Last week’s news of the tragic death of Gemma Moss, due to cardiac arrest in her sleep after smoking cannabis, has revived arguments about the dangers of cannabis use. The death was reported by tabloids as cast-iron proof that, “cannabis can kill”. Yet, a glance at the most popular comments beneath the online reports of the case reveal that the public aren’t so convinced of the dangers of cannabis.
It’s disturbing how some find it more acceptable than smoking a cigarette. Indeed the debate has become trivial and limp when advocates of legislation hold up cannabis as a remedy to sooth all ills.
Some of the most compelling arguments for decriminalisation of cannabis are therefore economic. The British cannabis industry is worth an approximate £6.7 billion, a sum which nearly exceeds the revenue of McDonald’s. In legalising cannabis much of the income which currently goes into the pockets of faceless gangsters and traffickers will be in taxes. The recent legalisation of cannabis in Colorado is estimated to puncture a $600 million hole in the Mexican cartels’ income.
The current prohibition of cannabis in Britain rouses stories of 1920s America where organised-crime became entrenched and the government lost a crucial source of revenue.
The benefits of regulation and taxation of a popular recreational drug are not excluded to the economic. The prohibition criminalises fairly minor offenses which burden the penal system and take resources from more destructive crimes. The implication of the government restriction of cannabis glamourises its use; there was a marked increase in consumption of cannabis in 2009 when it was upgraded from Class C to Class B drug. The unrestricted manufacture and distribution of cannabis also creates a health risk because criminals indoctrinate the product with glass, lead and pesticides.
The decriminalisation of cannabis will not solve the damage that drugs have on our society. Dealers will still exist as well the health problems it causes. The resignation of cannabis to lurking in the shadows in this country is far more damaging however. The debate in Britain is far behind much of Western Europe where the buying of cannabis is being decriminalised and the shadows are being illuminated.
I am not advocating that the government surrender to the criminals. Far from it. I think it is time to divide and conquer. The current policy of prohibition of cannabis has prevented the ability to regulate or even to accurately monitor such a vast industry.