputing this. But do they argue that isn't the case for tobacco and alcohol? If so, they are very confused. Legalising cannabis is not about making it more acceptable, it's about making it better controlled. We have an impressive example in the US with the alcohol prohibition experiment of how not to deal with this kind of substance. It's not generally seen as the finest hour of US history. Yet it's exactly how we deal with cannabis in the UK.

No one is suggesting that cannabis should be sold in a similar fashion to a packet of sweets, available to children over any counter. It would be sensible - and not very difficult - to give it the same protections as sales of tobacco and alcohol with no advertising or displays, age limits on purchase and clear marking with the health risks. Similarly it would be essential to make the existing legislation against driving under the influence as well-known and well checked-for as that for driving under the influence of alcohol.

In the end we need to get away from this being some kind of moral crusade, a phoney 'war on drugs'. To make a distinction between a drug like cannabis and legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol makes no sense whatsoever. This is not being 'soft on drugs' any more than we are soft on tobacco (ask any smoker if we are). But it would be taking a step that both makes far more sense than the current arbitrary distinction, and also has the win-win result of transferring revenue from criminals to HM Revenue and Customs. What's not to love?

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