IMAGINE being invited to take a substance knowing that it can have an adverse impact on you in both the short and long term: it can affect your mental health as it causes paranoia; disrupts your blood circulation as it causes an immediate increase in your heart rate, makes your eyes red, irritates your lungs, weakens your immune system, causes memory problems, slows your reaction time and has an adverse impact on the way you process information. My guess is you would refuse it. You certainly would not support making it freely and legally available.
The above is a description of what cannabis can do to you, yet many people use it and there have long been conversations about decriminalising it. Decriminalising does not mean making it legal, but its use and possession would no longer carry criminal convictions. Journalist Peter Hitchens, a vocal campaigner against the legalisation of cannabis, maintains that while in law it has not been decriminalised, in practice it has. Marijuana is smoked widely and freely on the streets of all major cities in the United Kingdom.
At least part of the problem is that those in power who would seek to decriminalise the use of cannabis have little idea what they are dealing with. They may have smoked marijuana when they were younger and have suffered no ill-effects. What they do not realise is that over 90 per cent of what police seize these days is so called ‘skunk’, a very high potency version of marijuana. Compared with the traditional herbal variety of marijuana commonly used in the 1960s which had 2 to 4 per cent of the active ingredient THC, skunk contains about 14 per cent THC. This is known to lead to more severe mental health problems than herbal marijuana.
A recent study suggests that almost a third of schizophrenia cases in young men may be triggered by marijuana use. Researchers from the US and Denmark examined the health records of 6.9million people, and found that up to 30 per cent of schizophrenia diagnoses—about 3,000 in total—could have been prevented if men from 21 to 30 years old had not developed cannabis use disorder. This study does not offer proof of a direct link, but relies on the fact that both marijuana use, and schizophrenia have risen.
Despite marijuana being illegal, its use in the UK is widespread. In 2022 7.4 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59 reported having used the drug in the last year. Of those, more than one-third (38.7 per cent) used it more than once a month, with 11.5 per cent using it every day. Worryingly, it is not only adults who have been able to get their hands on this illegal drug, but young teenagers too. According to the 2018/19 NHS Digital survey of 193 UK schools, involving 13,664 pupils, a ‘staggering 38 per cent of 15-year-olds reported that they had tried drugs’, mainly cannabis. The report says that ‘in a class of 30 children, 11 pupils will have used drugs’. One youth worker reported that smoking cannabis among some young people was ‘like drinking tea’.
In 2018, cannabis was made legal in the UK in the form of cannabis oil only for medical purposes including epilepsy, MS and for patients having chemotherapy, if it is prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor. While it may help in certain situations, there are some serious side effects, such as decreased appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, weakness, behavioural or mood changes, dizziness, feeling tired, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
In the US, 22 states have legalised recreational cannabis, opening the door to the creation of more potent concentrates, some containing 90 per cent THC. It is estimated that millions are suffering cannabis-related mental health problems.
Given all the above, why anyone wishes to make the availability of cannabis easier through legalisation and to remove the possibility of prison or a fine for its use through decriminalisation is a mystery. The main arguments seem to be economic: in the US, legal sales generated a $3.7billion tax revenue in 2021.
As one columnist in Unity News Network, referring to the severe drug problem in Scotland, put it: ‘Both the decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs are advocated by an odd alliance of left-wing sociologists and right-wing libertarians. For the former it is for the alleged good of society and for the latter it is for their own convenience. Politicians, of left and right, support it for the only reason any politician supports anything, they think it may win them votes.’
This is the end of the hippie trail: what began as an experiment in peace and love among dropouts and rock musicians is now a major criminal enterprise compounded by a major mental health problem.