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Green light for weed?

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The issue of cannabis always provokes strong reaction for audiences to Radio 1 and its urban music sister station 1Xtra.

Radio 1 logoIt's certainly true that younger audiences have a more tolerant attitude to the drug than a succession of governments: they are, after all, much more likely to be users - but beyond that generalisation, the detail of the argument is fascinating and illuminating. That's why we're spending this week focusing on the arguments for and against the re-classification, as well as the health issues - myths and facts.

Rich from Wakefield texted 1Xtra to say he started on ganga when he was eight. But added: "Gave up for 2 years and started again, still smoking it and I'm fine." Over on Radio 1 another texter said: "I've been smoking green for 4 years now and I also know lots of people who have been smoking cannabis for 10 years...none of us has experienced any problems with our body and brain." Others contacted us to say that alcohol is far more harmful.

So our audience thinks it's harmless and are all for legalisation? Er, no.

Man smoking a cannabis jointOn 1Xtra: "I think weed is pretty bad cos I was getting panic attacks and I cudnt even get on bus. My boyfriend has panic attacks 2." Others said they'd developed schizophrenia and depression, lost friends and split from partners because of their use.

Students claimed their studies and grades had been affected and that social lives had been damaged. Many blamed strong weed, skunk, for the problems. Memory loss, mood swings and loss of confidence were also blamed on green.

"I work in a homeless hostel and would say a quarter of our cannabis users have drug-induced psychosis. The other three-quarters suffer from depression which results in lack of motivation" (to work). Another user added: "I also had a friend who committed suicide due to paranoid schizophrenia which we believe was caused by cannabis."

But on the other hand back on 1Xtra: "I'm 25 I pay my rent, my bills, my child maintenance, if after a day at work I want 2 have a smoke I don't feel any1 is in a position to tell me otherwise."

So cannabis and schizophrenia. Is there a link? The government's top drug advisor, Professor David Nutt, told Newsbeat evidence is building to prove there is. But he reckons the risk is small - and alcohol can be just as damaging.

Marc Middlebrook, 27, was sentenced to life imprisonment last year for stabbing his girlfriend Stevie Barton to death because he believed she was part of a plot to kill him. The court heard that he had made his mental problems worse by "stubbornly" continuing to smoke cannabis after doctors told him to stop.

Newsbeat spoke to Stevie's mother Jackie, a former psychiatric nurse. She said she doesn't blame the drug for her daughter's death.

"I always say cannabis didn't kill my daughter, Marc did," she said. "I know lots of people - doctors, professionals, nurses - who have smoked cannabis for years and do not commit crimes." It's no good standing there wagging your finger and saying this is wrong. People need to be able to know the facts and there is a lot of information and counter-information around cannabis use at this time."

And if you want to join in, you could even do our online questionnaire.

Rod McKenzie is editor of Newsbeat and 1Xtra News.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Reclassification is unnecessary and unlikely to create any benefits to the UK population. We all know that prohibition increases the level of consumption. I recall a police officer stating that the Gov't have not given the police any more money to help with reclassification, so it's unlikely anything will change. I'm hoping they just continue to turn a blind eye, because they know cannabis isn't a cause of crime.

    A 1 in 5,000 chance is not going to stop anyone from trying cannabis.

    If it were legalised, then at least we could get quality control and more than likely, a reduced consumption rate in young adults.

  • Comment number 2.

    The government seem unwilling to tackle this issue. Instead all they care about is pandering to the ignorant masses of middle england.

    If you clamp down on cannabis you create is a situation where it is more expensive, stronger and more potentially dangerous.

    Supply remains the same and demand remains the same.

    You also potentially criminalise people who have done nothing wrong.

    The majority of weed smokers hold down jobs and live like anyone else. Just like with alcohol.

    Its actually discrimination based on ignorance and it is no coincidence that those most likely to be anti weed are likely to be racists.

  • Comment number 3.

    The question over the relative harm of cannabis and alcohol has been going on for as long as anyone can remember (short to medium term memory loss anyone?). Expert pundits have oscillated between cannabis being a dangerous mind-rotter and harmless fun for years. Who is one to believe? Some will hold that it is harmless fun while others, possibly after crashing their car on the way home from the boozy golf club summer ball, will maintain that it is the root of all social evil. Mix into this the universal puritanical worry that "somewhere, someone may be having fun" and you have a lively and endless debate.

