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Cannabis: Should drug be legalised in the UK? London Mayor to launch new pilot scheme

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Cannabis is currently prohibited under UK law, although specialist doctors can issue medicinal prescriptions. But in the latest development regarding the illegal substance, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans for a pilot scheme that will allow young people caught with cannabis in parts of London to avoid prosecution.

What are the UK cannabis laws?

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 lists cannabis as a Class B drug – the same category as amphetamines, codeine and ketamine.

Consequently, it is illegal for a person to be found in possession, supply – including selling, dealing or sharing – and production of it.

Anyone caught in possession of cannabis can face up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, while those who supply or produce can be slapped with a jail sentence of up to 14 years, an unlimited fine or both.

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In November 2018 it was passed into law that cannabis could be medically prescribed in the UK by clinicians listed on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council.

Cannabidiol – also known as CBD oil – on the other hand is a non-intoxicating extract of cannabis which is legal to sell and purchase within the UK.

Advocates for CBD oil claim it can relieve chronic pain and inflammation, depression and insomnia, among other conditions.

Should cannabis be legalised?

Liam O’Dowd, Editor at Leafie, told Express.co.uk that support for cannabis being legalised in the UK is “already widespread”, citing several recent surveys of public opinion.

One conducted by YouGov last April demonstrated that 32 percent of British adults would oppose the drug becoming legal in comparison to 52 percent who answered that they would offer their support.

Mr O’Dowd also made reference to a number of studies – predominantly from the US – which have shown some evidence of positive impacts from legalising cannabis.

For example, one report by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that young adults consume less alcohol when cannabis is legalised.

The results also indicated a potential link in states where cannabis is a legal drug and a reduction in alcohol-related traffic deaths, although researchers did stress that these results would require further investigation to fully confirm any relationship.

In addition, he argued that a decision to legalise cannabis would allow the police to allocate more funds and time to address other issues in the UK.

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He said: “The Home Office has admitted in its own research that an estimated £1.6 billion is spent per year on drug law enforcement, yet this spending has no impact on the levels of drug use.

“When the UK reduced cannabis to Class C previously, The Home Office reported it was able to divert 199,000 police hours to better uses.”

As for whether cannabis could be legalised in the UK Mr O’Dowd said he believes it “it is now a matter of when, not if”, adding: “From the US to Germany, we are seeing Governments successfully allow adults access to cannabis.

“It is vital that the UK Government approaches cannabis reform with social issues and public health in mind.

“The UK’s departure from the EU presents an opportunity to create a unique, world-leading framework that benefits the whole country.”

But not everyone agrees legalising cannabis is the right move. A Home Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “The Government has no plans to legalise cannabis, which is a harmful drug that can devastate lives and ruin families in addition to the scientific health risks it carries.

“We published a ten-year drugs strategy in December, which presents the Government’s response to drugs.

“It will drive down supply and demand, support people through treatment and recovery, and toughen our response to criminal supply chains.

“The legalisation of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery this can cause to families and society.”

The spokesperson added that after heroin and crack cocaine, cannabis is the most common drug that results in people seeking treatment – around 27,000 people in 2020/21.

The comments come after London Mayor Sadiq Khan revealed plans for a pilot scheme that would enable 18 to 24-year-olds caught with cannabis in parts of London to avoid prosecution.

The pilot would cover three London boroughs, likely to be Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich, and instead allow anyone that’s caught to be offered courses on the dangers of drug use.

The mayor’s spokesman said Mr Khan “firmly believes that drug use, and its related crimes, are preventable and not inevitable”.

He added: “We know that we’ll never be able to simply arrest our way out of the problem, which is why we continue to work on schemes that provide young people with support and education, rather than simply putting them through the criminal justice system – with the aim of diverting them away from drug use and crime for good.”



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