ENDING the prohibition on cannabis would stop the shootings on Liverpool’s streets, bring much- needed relief to those suffering with disease and help fill the UK’s ailing coffers.
That is the stance of Clear, the UK’s only registered political party set up to campaign for cannabis reform.
Rather than demanding the drug is made available to everyone everywhere as some groups do, Clear is working towards proper informed debate on the issue and an end to the criminalisation of those who smoke for medicinal reasons.
When the government changed the legislation on cannabis in 2004, downgrading it from a Class B to Class C substance, police chiefs said it sent out completely the wrong message to criminals and opened up a market for them that – now it has been returned to Class B – the authorities are struggling to get a grip of.
And five shootings – including two in broad daylight – in as many days on Merseyside last week were put down to warring gangs fighting over cannabis and drug turfs.
Author Peter Reynolds, leader of Clear, says ending the prohibition completely and bringing in a fully taxed and regulated system for the sale of cannabis would put a stop to many of the problems the police and society are facing.
Mr Reynolds said: “The prohibition of cannabis, one of the least toxic therapeutically active substances known to man, leads to crime.
“A report by the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit showed that a tax and regulation regime, with a tax of £1 per gram, personal growing licences for people at home and commercial licences for companies added to the savings to police, courts and prisons, even with costs taken away for education and health care, is likely to bring in a net benefit of £6bn per annum to the economy.
“The lowest estimate we have for active cannabis users in the UK is 2m. The highest is 10m. It is being used by a phenomenal amount of people.
“Cannabis is scientifically proven to be hundreds of times less harmless than alcohol and we are all for informed arguments on the subject but not for the criminalisation and locking up of people who choose to use something less harmful than that which is legal.
“Allowing it to be prescribed by doctors in the proper way takes crime out of the equation.”
Kate Clark, A&E consultant at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, said the case for legalisation was “not black and white”.
She added: “There is evidence to suggest that it can do some good, for people with conditions like MS it can be helpful.
“If you go to some countries they prescribe cannabis, it is manufactured as a medicine.
“We manufacture heroin as a medicine in Britain. There is a debate to be had.
“Some problems that cannabis causes are because people do not know what they are getting and how strong it is, so controlling it and prescribing it would
“All drugs have benefits and drawbacks and this all needs to be taken into account, it is not black and white.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, 750 people in the UK in 2009 were admitted to hospital because of cannabis. In contrast, 3,000 people went to hospital with peanut-related issues in the same period.
And last year, in Liverpool alone, more than 3,100 people ended up in hospital because of alcohol while smoking killed nearly 1,000 more.
Mr Reynolds said: “We are not saying cannabis is harmless. It is a psycho-active substance so it must have the potential for harm.
“Research has shown that if it is harmful to anyone it is children when the brain is still developing.
“But we are looking for a regulated system whereby people are licensed to grow it and sell it to adults.
“Anyone found selling to children we would advocate they are sent to prison.
“All the ID a street dealer needs is a £20 note. A proper regulated system and the end of prohibition would put a stop to that.”
GW Pharmaceuticals currently makes Sativex – the first cannabis-based medicine licensed in the UK – for MS sufferers.
But Clear say the cost of Sativex is “10 times” that charged for cannabis by organised crime – and health authorities are refusing to pay for it.
Mr Reynolds added: “Two-thirds of European countries allow their doctors to prescribe cannabis to MS sufferers yet we criminalise those who seek to gain pain relief in this way because health authorities will not pay for it.
“We are fighting very hard on this because there are people out there whose lives have been transformed because of illness who rely on the therapeutic qualities of cannabis.
“But instead we have a Kafkaesque nightmare and it costs every single one of us billions of pounds in wasted money.”
Liverpool Daily Post 23rd July 2011
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