    It seems that so many studies seem to overlook...or simply cannot measure and quantify the the one factor that is painfully apparant to anyone who doesn't stay indoors with the curtains drawn, reading the Daily Express. Psychoactive stimulants affect different people in different ways. Just as one person can drink 8 pints of beer and remain the lucid life and soul of the party, another may become angry and aggressive. Similarly, one cannabis smoker may on the whole become mellow and chilled, another may become agitated, paranoid and want to eat the contents of the larder. It even varies with different types of drink or weed affecting the same person in different ways...how many times do you hear people say that they avoid whisky because it makes them depressed?

    Unlike our politicians I did smoke, and inhale quite a lot of cannabis when I was a student...even quite strong stuff. My verdict then? In the end I concluded that I didn't like it. I'm the type of person who more often than not did end up paranoid, agitated and eating dry Rice Krispies. This worried me because it was clearly very uncool but I realised later that I was simply one of the people for whom cannabis doesn't work. Had I continued? Well I have no evidence but my own gut instinct but I think that I would have been in trouble. As it is I have suffered with depression on and off for years but who knows which came first.

    What of my friends who toked happily away long after the allowed period of student irresponsibility? Well nobody descended into hard drugs, crime or severe mental illness. They're all still alive and seemingly happy. My one observation is that the cannabis smokers have all settled for much less in life than the non-smokers. They're generally in much lower paid employment and have settled for a comparatively narrow life. That's their choice and it's OK...but it's my observation for others to make what they wish of!

    I think that this question will only be resolved when we understand why it is that the same stimulant can affect people in different ways. This way we stop trading absolutes with one another and actually identify those at heightened risk from adverse affects from something that others find enjoyable. After all, it's far better to be quietly warned that it may not be for you rather than spend your time worrying about uncool?

  • Comment number 4.

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  • Comment number 5.

    Freemasons, judges and lawyers are masters at tying up people in court over these type of issues

    I should remind you again of article 8 of the EcoHR which our beloved ex-weed smoking home secretary is currently reviewing over UK's breach for DNA data to be held for innocents

    ARTICLE 8

    Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
    There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

  • Comment number 6.

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  • Comment number 8.

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  • Comment number 9.

    I think the first thing that needs to happen is a clear and sensible government policy on the issue. When it's being upgraded to class B on the one hand while on the other sites such as [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] are selling seeds and paraphanalia what messages are we supposed to take from that?

  • Comment number 10.

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  • Comment number 11.

    I do now think that Skunk use and psychotic disorders are correlated, particularly for those with a pre-disposition for schizophrenia or a family history of mental health problems, especially if they start smoking in their teens.

    If you are a long time smoker (I used to be too) and your family has no such history then you're probably OK; but you also will know that all drugs cause changes in behaviour, mood, thinking etc. As with alcoholism, just because you're not prone doesn't mean no-one is.

    When I first came across this I also disbelieved it. But having looked at a lot of the sites (for and against) I do now think that skunk use and psychotic disorders are correlated, particularly for those with a pre-disposition for schizophrenia or a family history of mental health problems, especially if they start smoking in their teens.

    I also have noticed that several people I know that smoke throughout their day, do become more argumentative and belligerent as the day goes on; that didn't used to be the case with the 'old' resin.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think it's "ganja", not "ganga", by the way!

  • Comment number 13.

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  • Comment number 14.

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  • Comment number 15.

    #3 Anglophone

    Can cannabis 'cause' depression?
    (Your post caused a bleeding heart.)

    As far as having a marked cause and effect, I don't think so.

    Depression in my view is very often the price paid for a brilliant mind.

    In that way, it is inherited, and no one's fault.

    It will be triggered in my observations by a combination of circumstances that, in their conspiring, prevent the genius (commonly) from not being deluded into feeling a situation has become beyond their grasp, leading to experience of feeling out of control, worthless and so on downward - in my view.

