Nicola Sturgeon has recently announced at a meeting of SNP activists in Dundee that she supports medical cannabis. She cited the UK produced drug Sativex, that is essentially a cannabis concentrate used for treating illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, as an example of how cannabis can help people who are suffering in the UK.
She also said that she wasn’t in favour of decriminalisation of cannabis though:
“Cannabis is not a harmless substance. I am not in favour of general decriminalisation but I do think there is a specific case for medicinal use.”
This is worrying because it shows just how far drug reform still has to go in the UK. The SNP is a self styled ‘progressive’ party, yet its drug policies are still stuck years behind the rest of the world.
She is correct of course, cannabis is not harmless. We know that cannabis is much safer than alcohol or tobacco, but there are some harms that come from using cannabis in large amounts, or for those young people who have still developing brains. To suggest that cannabis should be kept illegal because of these harms misses the entire point of drug law reform. The fact that legalisation would likely reduce the harm of cannabis, rather than make any small harms any worse.
Nicola Sturgeon represents a country that has been addled by alcohol abuse, but the SNP is not calling for alcohol to be made illegal, regardless of the harms that we know alcohol causes in the thousands. The SNP also hasn’t called for the illegality of tobacco, a substance whose harms have been known for a very long time.
We know that when you reduce the criminal penalties for cannabis use, and regulate it like alcohol, you stop allowing the black market that causes most of the harm associated with cannabis. A regulated market would mean that cannabis would be just as hard to purchase for those who are underage as alcohol and tobacco.
Calling for the use of medical cannabis in the UK is a noble thing, but calling recreational cannabis harmful in the same sentence undermines the message that the way forward is drug law reform.