Blame the law, not the drug


Source: The Guardian Comment is Free
Date: December 21 2007
Author: Alun Buffry

Legalisation would separate cannabis from crime and hard drugs, and allow associated problems to be tackled effectively

Brian Paddick is correct in saying that the classification of cannabis is of little importance and that problematic use ought to be a matter of public health. However, his claim that "people who smoke skunk are playing Russian Roulette with their mental health" is a ridiculous analogy that defies the evidence.

Everyone who was to play Russian roulette would be risking life at odds of just 1 in 6; any risk with cannabis is confined to people with a pre-disposition to such problems - not every consumer - and with cannabis we are talking about a plant that helps many millions of people without problem, one in many hundreds of thousands.

Mr Paddick is a former police officer and while, of course, he is entitled to express his opinions like the rest of us, he is no expert on mental health. Mental health should be left to the medical profession who presently struggle to understand the problem confounded by the illegality itself.

The number of people experiencing problems is a very small percentage of users, and while these people ought not be ignored (and should be helped), this is clearly a matter for doctors and psychiatrists, not policemen and judges.

Mr Paddick is correct to say that moving cannabis down and up between class B and class C achieves nothing but confusing people; but the punishment of users who have no victims to their so-called crimes is a far more serious issue affecting several million people in the UK. All cannabis consumers, including those who find medical benefit, live daily with exposure to the world of crime, while those arrested, taken to court and maybe even imprisoned, run the risks associated with prison. For most the greatest risk is of arrest for a victimless activity.

The prohibition of cannabis, irrespective of its classification, does nothing to protect the mental health or the health and safety of cannabis consumers. It simply drives the cannabis issue underground, compounding the problems.

Legalisation would enable transparency and quality control, credible point-of-sale information, taxation on profits, separation from crime and hard drugs and, by bringing the whole issue into the open and above board, enable the effective tackling of perceived problems and issues.

Supply to adults could be controlled through Dutch-style cannabis café retail outlets, home-cultivation and non-profit cannabis social clubs for communal crops, would divorce the cannabis trade from criminal activity and hard drugs.

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