During the Coldest Winter we have had in a long time, The Beast of the East was upon us, I went on a 2 week vacation to Amsterdam to take a look at the many Coffeeshops that they have which are open for all, anybody can buy some of the good stuff, apart from under 18’s of course.
It got me thinking about why on earth would people want to criminalise the drug, why back in the UK, the Palace of Westminster is so full of old Politicians and Peers that are so scared of the drug and so stuck in their “Traditional” way of thinking, why do they have to make it so hard for themselves? Banning and Criminalising all drugs is a recipe for disaster.
However, in the Netherlands, Cannabis is not Legal, it is allowed. Which puts me in a weird confused state because I always thought, like many Tourists that Amsterdam was the place to go for Legal Cannabis, however the Police won’t be stopping you to search you and plant some weed so they can make an arrest, no, they are quite liberal with it. You can have up to 5 Grams of Flower on you at any given time. (Amsterdam Coffeeshops Guide, Amsterdam.info), so this begs the question, why is it allowed but it is illegal? how does that work?
It is said that the Netherlands has to be seen to enforcing Intentional Law to stop mass imports of drugs, it is believed.
” The CDA advocates strict enforcement of the current tolerance policy. ‘We must coordinate our drug policy with the surrounding countries. Otherwise you only import more drugs, ‘says CDA MP Van Haersma Buma. VVD Member of Parliament Griffith states that the views of Judge Lampe are entirely in line with the views of her party. ‘Drugs are part of our society, you have to learn to live with that.’ “
(Marc Peeperkorn, volkskrant.nl, 22nd April 2003)
The Netherlands Political and Judicial heads seem to have a very liberal way of thinking, they seem to accept the fact that Weed is part of society and there is no way they want to ban the plant as people want to use it and it is very good for Tourism.
So, by this stance, I believe that it would take a change in the International law of the UN to accept the fact that Weed is part of Western Society and it shouldn’t be criminalised, to a certain extent.
The Netherlands has categorized types of drugs, Weed is part of the “Soft Drugs” category and LSD, Cocaine etc. are all “Hard Drugs”, I find this more helpful, where as in the UK and US they have several levels and each drug can be moved to one level to another, for Instance the UK has 3 Classes, Class A, B and C. If you are found to have been using or in possession of a Class A drug (Cocaine) you can see yourself locked away for up to 7 years with an Unlimited Fine (Gov.uk, https://www.gov.uk/penalties-drug-possession-dealing). It is up to 5 years in prison for Cannabis, which is a Class B Drug.
However, in the UK, the Police seem to be less worried about Cannabis and they are not enforcing the law as much as they should in the eyes of the law.
” Police forces across Britain are quietly turning a blind eye to cannabis use in order to focus their attentions on more pressing priorities, drug experts have claimed “
(Martin Evans, The Telegraph, 22nd July 2015)
Back in 2015 County Durham Police gave growers a green light to grow the drug (The Telegraph, “Police force gives Cannabis users green light to grow drugs”, Martin Evans, 21st July 2015), which seems to be a step closer to what the Netherlands have been doing for years, to allow the consumption and growing of the plant. However the Durham Police said that they will not allow Commercial Cannabis farms, which seems to be the same view that the Netherlands has, however I don’t seem to understand this view, they say they want to make sure that the Mass Production and Importing/Exporting of the Drug is Illegal, I understand that this is the UN’s Policy so all countries that are part of the UN has to obey this, however in my eyes, it seems to happen anyway, how would Coffeeshops survive? they have to do it in secret and away from the eyes of Police just to keep the business open, so clearly we are a long way off from being in a safe environment where Cannabis is Universally accepted.
“In the Declaration on the Rule of Law, Member States recognized the importance of strengthened international cooperation in countering the world drug problem”
(The United Nations and the Rule of Law, Drug Trafficking)
So because of the United Nations Rule of Law, member states are not allowed to be legalising the Mass Trade of Prohibited Substances, which begs the question, what if a member state legalises Cannabis? would that member state be breaking International Law? I seem to think so, because unless all of the member states legalise the drug at the same time (as a UN Treaty) it would be Illegal because it maybe Legal in one Country, but it would allow the mass trade of Cannabis to be seeping into other states as the gangs cross the boarder, which would then be a massive problem in the eyes of International Law.
This then, messes up everything and would require a lot of work between member states. I seem to think that the majority of member states would firstly need to legalise the recreational use of Cannabis, then they would need to propose a new treaty within the UN and hope the proposal doesn’t get Vetoed by another member state or has a clear majority vote within the UN, to allow the UN law to change to allow the Mass Production and Trade of Cannabis.
Only after the UN allows it’s member states to Trade Cannabis would then allow the world to enjoy the greatness that this plant offers the Human Race. However views of Politicians in member states need to change dramatically before we will see this happen.
