Cannabis: The Soft Stumbling Block

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jul 21, 2001.

  1. By Kevin Williamson
    Source: The Scotsman

    Why is it that when the last three home secretaries have been asked why cannabis users are still criminalised for what they do in the privacy of their own homes, all three of them have given different answers?
    David Blunkett recently said it was for health reasons, claiming that cannabis does damage to the user. Jack Straw said legalisation would "inevitably" increase the number of users "as sure as night follows day". The last Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard, said it was "a gateway to harder drugs".

    Is it possible that, in desperation, the opponents of changing the drug laws keep moving the goalposts because they have lost the arguments; game, set and match?

    If damage to health was the reason why something was made illegal then a word in the ear of any doctor would have told these legislators that it's fried and junk food, too much sugar, cigarettes, and alcohol that are filling up medical surgeries and killing the majority of Scots. Illegal drugs like cannabis don't even get a look in.

    Even at the height of the BSE crisis the government didn't ban supermarkets from selling British beef yet we have seen horrifying pictures on TV of young people dying as a result of legally sold food in this country. So much for the idea of a benign government looking after the nation's health.

    Everyone accepts that cigarettes kill over 100,000 people every year in Britain but the tobacco companies are still allowed to advertise and promote their deadly drug anywhere they can get away with it. Banning cigarettes isn't even considered. This hypocrisy defies any logical analysis.

    Jack Straw's argument that legalisation would increase the number of users of cannabis, for instance, doesn't hold water either. In Holland, where it can be legally bought, cannabis use is significantly lower per head of population than in either Britain or America, the two most enthusiastic champions of drug prohibition.

    The aggressive, unregulated, pyramid selling structures of the black market have been directly responsible for the rapid growth rates in drug use over the last 30 years. All the policing in the world has hardly made a dent in supply.

    Thankfully the gateway theory to harder drugs is pretty much discredited now. A recent comprehensive report on tackling drug misuse presented to the Scottish parliament concluded that the gateway drug to heroin addiction was poverty and poor social conditions. Cannabis was never even mentioned.

    The arguments for legalisation of cannabis have never been stronger. Drug use would be out in the open instead of underground; the gun-toting gangsters would no longer have control of the market and all the wealth, power, violence and corruption that goes with it; tax payers would millions as police, courts and prisons would be freed up from having to deal with 100,000 cannabis offenders every year; taxation has been estimated it could bring in as much as £3 billion a year to the Exchequer; and most importantly, as a more tolerant society we could finally treat drug use as a health and social concern, not a criminal justice one.

    Criminalising people for what is essentially a victimless crime is both unjustifiable and pointless. Yet decriminalisation on its own would be a dopey half way house leaving control of the market in the hands of the same gangsters and most of the above benefits to society would be lost. The need for legalisation is only a pragmatic recognition that recreational drug use won't go away. Consequently, the legalisation debate should now be moving on from whether and start focusing on when and how.

    Note: The case for legalisation of cannabis points out the huge health risks carried by cigarettes and alcohol, not to mention unsafe food. ‘Cigarettes kill over 100,000 in Britain but tobacco firms can still advertise' - ‘The gateway theory to harder drugs is pretty much discredited'

    Kevin Williamson is drugs spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party.

    Source: Scotsman (UK)
    Author: Kevin Williamson
    Published: Saturday, July 21, 2001
    Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2001

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