Thursday, March 22, 2012

Legalisation of cannabis

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We hear conflicting views about cannabis everyday. The government has plans to relax the laws on cannabis possession. It has been convinced by several expert bodies that there is nothing to be gained from exaggerating the harm of cannabis, so it looks set to be downgraded from a class B to class C drug. That means if anyone is found using it they are likely to escape with a caution instead of being prosecuted. However growing or supplying cannabis could still mean a prison sentence. Deputy Minister for Justice, Richard Simpson, emphasises this when he warned that those who use or sell cannabis should be in no doubt that they still run the risk of heavy fines or imprisonment.

The Legalise Cannabis Alliance has always argued that the law is too hard on cannabis users, arguing that it can be less harmful to health than alcohol or cigarettes. They say it should be a legal stimulant whose use is up to individuals of a certain age and they argue that arresting someone for smoking weed is an infringement of their freedom and it should be up to the individual to decide what they want to put into their body.

Pro-legalisation groups argue that cannabis can help cure stress, ease pain and improve the appetite. There are even pills and sprays on sale using extracts from the weed. They also assert that banning people from buying it is an invasion of their privacy.

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In addition, illegally sold cannabis can be mixed with anything from rat poison to detergent to increase its hallucinogenic effects and make it cheaper to produce. Thus, it can be argued that legalising cannabis would stop cannabis and hard drugs being sold with no control over quality or protection for the consumer.

Legalising cannabis would also mean that, like alcohol and tobacco , the selling of it could be taxed, bringing in valuable income to the governments of poorer countries around the world, instead its sale has created a massive black market which makes huge profits, free of taxation and control, and is suspected of financing criminal and terrorist activities.

Rather than agreeing to with reports which link cannabis to lung cancer, pro-legalisation groups say it’s the tobacco � definitely deadly poisonous and highly addictive- that you mix with the cannabis to create a spliff which gives it a bad name. Legalisation would mean it could be sold in different forms such as tablets to avoid tobacco consumption.

Nevertheless although there are no figures proving anyone has ever died from smoking it, no-one has proved that smoking it definitely isn’t harmful, the long term effects can be very serious. The latest findings show that people who smoke cannabis before they are fifteen are eleven times more likely to develop depression and schizophrenia as early as their twenties. The cost of long term mental illness could cost the NHS millions.

Additionally, its not just your brain that’s affected by cannabis, the lungs are too. Lung cancer is Britain’s biggest killer, claiming more than thirty four thousand lives each year. A recent report has revealed a strong link between cannabis smoking and lung cancer to the point where one joint can contain four times as much tar as a cigarette.

If you add this to the fact that cannabis is often smoked with tobacco, without a filter and is often inhaled deeper and for longer, the effects on the lungs can be devastating, and not only on the user but on the NHS.

It seems people still see cannabis as the cool ‘soft’ drugs it was believed to be in the sixties and don’t realise it can have negative side effects. However the social implications are no concern as due to new improved cultivation methods the fact is that cannabis is now fifteen times stronger than it was in the sixties, this makes it hard to determine what harm it could be doing the user as long term studies have yet to be undertaken.

It’s enough to concern medical organisations BLF and drug charities like Drugscape as Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the BLF explains, there’s a myth that cannabis is ‘safe’ especially amongst young people, but the truth is that cannabis cigarettes contain fifty percent more cancer causing agents than tobacco. She asserts that we need to get a clear message across that cannabis really does do harm.

Dr David Regis, the director of the School Health Education Unit (SHEU) believes the government is partly to blame for the availability of cannabis and the rise of its use amongst teenagers as mixed messages are being given to young people about cannabis because of the governments focus legalisation issues and reclassification of the drug. Relaxing cannabis laws is giving younger people greater freedom to smoke, and makes it easier for them to get cannabis on the streets. There needs to be a crackdown on the sale of cannabis to convey the message that it is a drug and, as such, is still illegal.

In my opinion, the government should wait until more research has been done to discover its long term effects before legalising it. Moreover downgrading cannabis to a class C drug could lead to the downgrading and use of harder more dangerous drugs such as heroin and ecstasy that are known to be fatal. In fact, legalisation of cannabis may well open up a Pandora’s Box of problems for future generations.

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