We do need to begin by admitting what is overlooked; this country is signed up to a UN resolution that treats Cannabis as a narcotic substance alongside all the rest. So the idea that it can just be legalised is a bit of a red herring.
The decrim option would be the one any government would act upon – if only to avoid UN sanctions. Oh yes, that's the alternative. It also gives that government the option of – still – arresting people for any level of possession. So that's a win for the government.
Negatives to retaining Illegality
Police, courts and prisons have lots of work. We might have to make some of the people in these services redundant in the event of decrim, with the concomittant enormous payouts for redundancy.
Organised crime continue to make huge profits from illegality, while only the smallest fish get caught and punished. NORML (North American Organisation for the Repeal of Marijuana Legislation) estimated in the mid-90's that just the weekend market for Cannabis in the UK was worth £2-3 billion a year. Now, that has to be worth, conservatively, £3-4 billion a year. All going to organised crime gangs, and mostly, no doubt, leaving the country.
Continuing treatment of otherwise law-abiding citizens as a criminal element. This also plays into the hands of the Police, Courts and Prisons. I would like to know what percentage of prison inmates are there due to Cannabis convictions.
Third world farmers denied a real cash crop in favour of those that make little or no profit. Most farmers out in South America and Africa use cash profits to send their kids to school, so this illegality also contributes towards keeping them uneducated and in a very difficult position as regards lifting themselves out of poverty.
No controls over quality of "product" reaching users; note recent stories of Skunk being adulterated with ground glass. This appears to be quite acceptable to governments.
No tax revenue, even though this would largely not be possible under a decrim system; how do you tax what is borderline illegal?
Positives to retaining Illegality
It keeps the incidence of mental illness the same as it has always been, apparently, although the evidence to suggest that Cannabis in any form is detrimental to health is debatable and often countered by evidence to suggest that it's many chemical compounds can be beneficial to health.
General health (smoking anything is the single worse thing you can do for your health, I believe it's generally agreed) consistency.
OK, I'm sure I haven't covered all the bases there, but it's a big fuzzy picture. Now what of the positives to decrim, since we are not permitted to fully legalise?
Negatives to Decrim
Smoking is very bad for your health!
Possible greater incidence of mental health problems, although anecdotal evidence suggests that even after the introduction of much stronger hybridised versions of the original plant, incidence of mental health problems has remained constant, thereby logically arguing that decrim would make no difference.
There must be some others, but that's all I can think of.
Positives to Decrim
Take profits out of the hands of organised crime gangs – passes it on to those 3rd world farmers, giving them the means to work and educate themselves out of poverty.
Allows for quality control systems.
Ends criminalisation of thousands of people every year, with the side effects dampened or removed completely; if you work in education particularly, but also in a number of other fields, you lose your job and get a criminal record for no apparent justifiable reason – which also means you probably lose your home and in these days of Social Service interference at almost every level, probably your kids too. They don't need much excuse, let's face it.
Removes an immeasurable amount of stress from many thousands who use Cannabis, but are constantly looking over their shoulders. If you really want to know why Cannabis makes its users paranoid, it's not the drug does that; it's the stupid law that doesn't allow people to put into their own bodies what they want to.
For those wishing to grow their own at home, or those wishing to grow for commercial purposes, the Fire Service could come and issue Certificates of Safety on growlight setups – as opposed to the present, where those self-same criminal gangs will illegally tap into electrical supplies, Heath-Robinson rig up unsafe lighting systems and just grow it anyway. It's illegal, what's the big deal in stealing electricity on top?
Sufferers from Cancer, AIDS, Glaucoma and certain forms of depression – again, amongst a number of other illnesses – would at least not have to approach the criminal gangs – as they have to at the moment – and be charged a fortune for a consistent supply. It would also permit much greater medical research into the positive health benefits of Cannabis.
Industrial uses; Hemp has been used for thousands of years for a multitude of industrial and consumer products. It is said to produce better grade bioethanol than any other plant. Hemp seed makes highly nutritious feedcake for farm animals. Hemp oil has, again, anecdotal evidence for having extreme anti-cancer properties. It makes excellent quality paper and the kind of denim jeans that you can leave to your grandchildren. The US Department of Agriculture made a conscious decision during WW2 to permit the large-scale cultivation of Hemp in order to provide these and other items, not least of which is hemp rope, from where the UK county of Hampshire gets its name. It is part of our History and part of our victory over the Axis powers. This is another aspect of Cannabis that is denied and, Stalin-like, expunged from History.
Finally, how many jobs could be created? And of course, following on from that, how much money could the government rake in just by charging a nominal fee for a licence to grow, or distribute, or sell, or import, never mind the tax lost by not being permitted to legalise completely?
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Why is this idea important?
Cannabis (or Hemp, Marijuana, whatever you call it) has been used for thousands of years for a myriad of different uses. It is only comparatively recently that it was made illegal – even Queen Victoria had "Tincture of Cannabis" in her medicine cabinet and was said to use it for period pain.
Its illegality is largely based on laws introduced from other countries – most notably the USA – which are in themselves based on protectionism and racism; the only way the slaves could ever really relax was to dry and smoke the (discarded) flowers from the hemp harvest. But it was decided that that could not be allowed to continue, and in conjunction with William Randolph Hurst's Anti-Marijuana campaign culminating in "Reefer Madness" (seemingly designed to keep the price of woodpulp for newsprint high – Hurst owned thousands of acres of forest), consigned Hemp and all derivative plants to illegality.
"Intoxicant" is derived from the Latin "toxic", which means poison. I refuse to enter the debate over the toxicity of alcohol, based as it is on Ethanol, a quite toxic substance in and of itself. on top of that, the measures simply do not compare; an ounce of cannabis will last a very heavy user a month – an ounce of brandy lasts about 10 minutes, depending on how much you've spent on it. Woody Harrelson, a former chair of NORML, once quipped,"I've tried a number of times to overdose of Weed, and believe me, it just isn't possible".
The continued illegality of Cannabis is a manifestation of the power of other countries over this one, the wish of the state in general to tell the poeple of this land what they are and are not permitted to do, regardless of rationality or logic. It is kept illegal in order to keep otherwise useless individuals in highly paid jobs, spend money on pointless "rehab" treaments, provide scare headlines for the media, and to keep the profits of business high.
It is a wasteful, pointless law, serving only those with vested interests and dis-serving everyone else. A government bill to decriminalise would be a massive step along the road that Messrs Cameron and Clegg profess to follow; that of diversifying power and letting people be responsible for themselves. Otherwise this is all just window dressing – a smokescreen.
"Big Society" only counts if you're prepared to give people responsibility. Treat them like you're their Nanny and no matter what you do, you will always be seen as hypocrites, saying one thing, practising the opposite. How about this small thing (and it really is a small thing, that people will forget about before the next election), put to a YouGov referendum, to show you are listening? Or are you politicians really not bothered about whether people think you are or not?
Thank you for the opportunity though.