Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Cam Lawson (DP 176)

The ongoing debate towards the legal status of cannabis is one of much controversy and one that has interested me greatly. It is therefore my first port of call to share my opinion and to say that it would be for the benefit of our society if cannabis were to be decriminalised.

Firstly, cannabis is less harmful then both alcohol and tobacco. This was first brought to my attention when I discovered that there cannot be a single death traced back to cannabis toxicity and toxicity alone. Of course, the potential to “overdose” on a substance is not the be all and end all, and just because it is impossible to administer a lethal dose of cannabis (as far as we know) it does not mean to say that said substance cannot be harmful. However, on further investigation, it can be seen that even the acute and chronic health risks that cannabis poses combined together can in no way, shape, or form equate to that of either alcohol or tobacco, it is simply folly and in defiance of all scientific evidence to state otherwise. For example, the (what I consider to be) major chronic health risks of smoking tobacco are:1 Atherosclerosis, Stroke, Cancer (for lung cancer the risk of development is increased by 22 times), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), physical dependence, heart attack, impotence and the list continues. If this is compared to health effects of cannabis2 there is: increased risk of developing mental illness, when intoxicated: an impairment to co-ordination, and damage to fertility. Comparing the two substances in such a way maybe crude, but even so it’s extremely evident that the health effects of cannabis are both less, and less serious then tobacco. Is this ground for the substance to be decriminalised? Well, maybe not conclusively, but it seems very unfair that in today’s society someone who chooses to consume a substance that has less listed impact on their health then tobacco is treated as a criminal.

A benefit of decriminalising cannabis (along with proper regulation) would be aid to the economy. It has been estimated that the size of net gain on the cannabis market3 would be between £3.4 billion and £6.4 billion pounds per annum. This figure is verging on 5% of the government’s budget deficit and undeniably would be a valuable source of yearly income. In addition to this, it would save a large amount of police time and money that is currently spent on policing cannabis that could be used to pursue other areas of crime. This market is currently under the control of criminals, among these criminals are gangs that exploit migrants in order to cultivate cannabis for their own profit and to perpetuate the influence of their gang. In my opinion it would be far more beneficial for the government to tax and regulate the production of cannabis so that the government can: (a) Allow the users of cannabis to know the potency and effects of the product that they are buying and (b) Substantially reduce a large portion of income that gangs are currently profiteering from.

I hope my thoughts are helpful towards your debate and I look forward to hearing the government’s decision on how to proceed with drug legislation.

February 2012

1 As listed from www.bbc.co.uk/health/

2 Once again taken from www.bbc.co.uk/health/

3 Taken from www.idmu.co.uk/taxing-the-uk-drugs-market.htm

Prepared 8th December 2012