UK should follow Canada’s cannabis lead

Legalisation is smart and only a matter of time—Trudeau's move is a gutsy but good one, argues Maxim Parr-Reid

Source: Flickr

Now, I’ve never been a ‘stoner’, but I can’t help but notice that, following the example set by US states such as California and Colorado, Canada has decided to legalise marijuana for recreational use. I think it’s time Britain followed suit.

I see cannabis legalisation as one of those issues where it’s ‘only a matter of time’ before popular support for such a move forces the government into action. Rather than wait for its hand to be forced (by a petition etc.), this government should take the initiative (and take cues from other countries and states that have already legalised cannabis usage). We live in a country where drugs which kill a great many—be they alcohol or tobacco—are perfectly legal to buy. Why is it that we balk at the idea that cannabis could be in the same category as these other drugs which have been legal for time immemorial? Because, the fact of the matter is, were these other drugs discovered tomorrow, there is not a chance they’d be as easily available as they are—in fact it’s easy to imagine such things being totally banned on health grounds, given the sheer number of things which are prohibited. Drugs will always have a presence in our society, but we have the power to influence this presence.

As the Americans discovered in the 1920s with Prohibition, criminalising something only spurs those black marketers who seek to capitalise on supplying such things illegally. With legalisation, we can do much to supply this demand, and determine the strength of the marijuana on sale, as well as investing the money such legalisation may raise into the NHS, because cannabis would surely incur far lower spending than drugs and alcohol do currently—given that there are seldom very few examples of deaths from it. Drugs have the potential to do an inordinate amount of damage to our society, but this damage is largely down to the warped and mutated varieties of drugs that end up in circulation. It’s true that cannabis (in the mutated form of skunk) can act as a gateway drug to stronger and nastier drugs such as cocaine and heroin. I think we have a duty to control the flow of cannabis and shape the strains that are available, rather than trying to stem the ultimately incessant supply of whatever form of marijuana drug-dealers formulate next, this we can do.

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Several American states, as well as Canada, Portugal, Uruguay, and other nations such as the Netherlands have already taken this step before us—there are clear blueprints and roadmaps for Britain to follow if we are to legalise marijuana and follow Canada and four US states. It has been estimated that Canada could generate more than £2 billion in tax revenue from a legal cannabis trade. Surely it is better for the government, rather than gangs, to have a monopoly on the supply of marijuana and its profits? More than anything else, we must end the inconsistencies in our drugs policies. Alcohol and tobacco are legal and more or less ubiquitous in our society in terms of accessibility and availability—the same being true even of solvents.

If all these things can be legal and readily available to us, then why not cannabis? Just as alcohol and tobacco have become assimilated so easily into our society, so too could cannabis. The drug (in a state-controlled form less harmful than stronger versions such as ‘skunk’) could be bought in the same way we buy tobacco. We live in a very turbulent age: of this we can be in no doubt. Vexed questions such as Brexit negotiation and legislation, and of war with North Korea, pervade our society, and too often rob us of the sleep we need at night. Rather than have our days be dogged by these dilemmas (and their attendant difficulties), let us conquer them with cannabis. Even though the road ahead is long and arduous, there does exist a drug that could be of use to us in these trying times. So let us legislate legalisation in our nation, the legalisation of marijuana.