by Bridget Smith on 29 May, 2017
The media, not surprisingly, have been very keen to make a big deal about the Lib Dem proposals to legalise cannabis use for the over 18s. At first glance I was concerned about this. I have spent many years working with young people whose lives have been destroyed by drug abuse but this just goes to show that governments over decades have failed completely to control drug supply or use – so something has to be done differently. We know that the police no longer arrest people for having cannabis for their own use – so we have laws which we cannot enforce. Whether this is down to lack of capacity in the police force is another argument but I know that criminalising young people just creates more problems for them now and later in life.
I and colleagues have asked some questions about why legalising cannabis would make a difference. This is the response we have had from an ex chief constable:
‘Regulation of cannabis is designed to reduce harm, particularly to our children, by reducing access to children, reduce availability of the harmful “skunk” cannabis and reduce criminal profits and violence.
1. EASY ACCESS TO CANNABIS
Criminals are in charge of the cannabis market and will sell to our children with no effective legal controls. At least with alcohol there are some controls that limit access.
Dealers will also sell other more dangerous drugs to our children in order to increase their profits.
2. REDUCE AVAILABILTY OF “SKUNK”
Criminals want to maximise their profits so they produce as much cannabis as possible, as quickly as possible, and this means they produce high THC cannabis, known as “skunk”. This type of cannabis is known to trigger mental health issues, particularly in young people. A regulated market would encourage production of a balanced mix of THC and CBD which, if it did get into the hands of our children, would be much safer.
3. REDUCE CRIMINAL PROFITS AND VIOLENCE
The cannabis market is under the control of gangsters, who make huge profits of several billion pounds every year. Gangsters use violence to protect their profits and we see the consequences in our streets and neighbourhoods all the time.
A regulated market would dramatically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the gangsters’ profits and drive them out of the market. We will never eliminate the production and supply of cannabis but we can take steps to reduce the harm, particularly to our children, of a market run by criminals if we take control and regulate it properly.’
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