Initially the cry for cannabis decriminalisation appears to be a convoluted contemplation held by those whom the bureaucratic moderates would denounce as ‘naïve and deluded’. However, when one examines the matter further you find that all beliefs fundamental to maintaining the illegalisation of marijuana simply go up in smoke.
The 40 year old ‘War on Drugs’ has engaged in a belligerent crusade seeking to vanquish narcotics from society and rid our streets of the supposed public enemy number one. Equally, under the same embellished emblem of this glorified saviour, the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971, has criminalised cannabis as a class B substance. Yet the inherently doomed grand ambition has failed as disastrously and inevitably as when Icarus flew to the sun.
In June 2011 Sir Richard Branson, Dame Judi Dench and Sting were among those who signed an open letter to David Cameron urging him to decriminalise the possession of all drugs. The letter proposed that the current policy is “costly for the taxpayers and damaging for communities.” The public figures, together with leading lawyers, academics and former Labour Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth called for a “swift and transparent” examination of the effectiveness of current British drugs policy.
Branson also noted, “The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organised crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organised crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals.”
In 2010 alone Home office figures showed there were approximately 158,000 convictions for cannabis possession. One in seven current offenders in England and Wales were arrested for cannabis possession whilst 20% of all arrests were cannabis related. The frankly farcical nature of cannabis law is exposed most flagrantly through the prosecution system. If caught with 112 grams of cannabis, one can receive a maximum of fourteen years in prison for intent to supply whereas grievous bodily harm carries an average sentence of only 5-10 years. It costs a staggering £40,000 to keep a person incarcerated for one year. With no sustainable rehabilitation programme in place two in three drug offenders will go back to the drug trade upon release.
Similarly, youths who are given a ‘cannabis caution’ for minor possession offences can find it impossible to find a job thus adding to youth unemployment which currently stands at a desolate and despairing 1.02 million. In December last year Ainsworth labelled the war on drugs as “nothing short of a disaster” whilst the open letter to Cameron described how it had created “a society full of wasted resources.”
“Criminalising people who use drugs leads to greater social exclusion and stigmatisation”Open letter to David Cameron
The UN claims that the unscrupulous global drug trade is worth $320 billion a year with the cannabis market alone being valued at a stupefying $142 billion. Cannabis is often imported into the UK illegally from impoverished, destitute countries such as Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan (for hashish) and Colombia, Mexico and Nigeria for herbal cannabis. The majority of this illicit money funds fundamentalists and cruel, degenerate murderous gangs which perpetuates violence in these countries. This can be shown by the fact that nearly 40,000 people have been brutally murdered in Mexico in the past five years due to the escalating violence involving the drug cartels. If cannabis was legalised then Britain’s cannabis could be entirely home grown and cultivated, providing jobs for the unemployed whilst severing connections with vicious international crime organisations.
In addition to the atrocious international situation, marijuana prohibition has overseen the expansion of a lucrative black market in Britain to fund the insatiable demand for cannabis; a profitable trade which criminal gangs have pounced on. Recently gangs have set up “grow house” farms to cultivate skunk with annual profits of a single unit ranging from £200,000 to £500,000. Various media reports have revealed that these gangs have now begun murdering competition as well as attacking Vietnamese run outfits. Police have found that factory farmers are arming themselves with sawn-off shotguns, machetes and baseball bats as well laying booby traps around the premises.
Whereas shops selling alcohol and tobacco products are compelled by certain laws to stop underage purchasing, streets dealers do not have to abide by such age restriction regulations. As a result cannabis can be easily sold and distributed to minors.
Last month Ex-MI5 chief Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller backed calls for the government to consider decriminalising cannabis. In a speech to the all-party parliamentary drugs group the crossbench peer expressed her concerns that the “war on drugs” had been “fruitless.”
She continued to say, “Would harm be reduced if cannabis was regulated so that its more dangerous components, which can lead to psychosis, were eliminated? Should we follow Portugal’s example and focus on drug use as a health issue rather than a crime issue?”
Baroness Meacher, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs policy reform – at which Baroness Manningham-Buller was speaking – called upon David Cameron to take action. She noted: “We are one of the highest users of drugs and yet we have some of the toughest laws.”