If we look towards the United States which is the most powerful member state of the UN it seems, some of the States have allowed Recreational use of the drug, however it remains illegal federally, meaning that the United States doesn’t allow Cannabis at any level, this would be because of the Rule of Law of the UN again.
So we seem to be stuck in a rut with this one and the only way out is for public and political opinion of the drug to change dramatically.
In the UK, the Royal College of GP’s have this to say.
” The reputation that cannabis is a safe drug is unjustified. The reasons for this misplaced view are that it is not immediately lethal in the way that heroin is, that its effects on mood state are not as obvious as alcohol and that its capacity to produce dependence, like alcohol is slow and insidious and its widespread use is a relatively new phenomana. “
(Royal College of General Practitioners, “Cannabis and the General Practitioner – Going to Pot”)
This comes after CLEAR (Cannabis Law Reform UK Group) proposed a Guide to GP’s for the use of Cannabis for medical conditions that got approved back in 2017. This proposal was headed by Professor Mike Barnes who is a member of the CLEAR Board who acts as a medical advisor for the group. (Cannabis News World, https://cannabisnewsworld.com/2017/12/10/royal-college-of-gps-gives-huge-boost-to-campaign-for-medicinal-cannabis/).
The Policy of the Royal College of GP’s seems to be out of my views, however it is important that I include this as this was a massive step towards changing people’s view of Cannabis in the UK. The Policy states that it is disputable that people can get addicted to the drug as research has shown that only 5% – 10% of users will get depend on the drug (Royal College of General Practitioners, “Cannabis and the General Practitioner – Going to Pot”).
The Policy also states facts about smoking the drug, I think it is because most people in the UK would smoke Spliffs and not Pure Joints, so they can only go on that and they state that it has obvious health risks which are typically linked to tobacco smoking, however they also state that there is not enough research to say that smoking pure weed is healthy either, as smoking tobacco has only recently being identified as being detrimental to your health.
So I think we are edging closer to some good moves by Politicians, however I think it is going to be a while yet before we see it been legalised around the world. I do acknowledge the fact that some countries around the world, like Canada, they will be legalising the drug this summer, however they won’t be legalising the mass production and trade of the drug, it will be within strict regulations, it would be allowed for Recreational use, so this is a massive step towards a more free world.
So on a lighter note, lets consider how the UK would legalise Cannabis for Recreational and Medical Uses.
Back in 2016, Norman Lamb MP, Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats announced that the party will support a regulated Cannabis market in the UK. (Liberal Democrats, https://www.libdems.org.uk/liberal_democrats_call_for_a_legalised_cannabis_market)
The Policy of the Green Party of the UK has been to remove Cannabis from the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act (the act that has the different Classes of Drugs). (The Green Party, https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/du.html)
However, the two main political parties have remained silent on this issue. The Conservatives and the Labour Party have not budged on this issue.
” Break the grip of the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. We would introduce limits on potency and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18. “
(Liberal Democrats 2017 Manifesto, https://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto)
So slowly but surely, I think the UK will break free from criminalising Cannabis, but I don’t think any time soon we will see it.
My view is that it should be legal for Medical and Recreational use and that it should be taxed (VAT Tax plus a Levy on the Cultivation of the drug) with the cultivation being legal but under strict guidelines and regulations so that it doesn’t cross any borders, so it stays within the UK.
I think that it should either be sold over the counter to anyone possessing a Legally obtained card (Like a Weed Pass or Green Card) that allows the purchase of Cannabis from a Pharmacy or a Vendor that is regulated to Government standards.
The Weed Card that I have just proposed should be freely available to anyone who has valid ID and is over the age of 18. The card should be given to be people from the government, I think the card should be applied for from a Government website or by paper application form from a Government office, the card is to keep account of how many users there are and how much they consume so to keep an eye on how much weed is being purchased within the UK, it would allow the Government to Tax it and keep account of the money that is being raised by the drug. I don’t think there should be restrictions on who can get this card, they just need to be a legal tax paying citizen of the UK and over the age of 18.
So to conclude, the UN has prohibited the Trade of Cannabis and other narcotics to tackle the “War on Drugs”, the Netherlands allows Soft Drugs to be sold and consumed, however it is not legal to trade because of International law, the Royal College of GP’s announced a change of policy because of the CLEAR group’s research, Canada and some other countries around the world are starting to legalise the recreational use of Cannabis, Political Parties in the UK are starting to change their views of the drug and that I believe that there should be a ID card that is given to Tax Paying Citizens of the UK to purchase Cannabis from Vendors.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, I certainly enjoyed writing this up. I am returning to Amsterdam in June for a week vacation to re-visit some of the best Coffeeshops!
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Declaration of Interests: I am a member of CLEAR, the Campaign group to legalise Cannabis in the UK and I am a member of the Liberal Democrats which has a policy to Legalise Cannabis in the UK and to Tax it.
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