The debate around legalising cannabis resurfaces as Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said last week that he will examine the feasibility of decriminalising cannabis in the U.K. for recreational use in a bid to tackle drug-related crime.
If Sadiq is re-elected on 6th May, he plans to set up an independent drugs commission in London with the aim of exploring the economic, health and criminal justice advantages of decriminalising cannabis. Currently, cannabis is classified as a class-B drug in the U.K.
Decriminalisation of Cannabis: A Global View
His approach reflects a growing change in attitude towards using and cultivating cannabis. Currently, thirty countries have adopted some form of decriminalisation, for example, Canada and Uruguay have completely legalised weed (although only for citizens in Uruguay’s case) while countries such as Belgium, Jamaica and Costa Rica have decriminalised it.
Decriminalisation vs Legalisation
‘Decriminalisation’ in drug policy means removing criminal penalties for using drugs. In some cases, this may mean the criminal penalties are replaced by civil sanctions; in others, no penalties are applied at all. On the other hand, ‘legalisation’ means to remove all penalties for possession or personal use of a drug. For example, alcohol is legal in Ireland.
The Pros of Decriminalising Cannabis
Studies have found that cannabis can provide several health benefits including effective pain relief in patients with cancer, diabetes, HIV and AIDS, and Multiple Sclerosis. It can also help treat depression, regulate seizures and may improve focus in people with ADHD.
Keeping Cannabis Illegal is Expensive
Keeping prisoners in jail and paying for law enforcement to arrest users are costly and makes keeping cannabis illegal an expensive practice. In addition to economic costs, the human cost of arrests can be problematic too. Having a criminal record can negatively affect people in a number of ways such as getting jobs, receiving for financial aid for education and applying for visas.
People will use cannabis whether it’s legal or not. By legalising it, policies and rules can control the drug’s potency and protect users from cannabis harm, according to James Nicholls, the CEO of Transform Drug Policy Foundation.
It Can Be Taxed
The Cons of Decriminalising Cannabis
Creates More Addicts
The Centre for Social Justice claims that decriminalising cannabis could create an extra one million marijuana users and 10% of them (100 thousand), could become addicts. Although it is widely argued that cannabis is not physically addictive, research has shown that cannabis use can lead to marijuana use disorder, which is associated with dependence and can lead to addiction.
Undermines Potential Harm From Cannabis Use
Decriminalising cannabis could undermine the potential harm of using cannabis and give the impression it’s safe with no side effects. Research has found a link between cannabis use and severe mental illness, especially teenage users who have a higher risk of later developing schizophrenia and other psychoses.