“History has shown that prohibition creates far more problems than it solves”Peter ReynoldsParty leader of CLEAR
Over three tonnes of cannabis is consumed everyday in the UK. Approximately 10 million people in the UK have admitted to trying cannabis on at least one occasion whilst there are an estimated 2.3 million regular users. CLEAR (Cannabis Law Reform) – a registered political party in the UK, led by Peter Reynolds – estimate that government monopolisation of the cannabis market could yield annual profits of £6.7 billion through taxation and regulation.
Nationally, cannabis is sold at an average of £10 a gram whilst gold is sold at £11.37 a gram. In essence, legalisation would provide ‘gold growing plants’. Do we potentially stand at the beckoning of a ‘Cash 4 Cannabis’ advertising era whereby a ludicrously tedious and agitating moustached man will ask us to ‘Go Compare’ plant seeds?
As well as injecting money into our withering and decaying economy legalisation would also provide ample savings which would ease the harsh deficit spending cuts programme. Currently the government spends 0.48% of GDP on drug prevention in spite of disastrous failings. Cannabis legalisation would provide Criminal Justice savings of an estimated £512.
Moreover, hemp is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels – Biomass fuels, such as hemp, can be converted to methane, methanol and gasoline. Hemp burns clean whereas petroleum causes acid rain due to sulphur pollution. With some experts estimating that fossil fuels will run out in the next 50-70 years, hemp provides a cleaner and renewable alternative which will allow for a reduction in carbon emissions.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971, cannabis and its medical use is banned despite the recommendation of the Wootton Report which stated that “Preparations of Cannabis and its derivatives should continue to be available on prescription for purposes of medical treatment and research.”
Numerous scientific research studies have concluded that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, can be used to help patients suffering from glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and anorexia whilst cannabidiol (CBD) – a chemical compound found in cannabis – can inhibit cancer cell growth and stop it spreading through the body.
But all our children will immediately become degenerate lunatics; maniac hippie drug addicts hell-bent on anarchy and polygamy. ‘Legalisation and liberalisation causes cancer!’ the malignant parasite the Daily Mail begins to wail.
However this is propaganda-born fallacy. Research by the ‘Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction’ found that 41% of 16-24 year olds in the UK had tried cannabis whereas only 29% in Holland had.
Moreover, there is a distinct bureaucratic hypocrisy to cannabis prohibition compared with the legitimacy of alcohol and tobacco. Nicotine is the most addictive substance on the earth whilst alcohol is the fourth most addictive.
In the 2009/10 tax year the UK government generated around £9 billion from alcohol taxation with tobacco taxation making £10.9 billion at an estimated cost to the NHS of £5 billion.
Approximately 114,000 people in the UK die from smoking each year whilst between 5,000 to 40,000 people die from alcohol related circumstances including long term usage, traffic deaths and fatal accidents. In order for a human to consume enough marijuana to be fatal, they would have to consume nearly 40,000 times the amount of THC required to intoxicate them. For example, if it requires three beers to intoxicate an individual, it only requires fifteen to thirty beers to kill them. However, if it takes someone three ‘hits’ of marijuana to be intoxicated, it would require 120,000 ‘hits’ to kill them. Thus, it is virtually impossible to die of a marijuana overdose.
In 2009 Professor Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), criticised Jacqui Smith’s use of the “precautionary principle” to validate her decision to reclassify cannabis. Nutt argued that cautious politicians “distort” and “devalue” the research evidence. He argued that taking cannabis created only a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness. Professor Nutt furthered his argument in an article for The Guardian, titled ‘The Cannabis Conundrum’.
He wrote, “Schizophrenia seems to be disappearing (from the general population), even though cannabis use has increased markedly in the last 30 years. So, even though skunk has been around now for 10 years, there has been no upswing in schizophrenia. In fact, where people have looked, they haven’t found any evidence linking cannabis use in a population and schizophrenia.”
Professor Nutt was subsequently forced to resign from the ACMD for being too outspoken and criticising the government.
The fallacy of cannabis criminalisation and the subsequent continued enforcement of the draconian and archaic laws which have bound Britain since 1971 have undeniably prohibited the evolution of a liberal society. The fabrication of illegality coupled with restricting the population’s freedom has fundamentally inhibited democracy. If cannabis was legalised for recreational use government monopolisation could be assured; exterminating the lucrative black market and organised criminal gangs, providing employment and a profound impetus for the economy as well as allowing its medical benefits to be exploited.