Medicinal and recreational cannabis WILL eventually be fully legalised in the UK. But between now and then, lives will be lost, people will be criminalised and the confusion will continue.
An urgent review of the law is required immediately.
The time has come for the all-encompassing ‘Cannabis Act 2018 (CA 18).’
What is Cannabis?
Unlike cocaine, heroin, alcohol and MDMA, Cannabis is not a man-made product. It’s a plant.
In fact, Cannabis has, for centuries, been used either recreationally, as medicine or in religious/spiritual ceremonies.
The two main cannabinoids (chemical compounds) from the cannabis plant are:
- THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) The psychoactive compound (what gets people ‘high’)
- CBD (Cannabidiol). Unlike THC this is a cannabinoid that does not make people high and can in fact control or moderate the ‘high’ caused by the THC.
Recreational cannabis is cannabis that is used without medical justification. Typically it has a higher THC content, providing users with a ‘high’.
Medical cannabis is a form of cannabis used to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition such as multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.
What does the law current say about the use of cannabis?
There is no one sole piece of legislation that encompasses the various uses of cannabis. Instead, the current law on cannabis is governed by the following:
- Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA 1971)
- Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA 1971)
Cannabis is illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell in the UK. Cannabis is classed as a Class B drug.
MDA 1971 divides drugs into three classes as follows:
- Class A – includes cocaine and crack, ecstasy, heroin and LSD
- Class B – includes amphetamine, codeine, ketamine, methedrone and cannabis
- Class C – includes anabolic steroids, GBL and GHD and khat
Offences under MDA 1971 include:
- Possession/possession with intent to supply;
- Supply (including being concerned in and conspiracy to supply, aggravated supply and offer to supply);
- Production; and
- Cultivation of a cannabis plant.
The likely sentence for offences involving cannabis depend on the type of offence and can range from a cannabis warning to 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine.
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
The MHRA currently governs cannabis oil. Products containing Cannabidiol (CBD), under this separate act, stipulate that there is a requirement to meet the appropriate standards of safety, efficacy and quality.
Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill
This bill is expected to have its second reading on the 6th July 2018. The bill was introduced to Parliament on the 10th October 2017. This bill aims to:
“Allow the production, supply, possession and use of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal purposes; and for connected purposes.”
Why is the use of cannabis and the law a hot topic?
The topic has recently come in the spotlight after the case of Billy Caldwell. Billy hit the headlines when Home Secretary Sajid allowed him to access medicinal cannabis oil following his hospitalisation after experiencing multiple seizures.
It was reported in CNN that Home Secretary Sajid Javid: said of this matter that “It has become clear to me since becoming Home Secretary that the position we find ourselves in is not satisfactory,”
His stance was also backed by Caroline Lucas MP on a recent appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire Show discussing medicinal cannabis. She said that ‘People are going to die because of politicians’ reluctance to have a bit of spine, a bit of courage to do this.’
They are not the only ones who have voiced their concern over the current position in the law. William Hague went one step further in an article in the Telegraph in which he said “The war on cannabis has failed utterly. The Tories should embrace a decisive change”
What would the Cannabis Act 2018 (CA 18) involve?
There needs to be more simplified and consolidated legislation. The Cannabis Act 2018 would repeal the sections relating to cannabis from the MDA 1971.
The definition of cannabis would be widened to include the various strains of the recreational drug and medicinal cannabis.
Most importantly, the new law would legalise cannabis for personal consumption. This would result in a reduction in crime and criminal records.
Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the UK, with 11.3% of adults aged 16 to 34 having used it in 2017. By decriminalising cannabis, Police hours could be better spent elsewhere.
There are allegedly a number of public political figures who have admitted to consuming the drug who have not got a criminal record as a result. These include
- Harriet Harman
- Nicola Sturgeon
- Boris Johnson
- Chuka Umunna
- David Cameron
Should the sale of cannabis be regulated?
At the moment, cannabis consumption for recreational use is predominantly produced by drug cartels. One of the most popular strains of cannabis is ‘super skunk’. Super skunk is known to have about 30% THC. This is incredibly high for the end user. By regulating cannabis, the end user will be given the option as to what type of cannabis they are consuming. Therefore, there will be less genetically modified strains which have been proven to impact more negatively on mental health than the traditional types.
What would this mean for the economy if cannabis would legalised?
It is reported that if the government were to legalise cannabis then the sale of it in shops could generate tax income of over £1billion per year. This also in conjunction with the fact that the courts would not have to spend time and money dealing with these crimes is quite compelling. There is an argument also that as the production would be regulated which could mean that the strains with higher amounts of THC would be stopped this could reduce the amount of people who suffer psychosis as a result and reducing some financial burden on the NHS.
What is the future of the use of cannabis and the law?
For years politicians have done nothing more than pay lip service to the subject of the legalisation of cannabis. A democratic and forward thinking society should be continuously evolving.
It is illogical that while cannabis remains illegal in the UK Britain is the largest exporter of legal cannabis in the world. The UK’s production now accounts for 44.9% of the world total.
Britain should embrace change and follow the examples of other countries who have a sensible debate and realised that it may be time to legalise cannabis.
Paris Theodorou co-wrote this piece.