I applaud the government’s decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class B illegal drug. It should never have been declassified in the first place. In so doing, they are ignoring the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which recommends that it remains Class C. I applaud this decision in my professional capacity, and also personally, as the father of four children, fearful as I am that this declassification might send out the wrong message. The fact that the Prime Minister responsible for this declassification in 2004 had smoked cannabis in his youth, but of course never inhaled, is hardly reassuring.
I listened to two of the proponents of the status quo, one speaking as a so called expert, and the other a man of God whose contribution made absolutely no sense whatsoever, so I am none the wiser. I am not remotely interested in the constituent parts of cannabis, strong, medium or mild, it completely misses the point, and I remain unimpressed by the claims from cannabis users that the drug has medicinal qualities to cure everything from ingrowing toenails to senile dementia and, for all I know, the eradication of third world poverty.
From a professional point of view, I start with a bald statement. Those addicted to hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine began their slippery slide into oblivion by experimenting with cannabis, so it is absurd to isolate the use of cannabis and treat it as irrelevant to the wider picture. Cannabis is the catalyst, not an end in itself. Any serious drug dealer will tell you, as they tell me, that cannabis is the “loss leader” in the successful pushing of street corner drugs. They all but give it away, buy one and get one free as Tesco would say, and once the cannabis user becomes an habitual user, they move on to ply their trade in hard drugs, where the real profits are to be made.
This debate is all about sending out the wrong signals. If there were no correlation between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs, then all this hand wringing by the Advisory Council might have some purpose. Treated in isolation, they might have a valid point. But they lose sight of the wood for the trees. Illicit drugs are illicit regardless of their classification. In the vast majority of cases, those using them are sad, sick, individuals who need help in making something of their sad, sick, lives, but drugs are not the answer. They are a quick fix, a palliative, and not a cure.
This debate is not how the courts should deal with drug users or dealers, that is their domain, they have adequate sentencing powers, and should use them. This debate is all about persuading potential users not to use in the first place, and that is the message that should be trumpeted from the rooftops, time and time again.
I hope the government stand by their convictions and reclassify cannabis, and if they do so, wasted lives may yet be saved.