Going to Pot

A 12-year-old boy, suffering from debilitating epilepsy has inadvertently thrown the country into total confusion over its policy towards cannabis. Billy Caldwell’s illness is so bad that he can have 100s of fits a day and he is often in hospital with what for him is a life-threatening illness. The only relief he can get is a treatment with cannabis oil, a prohibited and banned substance in the UK. It was confiscated when his mother, Charlotte, tried to bring it into the country last weekend, from Canada.

In the UK Cannabis is a Class B substance and possession can lead to 5 years in jail. Dealing can be a 12-year stretch. Medicinal cannabis is just one of the concerns but over recent years Governments have resisted changing any of the cannabis laws as, Canute like, they refuse to respond to the real world.

The Home Office’s own estimates put cannabis usage at 6% of the UK adult population or nearly 2 million people.

The outcry over little Billy has covered the political spectrum and there are cries from every corner to do something to stop his suffering. To address this specific case the Home Office has introduced a clinical panel to look at each case, and there are many others, on its medical merits. This may be the start of the approval for the more widespread use of medicinal cannabis.

Well, that’s it, isn’t it? Well, no. Ex-Tory Leader and now Lord Hague has pitched in with an article in today’s Daily Telegraph, the Conservative party’s house newspaper. He said the fact that cannabis was both illegal and widely available and so effectively permitted ‘the worst of all worlds’. He means that although it is illegal to have personal amounts of cannabis the police hardly ever prosecute.

The overall result is the rise of a multi-billion pound black market for an unregulated and increasingly potent product, creating more addiction and mental health problems but without any enforceable policy to do something about it.

‘The only beneficiaries are organised crime gangs. It is absolutely unacceptable to allow this situation to continue.’

‘As far as marijuana, or cannabis, is concerned, any war has been comprehensively and irreversibly lost. It is like asking the army to recover the Empire. This battle is effectively over’.

At last, some realism from a politician but unfortunately not from a Minister or the Government. In fact, quite the reverse. A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Any debate within government about the efficacy and therapeutic use of cannabis-based medicines emphatically does not extend to any review regarding the classification of cannabis and the penalties for the illicit possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis will remain the same.’

I am not one of the 6% but like every politician, I own up to smoking some weed while at Uni, but not since. There is no vested interest on my part.

We know about the ‘coffee shops’ in Holland that sell cannabis and Canada is moving in the same direction. State control of the industry has multiple benefits and it is about time the UK started to lead and governments recognise the real world.

There are different strengths of cannabis and we need to help users understand what they are buying. This can be accomplished by a regulated industry. More importantly, it removes the dealer and possibly, therefore, the temptation for users to be pushed on to dependency and harder drugs. Finally, at a time when we are concerned about more money for the NHS, it is a revenue source.

The once very traditional and conformist majority is disappearing. Political expediency no longer requires the old harsh stance on cannabis. The UK should be near the head of those States who adopt an enlightened and liberal stance to cannabis and take the revenue of up to a £1 billion a year.