    Cannabis may contribute to this and depending on the other factors, may or may not make them more or less likely to create the same effect, but it cannot be a uniquely contributing factor, in my opinion.

    So, I'm in agreement it will depend on the person involved as to the outcome, but the vulnerability to depression, whether still symptomless or otherwise, I feel would have been there all along.

    This is how I see it and is not meant to dictate a reflection in your own definitions. But I would appoint no self criticism (or guilt, remorse etc.) to the fact you did once use cannabis. You might have had a different picture at the end, but the theme I believe would have been just the same.

    I hope this post did not attempt to patronise.

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  • Comment number 17.

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  • Comment number 18.

    i may have smoked weed and cannabis for over 15 years(depends on who's asking), i'd like to know where J smith a G Brown get their weed from as mine hasn't been getting stronger over the years quite the opposite in fact. It's the availability that's gone up, when i was 16 an eighth of weed would cost anything between 25-35 pound and was rarely available, now its 15-25 and as widely available as cannabis, but still not as strong as 15 years ago. More spin and more uneducated puritan rubbish from the labour/cons party (both say the same thing), what are the ACMD paid public taxpayers money for if the educated and scientific based evidence is disregarded by our wasteful Gov.? I for one am an intelligent adult able to make up my own mind what is harmful, and will carry on doing what i do, but i wont be voting for the equally harmful labour or cons parties.

  • Comment number 19.

    Decriminalise all drugs and sell them freely over the counter in pharmacies. This would get rid of the drug dealers, the crime that accompanies the drug trade, do away with the need for thousands of drug councellors and social workers, and eventually would kill off most of the drug addicts who blight this country and drain the resources of the health service and local authorities.

  • Comment number 20.

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  • Comment number 21.

    Even if it were proved beyond reasonable doubt that cannabis per se is completely benign (and it isn't; there will always be somebody who is affected adversely by anything), nothing will change as long as politicians are in charge.

    The entire political process has been poisoned by years of Tory and Labour misrule. If a politician told the truth, nobody would believe them anyway. Reality is no longer important anymore; the only thing that counts today is people's perception.

    Still, given the way things are going, dope production will have diminished appreciably in ten years' time or so. People will be using hydroponics and powerful electric lights to grow potatoes and sunflowers -- because chips will have been banned!

  • Comment number 22.

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  • Comment number 23.

    "Decriminalise all drugs and sell them freely over the counter in pharmacies. This would get rid of the drug dealers, the crime that accompanies the drug trade, do away with the need for thousands of drug councellors and social workers, and eventually would kill off most of the drug addicts." kaybraes # 19

    Whaa? So how does this work?
    Drug addicts would still steal to buy the drugs (a definition of addiction is you need and want more), dealers would try and undercut the pharmacies (presumably unlicensed dealing would still be a criminal offence – not paying tax etc) or introduce new drugs; addicts would remain addicts (just as alcoholics still exist when alcohol is legal) and if the drugs the pharmacies sell were more pure, then there's there less chance of addicts dying from, say, heroin cut with bleach, dirty needles etc.

    That's the opposite of what your saying.

  • Comment number 24.

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  • Comment number 25.

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  • Comment number 26.

    23. SheffTim

    you must be thinking about hard drugs
    the more they get the more they want

    that's why the government provide methadone (heroin substitutes) on prescription

  • Comment number 27.

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  • Comment number 28.

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  • Comment number 29.

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  • Comment number 30.

    If skunk is the problem because the hash sure isn't then why not legalise hash, leave weed decriminalised.

  • Comment number 31.

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  • Comment number 32.

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  • Comment number 37.

    Well here's the perfect answer for Brits. Donate your weed to the Gazans. It won't make their plight any better but it will take their minds off their problems :-) I wonder if DEC will accept donations of pot and if it would ever get to Gaza...or would they smoke it all up themselves?

  • Comment number 38.

    you must be thinking about hard drugs
    the more they get the more they want
    kikidread #26

    But kikidread, you said "Decriminalise all drugs and sell them freely."
    If you mean all drugs then that has to include heroin, crack and Crystal Meth as well. I'm just looking at your argument.
    And there are people that don't just use weed now an and again, but smoke it every day; that essentially is an addiction, especially when all your money goes on it.

