It is important to recognise that we as a credible party must have a sensible and mature discussion about our current drugs policy. As Scotland’s largest political party, the SNP will have to make a choice, determine who we would like to see control the production and supply of cannabis… Britain’s organised crime groups or our government? Decade after decade of the failed ‘war on drugs’ is evident that there is no alternative. Billions of pounds spent and thousands of people criminalised. It is time we finally acknowledge that drugs are always going to exist, members of the public will always have ways and methods to access drugs and we should be trying to help and educate them rather than punish them.
For decades successive UK governments have made a concerted effort to continue the war on drugs at huge expense to our legal system, the everyday taxpayer and our society as a whole. It has become apparent that continuing the failed war on drugs is a waste of our country’s resources and is having a negative impact on many members of the public that use cannabis medicinally or recreationally.
So, who is benefiting from the war on drugs? At first glance it would be easy to say no one is actually benefiting. But perhaps at second glance, it becomes clear the beneficiaries are actually the organised crime groups, the very groups of which are supposed to be the target of the said war. These groups have a monopoly over the production and supply chain of all illicit drugs throughout the country. We have indirectly handed organised crime groups free reign to prosper off the proceeds of selling Britain’s most widely used illicit drug, cannabis.
Creating a controlled, safe environment where people could purchase and use cannabis would remove the process where members of the public may potentially enter into an unsafe environment where the transaction of buying the drug would take place. Also note that many drug dealers coincide selling cannabis with other, harder, more harmful substances. This factor would be removed in a regulated environment.
Under prohibition, members of the public that use cannabis are often not only entering the unsafe environment of a drug dealer’s den, they are also buying product of which they will have less than basic knowledge of the quantities of each compounds within the drug, well-known compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Compare this to a system in which as a country we could carefully regulate retail sale where cannabis would be prepared and packaged up to pharmaceutical standards with the quantity of each compound clearly labelled for users to safely consume with full knowledge and understanding of drug usage.
The Institute for Economic Research predicted that legalising cannabis could approximately add an additional £900,000,000 in tax revenue. Further to this, it has predicted yearly savings of approximately £400,000,000 to policing costs which could be better spent elsewhere within our police forces in the UK. If correct, this would make an extra £1,300,000,000 available for our public services or deficit reduction.
From a credible medical perspective, the U.S Government’s Department of Health has recognised the medicinal benefits of using cannabis. Some medicinal benefits include, muscle relaxation, pain relief, anti-anxiety and appetite modification for people with eating disorders. Particularly for pain relief, the equivalent pharmaceutical interventions carry addictive and dangerous side effects. Under the current UK system, patients do not have the choice of medicinal cannabis.
On a global scale, many western countries are progressing toward a sensible system in which cannabis is legalised and carefully regulated for medicinal and recreational use. Many European countries, states in the U.S.A and more recently Canada are evident of this. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the case, “to ensure that we keep marijuana (cannabis) out of the hands of criminals, we (Canada) will legalise, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana”, effectively taking back control of the drugs trade from organised crime groups.
Canada is the latest western country to realise that the most effective way to safeguard users is not to continue to allow organised crime groups to have a monopoly over the drugs trade. Instead, Canada has chosen to take back control of a large chunk of the drugs industry. With Scotland’s hunger for progressive change, could the SNP be next to overhaul our current drugs policy?
SNP Youth North East Convenor
Photo by Charlón