Pubdate: Thu, 10 Mar 2016
Source: Cape Times (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 Cape Times
Note: Editorial from The Guardian


IT IS impossible to know how many people have been deterred from 
using cannabis out of deference to the law. Decades of prohibition 
have not prevented the drug from establishing itself as a part of the 
repertoire of psychoactive substances that British people use for 
leisure and, for a few, nonrecreational medication. Despite the 
theoretical threat of prosecution, cannabis use has become 
sufficiently uncontroversial for stories about David Cameron dabbling 
in his youth to have surfaced without measurable impact on his 
standing as prime minister.

That is not to say the drug is harmless. Heavy, long-term use is 
associated with a number of unhappy social and physical conditions, 
although cause and effect are always hard to disentangle. And, of 
course, smoking is a dangerous habit with or without cannabis thrown 
in. The challenge is to draft laws that deal with some citizens' 
proven appetite for drugs while maximising safety for all. British 
governments have routinely failed that test. So the publication this 
week of a report by an expert panel, outlining a potential model of 
cannabis decriminalisation, is welcome as a step towards rational debate.

For prohibitionists it is another slip down the slope towards 
unbridled, licentious mass intoxication. The whole exercise is 
academic in any case, since the current government has no interest in 
such a scheme. Most cannabis users do little harm to themselves or 
others, except by funding organised crime, a function of illegality. 
Many who might otherwise dabble unscathed end up harmed by the 
consequences of prohibition: street products of unpredictable 
strength; career-ending convictions for minor offences; retail 
contact with gangsters.

Decriminalisation would not fix all the problems. But it is obvious 
that the existing regime is failing and that a rational, evidence-led 
review is overdue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom