a  case for decriminalisation?

The UK has never experienced the “reefer madness” syndrome favoured by conservative US states, despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail newspaper. Indeed despite the official attitude that it is illegal, there is a normalisation of cannabis use which means that it is enjoyed by people in all walks of life.

Nevertheless, despite a brief sojourn back at the beginning of the century (yes a decade ago) when possession of cannabis was downgraded to a class C offence smoking weed remains a criminal offence in the UK. .. As it does for most of the world. Even in areas where medical use is allowed, recreational use is frowned upon.

But in the mean time the sad case continues where cannabis use can get you prosecuted. And its easy to forget when so many indulge that what seems “Norml” can have  devastating effect. If caught and prosecuted  its not simply a slap on the wrist from the old bill, an adult version of being sent to the Headmasters Office, its a criminal record. Instantly your travel destinations are limited, the jobs available to you restricted. Just the same as if you mugged old ladies or robbed the corner shop, the intention to peacefully smoke a few joints with friends bars you from working with children, going to Disneyland and a multitude of other life choices ..

For one young man, being caught with 50p of marijuana and the ensuing court appearance was too much. Head boy of his school, about to travel to the US with a national school sports team, he saw the end of all he had worked so hard towards. With the experience of years, many of us can realise that the loss of these teenage dreams need not have meant the end of everything, but to his inexperienced viewpoint of the world it was. Sadly he killed himself.

The bitter twists to this tale: that as a 17 year old, his case should have been handled differently, the timing of the inquest that came after the US began moves towards recreational marijuana use, only sour this sad story further. No doubt the tabloid newspapers that insist on promoting cannabis as the gateway drug that it is not, portrayed this story as another example of a young life lost to drugs. Well it wasn’t. It was a young life lost to a repressive society that is still at odds with the reality of the number of doctors, solicitors and teachers who indulge in harmless recreation at the weekends with no ill effects.

Colorado and Washington, we in the UK are watching you! More so than Switzerland or Portugal, we closely imitate what happens in the US. Don’t make mistakes on this one. Lives, hopes and futures depend on you to get it right.



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