Cannabis and the UK: A hypocritical mess.

Today, April 20th, here in an unusually sunny and warm London, marks a day that a now annual protest against the UK’s law against the possession, selling, transportation, growing and consumption of cannabis. Thousands of people will ascend to Hyde Park and collectively break this law. Yet, you probably won’t see it on the news or read about it any of the newspapers, with maybe a few exceptions.

Institutionally, cannabis is a taboo subject. Its users are often demonised and judged harshly, and while it’s certainly not just a domestic controversy, the UK is seemingly lingering in the dark ages when it comes to the realities of cannabis use.

I have known and continue to know a great number of people that use cannabis on a daily or recreational basis and function way beyond the expectations of most, regardless of their usually private habit. Not all of them are artists and creatives, either. CEOs, data processors, shop workers, waiters and labourers, all of them alike. Yet, anecdotes will never never be the plural of data.

Considering that there are an estimated 2.1 million people in England and Wales alone that partake in the activity, it’s hardly a shock I’ve met so man. This despite our inherent hostile nature towards drugs and drug users, branding them as criminals.

As recent as February the legalisation of cannabis has been a matter of debate in parliament. The conclusion of which was that “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.

The question then remains, why are so many other countries changing their mind? The United States, after the most extensive testing program, disseminated that cannabis had a profound medicinal use and while it remains illegal at the federal level, the number of states it is permitted is snowballing.

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Medicinally, cannabis has been used for thousands of years, and it’s estimated that around 1 million people in the UK who still do today. The idea that cannabis has no medicinal use is also hugely contradicted as a recent report showed that the UK is world’s largest exporter of medicinal cannabis.

Contradiction and corruption can also be seen via UK Drug Minister, Victoria Atkins, who in the past has portrayed dealers and sellers as “gun-toting criminals, who think nothing of shooting each other and the people who carry their drugs for them.”, who benefits directly from the illegal status it currently holds. Paul Kenward, Atkins’ husband, is the managing director of British Sugar, who directly produces 45-acres of cannabis seedlings in partnership with GW Pharmaceuticals.

Is there any reason that the world’s largest exporter of a medicine denies the right to its own citizens to, what can be, life-changing treatment? Our corrupted system has a lot to do with this.

Currently, in the UK, the only way to benefit from medicinal cannabis is through the use of a drug named Sativex. The producer of this drug? GW Pharmaceuticals. Essentially, like a lot of other problems we’re currently facing in the world, it is down to greed and money.

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Despite having the largest drug-taking population in Europe, the UK government is also resistant to data from other countries where legalisation and regulation have been tested. Portugal, where for over a decade, cannabis has been completely decriminalised has seen its use plummet to just 2.7% among the nation, compared to the England and Wales’ 6.5%.

The slow-roll in the US is now also taking into consideration recreational use, and sales are now legal in 8 states and the District of Columbia, for personal use.

If the UK was to legalise cannabis in all forms and let it be regulated through legal sales, common sense dictates that the benefits would be as broad as they are great.

A direct tax on recreational sales could bring in an extra £1billion a year. That could either help fund our decaying NHS, pay for more police officers on our streets or prop up the government by giving it to the DUP.

Decriminalisation could also free up police hours and eliminate the black market demand, making illegal grow-ops a thing of the past.

A small licence fee to possess up to 4 plants would give the benefit of a medicinal or recreational user to harvest enough medicine to become self-sufficient, no longer relying on other people.

Then there’s VAT on legal shops, sales tax, corporation tax. All of which can be invested in building a better society.

I’m not in the dark or ignorant about the adverse side-effects that cannabis can cause because I have personally experienced them. Paranoia, palpitations, mild-hunger; I’ve had them all. Being the overindulgent that I am, I’ve even fainted a couple of times and pulled what is socially known as a “whitey”.

If I equate it to my earlier years of finding alcohol and the 2 broken noses, 4 broken ribs, numerous concussions and the one time I woke up in A&E having my stomach pumped, I’m genuinely mortified and ashamed at the person alcohol could help me be. In contrast, I feel no remorse for my cannabis related activities. Including the time I ate all of my housemates birthday cake flavoured Oreo’s that he’d picked up in New York. I regret nothing and would do it again today.

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Any other misgivings I have relate to the legality of cannabis and criminal activity that inherently surrounds it. I don’t want to have to interact with dealers or run the risk of losing my house because I have an illegal plant growing in a cupboard.

My stance also changed when I developed my tremor, which is eased dramatically from a medicine, had I been born in the US or a number of countries, would have access to.

I would like to live my life, tremor-free, healthy and happy adhering to the law and contribute via taxes to the benefit of everyone. Is that too much to ask?

I’ll end this by wising h everyone around the world has a pleasant and safe 4/20 and if you live somewhere where you’re lucky enough to do it legally, think of us, those that want to.

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