YOU REALLY WOULD THINK that in 2016 we’d be long past weed legalisation opinion pieces. The financial, social and medical benefits of cannabis legalisation have been exhaustively documented, and a host of other liberal democracies are either legalising or decriminalising weed or at the very least discussing its legalisation or decriminalisation.
And yet, the marijuana legalisation argument really gets scant attention here in Britain. Why so? It as if the public have lost the will to stamp their feet.
The now largely impotent Liberal Democrats have become the first political party to officially state their support for the legalisation of weed, but I doubt that is enough to effect real change. What would be far more productive is for the ordinary people in favour of legalisation––and there are many, many of them––to take just a short relief of their British notions surrounding fuss-making and make their displeasure at the status quo clear as crystal so those with real power sit up and listen.
The whole weed legalisation thing can be a tedious back-and-forth, principally because so many of the arguments against the legalisation of marijuana are so mind-numbingly stupid that they make you want to smash your head against a very, very solid wall. There are many of them, almost all of which are riddled with holes, ranging from “weed is a gateway drug” to something along the lines of “weed turns you into Gollum”.
I could spend all day writing rebuttals to all these arguments, but that’s beyond the scope of this article, and in any case, there are people with strings of letters after their names that can refute those points with far more precision than I can, like Professor David Nutt, or Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I would rather frame, in simple terms, the argument for why weed should be legal.
A recent report commissioned by the Liberal Democrats found that the U.K. could potentially raise in excess of £1billion a year from the taxation of weed sold in specialist dispensaries, and if we take a look across the pond we see that the American states which have legalised marijuana are booming. Colorado, for instance, is now the fastest-growing economy in the U.S. and unemployment is at a six-year low. Do you remember that scene from Duck Tales in which Scrooge McDuck dives into a pool of gold coins? That’s Colorado, and the authorities have invested much of this cash in the hiring of mental health and social workers to treat anyone who does turn out to like the herb just a little too much, and to educate children on drug use. Moreover, they’re saving boatloads by not having America’s Finest drive around the state arresting college kids and artists for having a henry in their jeans.
It is almost impossible to maintain a black market for a good once it becomes legal, so it is no surprise that the crime in those that have recently legalised weed is falling fast. What is more interesting is that it isn’t just marijuana-related crime which is plummeting: violent crime of all stripes, as well as burglaries and relatively minor criminal acts are down too. And there’s another pleasant surprise for Colorado: traffic fatalities are down and continuing to fall, which contradicts directly the predictions made by the killjoys before legalisation.
The anti-legalisation brigade pointed to the presence of marijuana in the blood of some drivers involved in fatalities, but failed to appreciate that the marijuana metabolites these drivers were tested for at the roadside stay in the system for a long time after actual use of the drug. THC in the blood, a more reliable test of sobriety, is tested for too after the incident, but prohibitionists have tended to combine both sets of data when forming their argument.
It has also been suggested that now people in American states where weed is legal substitute weed for alcohol when driving. Driving under the influence of either is obviously not advisable (and illegal) but the suggestion is that weed causes less impairment than booze.
Various reputable studies have shown that weed could be used to treat a range of conditions including glaucoma, epilepsy, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, IBS, arthritis, Lupus, Parkinson’s and P.T.S.D. to name just a few. The argument that weed causes schizophrenia is a weak one at best, and it can only be said even by the most pessimistic of people that if you are genetically prone to schizophrenia or are prone to other schizotypal symptoms then weed can exacerbate those symptoms, and this is true of any number of substances.
So to recap, this is what could (and probably would) happen if we legalised marijuana in the United Kingdom: (1) the Government would make a killing in taxes, (2) crime would drop, and swathes of society needlessly criminalised for doing something that makes you feel relaxed, creative and really, really hungry wouldn’t have to shiver by the side of the road in the middle of the night so they can hand their pay cheques to hooded strangers through the window of a sound-system banger.
Everyone, in other words, wins.
In the frankly ridiculous Britain of today, it is socially acceptable for a toddler to choose their gender but not acceptable for an adult to choose whether to smoke a plant that makes them feel a bit silly. I’m not the only one who recognises a shortcoming here.
I’ve never really got to grips with the idea that a collection of people in Westminster can dictate what you, or I, or kindly Mrs. So-and-So down the street, do when that action does not harm anyone else. It bridles me, yet we’ve become accustomed to accepting all sorts of gross impositions on our civil liberties.
But we must start small. The advantages of the legalisation of weed are underpinned by such a hefty weight of evidence, and the downsides supported by such penetrable idiocies, that change must come soon.
So if you’re reading this Mr. Cameron and co. (which of course you won’t be), we’d rather like our freedom back now, please. Or at the very least, why not light yourself a joint and mull it over?