Recently I got into a long-winded, heavily heated discussion about the case of legalising marijuana in the UK.
In the end I completely changed the other persons perspective, whose ideology had formed due to the hyperbolic stigma attached to the issue in modern society. I wanted to ask the Prime Minister, David Cameron about it on Leaders Live; however he has since controversially pulled out of the debate, a decision I hope he makes a U-turn upon.
The case for legalising marijuana has been going on for years, and it continues to grow year upon year. In the US, the states of Colorado and Washington have legalised it for recreational use; and I think in the coming months and years there will be a gradual trickle down ideological change - eventually leading to decriminalisation in federal law.
I don't smoke marijuana, however I completely support the case for legalisation.
Here in the UK you can get up to five years imprisonment for possession, and up to 14 years for supply and production. While it is true that smoking marijuana can have damaging effects upon the body, alcohol and tobacco can be far more addictive and dangerous to our health - being among the leading causes of strain upon the NHS. Yet they are completely legal. They are legal and they generate a hefty sum of tax to pay the nations bills.
An increasing amount of people are turning to the drug to help with ongoing medical issues such as cancer and arthritis. Marijuana has been proven to help relieve pain and improve quality of life over more conventional legal drugs such as Morphine. Back in December, a West Wales pensioner was given a one year suspended jail term after admitting to producing the drug for its medicinal use to improve his symptoms of arthritis. Clearly people are willing to risk prosecution, so why is it still illegal? Criminalisation has resulted in a high-cost war on drugs programme which is fundamentally failing, and helps in keeping the dangerous drug barons controlling our neighbourhoods.
The establishment seems to tip-toe around the issue of legalisation, simply stating that its in the public interest not to do so. But is it really? Drugs are readily available to anyone who wishes to have them. The fact is, anyone who wants drugs can get drugs. A night out in central London usually results in me being approached numerously by dealers wanting me to buy their goods. It's embedded in every level of society; from the typical college drop-out to the educational enthusiasts at Oxford and Cambridge. Organised criminals are at the top of this illegal industry. They threaten and cause serious harm to users, and they will continue to do so until parliamentary reform goes through.
When asked about the case for legalisation, David Cameron always brushes it off by stating public safety and statistical drops in usage. In 2009, David Nutt, the government drug advisor published a paper which came out in favour of legalisation. He was sacked the following day. This was under a Labour government. Decriminalisation is against the corporate and vested interests to which many politicians serve; therefore heavily backed with propaganda, they slam down the idea.
Currently only The Green Party have a policy for legalisation whereas The Liberal Democrats are in favour of a royal commission being established. Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party also supports the motion; though his party does not.
If major drug reform went through, society would benefit and so would our worrying economy. On average the UK spends £35,000 per year, per head on imprisonment. Despite FOI requests, there are no published reports which state the exact figures for imprisonment due to cannabis related offences. Though if you do some simple maths, one person serving the average 5 year sentence costs the taxpayer around £175,000. Times that by a few hundred people, and the figure is certainly much higher - you are in the millions. If you also add up the costs of the war on drugs programme, arrests, and time spent on police operations, the saving would be colossal.
Legalisation would also allow the government to benefit through tax being applied, and thousands of jobs would be created with the birth of an entire industry. Society would benefit as a whole, as drug barons begin to dwindle - facing a huge loss in their profits. No one enjoys putting their safety on the line, but to get cannabis they will. The decision to keep marijuana criminalised is fundamentally flawed and completely idiotic. Legalisation is simply a no-brainer.