    BTW. Are you also posting as happylaze now?
    Maybe stand back and let others have a say, a lot of people use these comment boards.

  • Comment number 39.

    "cuckoodread"

    My word, you are a brilliant advert for not taking drugs - homicide!!

  • Comment number 40.

    "I'm 25 I pay my rent, my bills, my child maintenance, if after a day at work I want 2 have a smoke I don't feel any1 is in a position to tell me otherwise"

    - Smoking cannabis seems to mean you lose the ability to write out words in full, judging by the examples given to 1Xtra.

    'I pay my child maintenance'

    -This made me laugh. Do you want a medal?

  • Comment number 41.

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  • Comment number 42.

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  • Comment number 43.

    SheffTim hear me out.

    i have smoked for many years, had a job(currently self employed for many years, had a mortgage for many years and good health for many years.

    Cannabis like pretty much everything else in life must be taken in moderation.Legalisation of cannabis and other substances has many benefits for both the user and the greater non using public.

    Selling cannabis over the counter at the chemist would put dealers out of business overnight they just could not compete on price with the highstreet.Dealers are supposed(altho not in my experince) to be the bad man teasing the user of the 'gateway drug' into a world of all manner of evil.Would putting the dealer out of business be a bad thing.I wonder how much this would save police forces up and down the country?

    Would it be a bad thing for a user to have to show up in front of a chemist to get their fix?Surely they would be more likely to be caught by the system if their health was at risk.

    Its alleged drug use contributes to terrorism,well the high street will probably still do business with Israel,but if legal the user will not be contributing to al-queada or whoever the bogeyman is.

    Although i admit i am probably biassed on this i cannot think of one good reason for the current laws on cannibis.

  • Comment number 44.

    Fact is we are all different and what works for one person may be the Devil for someone else. So do you criminalize those who think they get a benefit from cannabis to protect those who do not? And if you do protect those who will be harmed then why are those same protections not in place for almost every drug we know about including caffeine?

    For every person whose life is destroyed by drug abuse just how many manage to integrate their drug taking and live normal lives? Why have certain drugs been selected out as "more harmful" than others, when alcohol survives (rightly so) as being the responsibility of the user?

    We really do need to rethink our attitude to people's freedoms.

  • Comment number 45.

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  • Comment number 46.

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  • Comment number 47.

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  • Comment number 48.

    #47

    I have often wondered what it must be like to be a complete ignoramus so perhaps MA2 you can enlighten me?

    But, for the record, I am not a user of cannabis, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, or even caffeine; but I do like my chocolate. Well spotted Mr MA2.....

  • Comment number 49.

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  • Comment number 50.

    What I can't stand about this debate is the lack of facts and quantitive research. We have a group who the government appoints to actually carry out research but their findings (that it should remain class C) have been totally ignored in favour of the US politics style "taking a stance" approach.

    This drift towards "rhetoric" based politics rather than reasoned based politics is a dangerous one in my opinion. Ignoring science and informed opinion in favour of doing what will likely get the most votes, may make sense for political parties, but it does no good for the country as a whole.

    For example, in this debate, the government say they've based their decision because cannabis is supposedly stronger these days, with only anecdotal claims to back up that research. Several studies have concluded the strength hasn't increased.

    Ignoring science in favour of popular opinion is bascially a form of mob rule and something governments should strive to avoid.

  • Comment number 51.

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  • Comment number 52.

    Is it really surprising that a bunch of drug users think using drugs is OK?

    We could have another phone-in asking burglars if burglary should be legalised.



  • Comment number 53.

    43. "Selling cannabis over the counter at the chemist would put dealers out of business overnight they just could not compete on price with the highstreet"

    I've never understood that argument.

    Obviously cannabis bought legally in a shop would have tax on it, cannabis bought illegally would not.

    Same with cigarettes: legal shops just can't compete with the illegal importers on price.

  • Comment number 54.

    43. "Selling cannabis over the counter at the chemist would put dealers out of business overnight they just could not compete on price with the highstreet"

    There will always be a black market for people that are under age. For whom illegal drug dealers selling pot will still probably exist but in massively reduced numbers.

