Cannabis should be sold in shops alongside alcohol and cigarettes, a leading doctors’ journal has said.
An editorial in the British Medical Journal suggested that the sale of cannabis should be licensed like alcohol because banning it had not worked.
Banning cannabis had increased drug-related violence because enforcement made “the illicit market a richer prize for criminal groups to fight over”.
An 18-fold increase in the anti-drugs budget in the US to $18billion between 1981 and 2002 had failed to stem the market for the drug.
In fact cannabis related drugs arrests in the US increased from 350,000 in 1990 to more than 800,000 a year by 2006, with seizures quintupling to 1.1million kilogrammes.
The editorial, written by Professor Robin Room of Melbourne University, said: “In some places, state controlled instruments - such as licensing regimes, inspectors, and sales outlets run by the Government - are still in place for alcohol and these could be extended to cover cannabis.”
Prof Room suggested that state-run off licences from Canada and some Nordic countries could provide “workable and well controlled retail outlets for cannabis”.
Prof Room suggested the current ban on cannabis could come to alcohol prohibition, which was adopted by 11 countries between 1914 and 1920.
Eventually it was replaced with “restrictive regulatory regimes, which restrained alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol until these constraints were eroded by the neo-liberal free market ideologies of recent decades”.
The editorial concluded: “The challenge for researchers and policy analysts now is to flesh out the details of effective regulatory regimes, as was done at the brink of repeal of US alcohol prohibition.”
Campaigners criticised the editorial. Mary Brett, a retired biology teacher, said: “The whole truth about the damaging effects of cannabis, especially to our children with their still-developing brains, has never been properly publicised.
“The message received by children were it to be legalised would be, ‘It can't be too bad or the Government wouldn't have done this’.
“I know - I taught biology to teenage boys for 30 years. So usage will inevitably go up - it always does when laws are relaxed.
“Why add to the misery caused by our existing two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco?”
Earlier this year, Fiona Godlee, an editor of the Journal, which is run by the British Medical Association, endorsed an article by Steve Rolles, head of research at Transform, the drugs foundation, which called for an end to the war on drugs and its replacement by a legal system of regulation.
Dr Godlee said: “Rolles calls on us to envisage an alternative to the hopelessly failed war on drugs. He says, and I agree, that we must regulate drug use, not criminalise it.”
By Christopher Hope,
Published: 7:00PM BST 11 Oct 2010
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