CHARLES GRAHAM - What a hash of an idea

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A SIX-year independent study has concluded that cannabis should be legalised in the UK.

It is not the first such report to make such a call and doubtless won’t be the last.

But this time a whole battery of experts, including scientists and a former police chief, have come up with particularly persuasive arguments, medical claims and statistics as to why this particular substance causes less damage to the human race than alcohol or cigarettes and that to de-criminialise it would also allow officers to concentrate on more serious crimes.

Some folk might be inclined to say that cannabis has been decriminalised for quite some time, certainly in terms of possession for personal use. After the all the sanctions are pretty minimal.

And certainly it sounds tempting to free up the police so they can focus more on tackling offences such as rape, robbery, murder and the possession and distribution of class A drugs.

But is this really going to produce that many benefits? From what I have seen, most folk are incidentally prosecuted for cannabis possession when police are raiding their homes or arresting them for something else.

And there is no question that cannabis can cause physical harm and is being increasingly linked to cancer and memory loss. Just because fags and booze are bad for us too doesn’t mean that we should license something else that is injurious too.

There are times when some would rather liquor and tobacco were banned, given their anti-social and negative medical properties. But while that’s not going to happen there’s no sense in adding to risky legal highs.

It strikes me as particularly strange that so much effort is being made to encourage people to give up one carcinogenic weed while at the same time campaigning to get more people taking up another one.

For undoubtedly, the legalisation of cannabis will increase usage and I don’t for one moment buy the suggestion that its proliferation will lead to a decline in alcohol consumption.

It certainly wouldn’t effect a decrease in the number of safe drivers on our roads, no matter what “mellowing” effect it may have on some folks’ tempers.

I would make the exception of allowing cannabis to be prescribed for the treatment of certain illnesses though such as multiple sclerosis.

In a controlled, medical environment, it has its benefits and let’s not forget that that other commonly exploited drug morphine is widely used as a painkiller.

But that is where I would draw the line.

Not only do I still feel that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs, it is often a far stronger substance than it was when hippy flower power and free love were all the rage.

There are greater social ills in society than cannabis, but we can well do without its becoming a bigger one.