Recently (7/9/17) there was a meeting held at The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the purpose of which was to push, once again, for access to medical cannabis. There were supposed to be a number of “key people” representing the Scottish Government in attendance, but in the event none of them bothered to turn up. Not that this matters much, as the organisers of the event seem convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the politicians either do the right thing voluntarily (unlikely), or are forced to do so purely on the basis of overwhelming public support.
It’s infuriating, though, that everyone seems to still be hung up on two points, both of which could potentially be problematic. Firstly, the general call appears to be for decriminalisation of cannabis, and secondly, they are focussed upon medical users only.
Without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade here, this is a very short-sighted way of doing. Anyone familiar with my writing in Soft Secrets over the years will be aware that I regard decriminalisation as a neither-one-thing-nor-the-other compromise: it’s not strictly illegal, but it’s not strictly legal either, and this just won’t do. Anything short of legalisation isn’t enough. Until there is an absolute change in the law, then “turning a blind eye to it” (which is what decriminalisation basically boils down to) is what we’re left with, and this will only continue to happen for as long as it suits the whims of whoever happens to be running The Lord Advocate’s Office or Police Scotland at any given time. We get a pragmatist, then fine. We get, say, a Christian fundamentalist or some other sort of morally driven busybody (not beyond the realms of possibility, let’s be honest) then the whole thing comes crashing down.
The second point about medical users is a tricky one to talk about without appearing totally heartless. However, there are real concerns here as well, so let’s give this a good shake. I should say that I completely endorse the use of medical cannabis: it has proven efficacy with a number of conditions, with more uses emerging almost on a weekly basis. So what’s the problem?
Well, since you ask, there are a couple of problems.
Firstly, aiming everything at a such a – frankly – narrow outcome as the medicalisation of cannabis will more than likely mean prescribed pharmaceutical grade cannabis extracts only (meaning that growing and cultivation of the cannabis plant for personal use will continue to be prohibited), basically throwing the door wide open to the full involvement of the pharmaceutical industry. This leads nicely into the second potential problem, which is to say…
…where does this leave all the recreational cannabis users? The answer to this has to be “exactly where they currently are”, meaning criminals in the eyes of the law.
It really does seem that the whole matter is being approached the wrong way round. Medical users should be regarded as a subset of users per se. This would mean is that cannabis would be legal for everyone who wants it (with the usual age caveats etc), and if it so happens that it has beneficial health effects, then so much the better.
Of course, a pretty good case could be made for all use being medical to some extent: a means of unwinding and relaxing; a social facilitator; a sleep aid; an appetite enhancer; an all-round (for most people) pleasurable thing to do, that’s safer than booze, pills or anything else one could mention.
When the government are forced into seriously looking at the whole matter of cannabis, let’s set the aims as wide as possible, as setting them too narrowly will set us up for a whole lot of problems. In the meantime, be careful what you wish for.
This column is in memory of HDS (1926-2017)
Dr John Dee