It remains to be seen if the present government will legalise cannabis, but this shouldn’t be ruled out.
Cannabis was added to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920 in 1928, but its usage has risen steadily in spite of this. With Brexit on the horizon, there are many political and legal issues which will again be up for debate, and one which is bound to cause controversy is that of legalising cannabis and other drugs.
The subject has become more mainstream as a result of its increased usage as a medicinal treatment and after the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, legalised cannabis in Canada. He believed that legalising the cannabis trade would help to regulate its use and take money out of the criminal empire, but is the UK likely to follow any time soon?
The Law on Cannabis Today
While over 50 per cent of people in the UK are in favour of legalising the recreational use of cannabis and, according to a YouGov poll, nearly 75 per cent support its use for medicinal purposes — though it is still a Class B substance. It was briefly reclassified as a Class C under Tony Blair’s Labour government, but then brought back up to Class B under Gordon Brown. This was due to concerns about cannabis and its potential impact on mental health. Although statistics show that while the number of cannabis users reduced between 2006 and 2014, the demand for mental health services increased by 50 per cent.
Because of the continued concerns about and research into the impact cannabis may have on mental health, it is still illegal to possess, use and distribute cannabis, and you can be charged with cultivation of cannabis. People found guilty can have an unlimited fine imposed on them and/or a potential prison sentence of up to 5 years. Being convicted of supplying cannabis could result in a sentence of up to 14 years.
What are the Dangers or Benefits of Cannabis Use?
The mental health concerns around cannabis stem from one of the many chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant: THC. This is the psychoactive substance that is responsible for the ‘high’ users can experience. There is concern that continued and excessive use of cannabis could lead to mental health issues and addiction. There are different types of marijuana that contain varying levels of THC, with ‘skunk’ being one of the most potent. However, research by the NHS found that compared to alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal, cannabis is significantly less addictive and has never been directly attributed as a cause of death in the UK.
In recent years, the cannabidiol or CBD component found in cannabis has been increasingly used for its medicinal properties. While research is in its early stages, CBD has been linked to pain relief, anxiety treatment and treating epilepsy.
What Would Cannabis Legalisation Look Like?
The IEA stated in a 2018 report that cannabis should be classified and regulated between alcohol and tobacco. The minimum age is likely to be 18 and premises would need to be licensed in order to grow, import and/or sell it.
Currently, cannabis can be prescribed for medicinal use, but in 2018 the government released a statement which said there were ‘no plans to legalise or decriminalise the drug’. However, given the unpredictability of the UK’s political landscape at the moment, it’s difficult to predict what will happen next week let alone next year.