Thursday, 10 May 2012

Be careful what you wish for

Over the years, a lot of effort has been put in, so far without success, by those campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis. In principle I have some sympathy with this, but to my mind they are likely to alienate many potential supporters who are not themselves cannabis users by using the claim that alcohol is more harmful than cannabis as one of the key planks of their argument.

In recent years they have tended to move away from the libertarian view that it is adults’ own business what they drink or smoke, to the approach of “harm reduction”, saying that legalisation would ensure quality of supply and take the business out of the hands of criminals. The licensing and control regimes applying to alcohol and tobacco are often given as examples of how cannabis should be regulated.

But, given the current official line towards tobacco, is that something they would really hanker after? It’s taxed to buggery, you can’t consume it in indoor public places, you can’t even put containers on view in retail outlets, it is the subject of constant heavy-handed health campaigns and its users are vilified as smelly scum unable to master their own cravings. A trip to ASDA to buy some fags is now not entirely unlike inspecting the contents of the dealer’s clandestine stash.

Legalisation would give employers, insurers and health professionals a green light to discriminate against cannabis users in a way that is impossible while it remains illegal. And, if taxation was anything like that applying to tobacco, the black market would not go away, and the problems of adulterated supply and criminal racketeering would still be with us. Legalisation would also make it easier for illicit traders to go about their business, as mere possession would no longer be an offence.

In practice, is it perhaps better kept illegal, untaxed and under the radar? And might legalisation, regulation and taxation take away some of the frisson of using it in the first place?

10 comments:

  1. I think David Nutt would be happy to see alcohol and tobacco use criminalised and everything else legalised, with the possible exception of heroin. He might change his tune if this ever came to pass, admittedly.

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  2. Have a look on Amazon; there is no shortage of informative books on growing cannabis. My view is that if it were legal and socially acceptable home-grown would dominate more than a highly taxed, highly processed product. Far from a black market, your average amateur horticulturist gives his surplus away to friends, not sell it. You can’t sell a few more bowls of strawberries than you need, you give them away. There is a law of unintended consequences. The sales of Pringles would rocket.

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  3. "My view is that if it were legal and socially acceptable home-grown would dominate more than a highly taxed, highly processed product."
    Not sure if I agree with you on that one Cooking. Home brewing is hardley widespread and booze is still (thankfully) socially acceptable. Tobacco is easier to grow than cannabis (eg it does not require expensive lighting ) and very highly taxed but home growing is rare. Most people prefering to buy manufactured/legal/black market and the laffer curve applies.

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  4. Within the book I read, though it was a few years ago and I could be wrong Fred, the lighting affects whether the plant is male or female, in other terms whether it is for propagation or cultivation. The need to keep your mini farm away from prying eyes is the reason people don't put it in a green house, next to a tomato plant.

    Though homebrew can be pretty decent, many consider the commercial stuff a superior product. The reverse is true of homegrown. It is better untreated and of a single variety. Commercial tobacco is blended and treated and probably better for it.

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  5. Yup, point taken about the lighting.
    And the post processing is some what simpler than the post processing for hops etc. You may well be right Cooking.

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  6. A couple of points. It appears to me that some people, hoping that a positive test will apply to cannabis smoked days ago, are using the proposal to test drivers for drugs as a backdoor method of introducing draconian penalties for ilegal drug use. Legalising cannabis would mean it would have to be treated in the same way as prescription drugs. As half the country now seems to be dependant on sleeping pills and happy pills, (some of which which probably impair driving), it is unlikely that that cannabis could then be singled out.
    Secondly, yes, the Goverment would try and tax it to Hell, but the home growing industry is now so well developed that this would be futile. The Government cannot tax plant leaves. It would be like slapping a couple of quid tax on cabbages.

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  7. No doubt the government would require you to pay for a licence for growing your own. And if you sold it to anyone else, it would be taxable, just as homebrew is in theory.

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  8. Alcohol is more harmful than cannabis. This is fact. Cannabis is usually mixed with tobacco which makes it's use more harmful, but there is no fatal does of cannabis, whereas there is for both tobacco and alcohol. This is not to suggest that cannabis doesn't have it's own social and psychological issues involved, but it's medical benefits compared to drawbacks are clearly documented.

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  9. At high doses, the potential for harm from alcohol may be greater than that from cannabis. However, I'd lay money that if the same proportion of the population were regular, moderate cannabis users as are alcohol consumers, society as a whole would function a lot less efficiently.

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  10. While I am a great supporter of the beauty and benefit of alcohol, it certainly does cost a lot in terms of society. Drink driving, public drunkenness tipping over to disorder and violence, and of course the health issues. Not to mention the amount of days called in sick due to hangovers. I'm not saying that cannabis doesn't have it's own issues and implications, but it doesn't make some areas a no-go area on the weekends.

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