On Monday 12 October 2015, a debate will be held by the House of Commons on the topic of marijuana legalisation in the UK. This stemmed from a petition to “make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal” which now contains over 200,000 signatures. The debate will be led by Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, who has campaigned for the reformation of cannabis law in the UK since 1990.

The topic remains controversial, even as many countries continue to reform their drug policies. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to make it completely legal to grow, consume, and sell cannabis. Both Jamaica and Portugal have also legalised the possession of the drug in small quantities, and US states such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have also decriminalised it. Furthermore, legalisation of marijuana for medical use exclusively is also legal in myriad other nations and states.

There are many arguments both for and against the legalisation of this Class B drug that the debate next month will detail. Among them, proponents champion the historical longevity of cannabis, used as a medicinal plant for millennia but only outlawed by the UK government in 1925. Additionally, over the last year, police officials in the counties of Durham, Derbyshire, Dorset, and Surrey have all stated that they would turn a blind eye to the possession of the drug.

One such reason why many believe the drug should be legalised is because it could potentially boost the country’s economy by providing as much as £900 million in tax revenue annually, as well as creating 10,000 new jobs. Colorado can be taken as a real-life indicator of how the UK would fare if such a change were to take place. In 2014 Colorado made $76 million in taxes created by the sale of the drug. This shows promise for economic benefits in the UK considering the population of Colorado is a mere five million compared to the UK’s 64 million.

One reason as to why many oppose the legalisation of the drug is the assumption that people would consume less alcohol and replace it with smoking marijuana. This could mean that money would be lost to the economy in the taxation of alcohol. However, contrary to popular belief, the tax revenues from alcohol have risen by 2.1 per cent since the legalisation of the drug in Colorado.

Another driving force for marijuana legalisation is that alcohol is arguably more damaging to human health. In 2013, there were 8,416 alcohol related deaths in the UK, and there is little evidence to show that cannabis has directly caused any deaths. It has, however, been shown to have other health implications. Studies have shown linkages between cannabis consumption and decreased fertility, mental health issues such as schizophrenia, and lung damage. On the flip side, it has also been proven to provide medicinal benefits to those with HIV/AIDS, MS, and individuals undergoing chemotherapy.

Most of the arguments associated with this controversial topic involve either the economic impact of its legalisation or health implications to individuals. Evidence from parts of the world that have reformed their laws show that the economic benefits are nothing but positive, boosting the economy by millions from both taxation and job creation. In terms of public health, heavy usage of the drug can create long-term damage. However, recreationally, the impacts are negligible and nonfatal.

The medicinal benefits gained by sufferers of various illnesses also generally seem to outweigh these detrimental effects. This suggests that the NHS would benefit from legalisation. The government’s official statement towards the petition states: “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.” This would suggest that no future plans to reform the law are in place. However, with individual counties turning a blind eye to the law and the debate taking place next month, it may only be a matter of time before this proposal is seriously considered.

Date: SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

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