Discuss: “Cannabis is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol and should, therefore, be legalised.”
There has recently been much debate in the media about the decriminalisation of cannabis, both for recreational and medicinal use. This topic has proved controversial especially in political circles. Drawing on evidence from recent press reports, research on the web and recent publications, this essay will assess the evidence of how harmful cannabis really is.
In 1971 Cannabis was reclassified by parliament and became a schedule 1 drug. This means that it was viewed as having no medicinal value. In 2002, Cannabis was reclassified again as a Class C drug meaning that it is seen as less harmful in comparison to other drugs such as Cocaine. This is reflected in the way offenders are processed by the criminal justice system, having relatively lenient sentences or cautions. These changes in the law reflect changing public perceptions and increased tolerance of soft drug use contributing to the public pressure to legalise cannabis.
Several studies have indicated that cannabis use may be beneficial for certain medical conditions. Teeson et al (2002) argue that cannabis use is helpful for of Multiple Sclerosis, Tourettes Syndrome, epilepsy and HIV related illnesses.
Barton (2003) disputes the idea that cannabis use causes dependency and this is one argument that opponents of the legalization of cannabis forward. Barton suggests that,
“We can only assume that for the vast majority of drug users their drug use is occasional and spasmodic, or that drugs prove pretty well harmless to most people.”
However, as mentioned previously this is a controversial area. These theorists broadly support the notion that cannabis is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol and should perhaps be legalised. Furthermore Teeson et al (2002) indicates out that like cannabis use there are some positive affects of alcohol use.
Research published on the internet, especially reports written by the British Medical Association (BMA) also backs up the positive effects of cannabis use, for those with legitimate medical conditions. This lends strength to the statement in the essay title.
In a trial investigating the benefits of cannabis in relation to sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis the results were extremely positive. Dr Willy Notcutt said,
“We are seeing 80% of our patients getting good quality benefit from the cannabis”
Dr Stephen Kisely also argues that cannabis should be legalised, with regulation. He argues that cannabis use is no more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, suggesting that the legal effects can have further far-reaching consequences on users if they are caught. He explains that,
“People who are prosecuted for possession of cannabis may have their livelihoods destroyed for the use of a compound which has less adverse consequences than alcohol and tobacco.”
However, there are many critical responses to...