Why we must legalise cannabis now for the sake of public health

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Next week, Canada will become the first G7 country to vote to legalize and regulate cannabis.

Joins Uruguay and nine US states UU., And probably will follow New Zealand, which will have a referendum on the legalization of cannabis in the next three years.

Politicians around the world are awakening to the benefits of regulated cannabis markets to protect their citizens and improve public health.

Therefore, there are also many voices here in the United Kingdom. The British Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, the Royal Society of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians have conducted a public health study to reform our drug laws.

However, the government is sadly behind, clinging to a failed model focused on criminalization, which puts people’s health at risk. It is time for politicians from the main parties to carry out this public health challenge, as they have done with alcohol and tobacco.

The evidence is clear: the prohibition does not work. Last year, 2.1 million people between the ages of 16 and 59 in England and Wales used cannabis. In an unregulated market, they have little idea of ​​its content or strength.

Successive studies this year, conducted by the drug policy laboratory Volte Face and by Dr. Marta di Forti at King’s College in London, show that an illicit market left in the hands of criminal gangs is driving power and toxicity.

The only way to control this problem and protect young people is to explore ideas for a regulated market. Only then can we restrict who can buy it and what they can buy, and provide genuine public health information about the risks associated with cannabis.

As things stand, the only people who benefit from a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis are violent gangs and international drug cartels.

A regulated cannabis market would also raise vital funds for the NHS: £ 1bn annually to a conservative estimate, and possibly much more.

The new Health Poverty Action report highlights cannabis as an untapped stream of income for the NHS, calculating that this would pay for each midwife in England, with surplus money to finance drug education, harm reduction and mental health services.

Earlier this year, I visited the state of Washington, where I saw first-hand how tight the regulation can work. The Liquor and Cannabis Board, the state regulator, combines strict age limits and health warnings on all containers with public health awareness campaigns in schools, on social networks and on billboards throughout the state.

Since the legalization of the drug in 2014, the state of Washington has taken $ 1bn in tax revenues, almost 80% of which is committed to its health and judicial systems. Opioid dependence has decreased throughout the state, child cannabis use has declined, and Washington state police can now focus on eliminating remnants of the black market.

The first step for the United Kingdom would be to shift responsibility for drug policy to the Department of Health and Welfare. We could establish a panel of experts to develop the most effective model for a regulated market and design a cannabis regulatory authority to implement it.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also increasingly popular from a political point of view: 53% of people support decriminalization or legal regulation, with larger majorities among young voters. Politicians of all kinds can afford to be courageous on this issue, backed by evidence.

While governments continue to ignore the large body of evidence from medical professionals, health experts, drug experts, law enforcement officials and development organizations in order to pursue a failed policy, criminal gangs have exploited the trade of cannabis for too long. It’s time to regain control.