Cannabis use is no longer illegal in Thailand and so many other parts of the world - it's high time that the UK followed suit.
British Police Commissioners who advocate for classifying cannabis as a class A and 'dangerous drug' are completely out of touch with a society that is ending the war on weed.
Countries that have decriminalised weed as of Q4 2022: Luxembourg, Italy, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Germany, Slovenia, Bermuda, Portugal, Mexico, Belize, Saint Lucia, Canada, Paraguay, Thailand, Malta, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Jamaica, South Africa, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain, Moldova, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, Israel, Saint Kitts And Nevis, Switzerland, Trinidad And Tobago, Uruguay, plus a further 19 US states.
"The UK government should reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class A drug, putting it on the same legal level as heroin or cocaine", according to a group of police commissioners at the UK Conservative party conference. Doing so would significantly increase the penalties for anyone caught using or selling weed. It's a ridiculous idea that is completely at odds with the rest of the planet, where the war on weed appears to be coming to a close.
State-by-state, cannabis prohibition is waning in the US; several of our European neighbours have announced plans to legalize it; the dagga ban was declared unconstitutional by the South African Supreme Court, and Canada and Uruguay were the first countries to acknowledge cannabis as a legal good in decades. Even Thailand's notoriously stringent government decided to loosen up and repeal the country's cannabis prohibition in June, freeing thousands of non-violent drug offenders and distributing a million seedlings to help the country's fledgling marijuana economy.
Why then are we still so outdated? How can it be that thousands of us are paying through the nose to access our medicine when we are also paying National Insurance which is supposed to cover our medical bills?
Cannabis use peaked in the late 60s, which saw it become yet another front in the culture wars. Although the "war on drugs" in Britain wasn't as racially charged as it was in the US, the stereotype of young black men as pushers or cannabis addicts did travel across the pond, inflaming racial tensions that in the 1980s erupted into riots in Bristol, Brixton and more.
The "skunk" controversy and tabloid sway occurred in the late 2000s. They promoted the notion that current weed wasn't like the stuff your Nan smoked, and that it might cause violence or psychosis. It's true that at this period indoor hydroponic growing facilities dominated the market, producing harvests that were typically richer in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) than marijuana that was brought into the country illegally from "natural" growing operations in tropical climates.
There is a modest but continuous link between high cannabis usage and mental illness, but no overall negative consequences on society as a whole. Although the number of smokers (and the potency of what they're smoking) has increased significantly since the 1960s, schizophrenia rates in Britain have remained largely constant during that time. Additionally, since legalisation, psychosis rates have not increased in Washington, Colorado, or Canada. In any case, legalised states are not devolving into the stoned-out dystopia that haunts Peter Hitchens' dreams, indicating that the vast majority of smokers lead sensible, fruitful lives.
Politicians avoid controversy at all costs because they don't want to come across as "soft on crime." Ironically, the need to keep this business hidden is what fuels crime. Grow-houses frequently employ modern-day slaves and are a hotbed for shootings, stabbings, and armed robberies. The same type of hatred that erupted into riots in the 1980s and 2011 is being bred by the police when they stop and search young black guys based on the "smell of cannabis."
The UK stands out even among rather conservative nations. Israel's right-wing politicians support legalisation. A strategy to remedy the wrongs of the drug war and offer people imprisoned during it the best chance to succeed in this new, lawful endeavour is being discussed by lawmakers in the US, which previously led the world in the "war on drugs." Marijuana has gotten so accepted that Washington State announced in June of last year that it would offer free joints as part of a "joints for jabs" scheme as part of a Covid immunisation blitz.
CANNABIS IN THE US
The US is far from being an ideal example. The federal government has still not legalised it, making it appealing to the criminal element to grow marijuana in one state and sell it in another. Additionally, because dispensaries are not permitted to deposit their funds in banks, they are an attractive target for thieves. Similar circumstances exist in the Netherlands, where people refer to the nation as a "narco-state" and where the products sold by the well-known coffee shops are just tolerated rather than legal. Canada, meantime, went too far in the liberalising route and gave corporate monopolies total control of the market.
But there are indications that attitudes toward the pungent green substance are shifting in this place. The UK is one of the top exporters of medicinal cannabis (while curiously refusing it to its own residents), more than half of Britons now support legalisation, and even Norman "Nobby" Pilcher, the policeman who stopped the Rolling Stones, recognised his actions were wrong before dying. However, the rapper Nines was just sentenced to 28 months in prison in the UK for smuggling marijuana through Poland. The penalty was called a "waste" by the judge.
UK POLITICS: CANNABIS
Our political and media establishment will appear more and more like out-of-date dinosaurs as the world evolves around us. Perhaps for this reason, London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the creation of a London drugs commission to examine the country's drug laws. People like the former home secretary Priti Patel, who tweeted: "The mayor has no powers to legalise drugs," will make his fight difficult. They wreck lives, break families apart, and damage communities," Khan said, evidently mistaking her work in Rwanda with her fact-finding assignment.
For the time being, though, spare a thought for the hundreds of people in this nation who are currently safely enjoying a plant while being separated from their families.
"The UKs current drugs policy achieves exactly the opposite of what is intended. In fact, the greatest supporters of cannabis staying banned are the dealers because it’s the government that keeps them in business! Yes, really, the government and the gangsters are on the same side. Every minute our government delays on this is more cash shovelled into the pockets of organized crime, more cannabis sold to children, and more dangerous, contaminated products consumed by British people".
It is high time that the UK caught up with the rest of the world, and stop putting people away for growing cannabis in their own homes.