    Personally, I'm sick to death of drug dealers. I'd rather buy it from a shop. It may cost more due to the tax but I'm happy to pay for quality control and the knowledge that what I'm buying is actually what I want whether it be some hashish or strong skunk. For people like me, the casual older (18+) smoker, it would make a lot more sense to buy it legally.

    With regards to pot being a 'gateway drug' - It's probably true. However, just becuase you smoke pot one day does not mean you're going to go and smoke some crack the next.

    The problem is that the Gov't send out a message that pot is horrendously dangerous, and when kids try it they think, 'well this aint so bad, lets try other drugs'. This is what happens, I've been through it but never ended up doing heroin thanks to thing called common sense. Decriminalised marijuana would remove this 'they were lying about pot so...' mentality, probably stopping many kids trying other harder, drugs

  • Comment number 55.

    Not really much point in having a blog if you moderate out two-thirds of the contributions is there?

    Has everyone descended into racist profanities or are you just being a wee bit timid here?

  • Comment number 56.

    #53

    1. Dried herbs (which is what cannabis essentially is similar to) sell for a couple of pounds (including tax), a price that bears no comparison to what a dealer would wish to obtain. Resin grades would be more expensive but still be competitive with dealer values.

    2. The vast majority of cigarettes smoked in the UK (by over nine to one) are purchased from UK supermarkets etc.

    3. A part of the intrigue of cannabis has been its illegality (which it shares with getting to see an "18" movie before you are old enough etc). Take the illegality away and many potential users will not even bother to try it. It is also potentially a gateway drug to tobacco which is cheaper and easier to obtain. It may also be socially more acceptable than tobacco on its own which is quite remarkable.

  • Comment number 57.

    53. At 11:12am on 29 Jan 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    "43. "Selling cannabis over the counter at the chemist would put dealers out of business overnight they just could not compete on price with the highstreet"

    I've never understood that argument.

    Obviously cannabis bought legally in a shop would have tax on it, cannabis bought illegally would not.

    Same with cigarettes: legal shops just can't compete with the illegal importers on price."


    There would be tax, but if someone like Greene King moved in to the market, they would have massive economies of scale over the illegal importers. They would also be far more convenient and not carry the risk of getting arrested.

    It would be no more of a problem than people bringing in alcohol without paying the duty on it. We don't use that argument to justify alcohol prohibition as it would be criminalizing the end user to respond to tax avoidance by the people in the supply chain.

  • Comment number 58.

    Strange if those that think that pot is OK should not be allowed to voice their unabusive comments here.

    Why ask a question if you will not let those with experience speak, or post.
    I am not KIKI but think it if you like, seems paranoid to me.

    The most paranoid persons around are those that think we are all doomed to be run over by and destroyed by Islam.

    But they have voice all over the BBC.

    I would be really Keen to find out why my posts are removed.

    "encouraging illegal" bull.

    how can this be debated when only those in opposition are allowed to post?

    this is no debate.
    this is no conversation , just another excuse to pretend that the BBC is not run by old duffers who know nothing. Same as the country.

  • Comment number 59.

    55. At 1:25pm on 29 Jan 2009, Anglophone wrote:
    Not really much point in having a blog if you moderate out two-thirds of the contributions is there?

    Has everyone descended into racist profanities or are you just being a wee bit timid here?
    ------------------------
    Apparently discussing illegal pot is against the house rules.

    time wasters. I am sending a bill to the BBC for my time.
    ;)

  • Comment number 60.

    Sure a few low level dealers will still exist probably skimming a bit of the top on a ten bag bought from the chemist.

    The average dealer i have met is young 20's,lives at home with mum and dad and drives a rusty nova.He knows a bloke who can score a few ounces from another mate etc.They all make a few bob.It trickles down from the bulk growers and importers.

    Its these importers and growers who will go out of business they just wont have a financial incentive.Little boats,shortterm rents and consumer electric is no match for legal production.

    The government can slap a ridiculous tax on sales but i would have thought they would have enough sense not to if they were taking a decision to legalise.It would make the whole exercise pointless.

    I still cannot think of one good reason.

  • Comment number 61.

    #58

    Although I am not a user of any recreational or illegal drugs I sympathise with your feelings.
    There is little doubt that moderators have very quick hands when it comes to removing posts that don't tie in with BBC-speak.

    And this debate should be on the central problem which is that if you are never going to eliminate use of certain drugs what should you do? I really cannot understand why the law is not simplified in such a way that the criminal supply chain is thwarted. The vast majority of people do not binge drink nor do they become alcoholics. Both of these problems may not even be related to alcohol per se but rather to social problems that plague certain people and drive them to use drink as an "escape". Trying to deal with a symptom has never been known to cure a disease.

    My own experiences with cannabis smokers have never impinged on my relationships with them nor have I ever considered cannabis as "changing" their personalities. What it is front of us in any relationship is the person we are relating to, a mixture of every good, bad or indifferent thing that ever happened to them (and us). To try to tag a person because they smoke pot is as silly as tagging them because they like eating pickled onions. None of us (thank goodness) is inside the head of someone else and we need to be very much less judgmental about others if we want to have a good life ourselves.

    The problems with illegal substance abuse lay in the supply chain, where addicts are forced into criminal activity to fuel their addiction. Rounding up dealers does not even get close to the suppliers. Cut out the criminality and you have moved someway to making drug taking a social rather than a criminal problem just as alcohol abuse is. By spending the money saved on attempting to "police" drug supply you could even offer a half way decent support to those wishing to kick their habit.

  • Comment number 62.

    Kikidread (#5),

    The problem with Article 8 is that there are so many exemptions that it's basically useless. I remember trying to argue that social workers wading into homes and taking away children for being 'too fat' (or preventing parents from adopting on the same basis) was contrary to the 'right to a family life' - except it falls down on the 'health' justification. Mass surveillance of email and other 'correspondence'? National security, innit. The right of protest? Well that could be defined as a threat to public safety. After all, it only takes one government officer now to make such a pronouncement, and then it's your word against theirs. And so it goes on. Lots of money for the lawyers, no real benefit to the citizen facing an increasingly intrusive and domineering state apparatus.

    As something of a libertarian I believe that what we put into our bodies is our business, and the cost to the NHS is no justification because as originally conceived it was a system based on the sharing of risk. Prohibition, whether of 'unhealthy' foods, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, pornography, whatever, just makes the proscribed item more attractive to those with a tendency to rail against 'the system' (and when that system is increasingly viewed as illegitimate, that's a lot of people).

    If skunk is the problem, then ensure that companies producing legal weed for recreational use adjust the strength accordingly. No doubt people will go on dealing it even when it's freely sold, but fewer kids will be tempted by their dealer to 'try something stronger' if they don't have a dealer in the first place. Those that are getting into difficulties can seek help safe in the knowledge they won't be criminalised, or their peers and family can do it for them without risk of bringing a counter-productive arrest and sanctions down on their head. And ultimately, if you make something *too* difficult to obtain the kids will find something easier, cheaper, whatever.

    In many parts of the US alcohol is talked about in hushed tones as though it is something evil and dirty, available only at great cost through state-run liquor stores. The result of this is that instead of getting blitzed on White Lightning like UK teens, most American kids have moved onto weed or even stronger drugs by their mid-teens, because they're actually easier to get hold of. Governments love social engineering but never seem to quite appreciate the nuances of dealing with real people who aren't just numbers on a statistics sheet. Never mind that despite the increasingly moralistic tone of their language (you'd think it was 1993 and 'Back to Basics' all over again) it is not the job of the State to pass judgment on individuals or their lifestyle choices.

  • Comment number 63.

    what a rubbish item...drugs are bad for both the individual and society so all this semi approval is a nonsense that should be stamped out by the inefficient moguls at the BBC

  • Comment number 64.

    this is better than the uk

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 65.

    Interesting debate on whether unlawful dealers would still exist if weed could be sold legally.

    Tobacco is sold legally, but the unregulated trade is huge and growing. Some of the people now smuggling and distributing cigarettes used to be drug dealers - they switched to cigarette smuggling because there was more money and less risk/sentence.

    Surely the same thing would happen with cannabis - how can a shop paying duty/VAT/business rates etc compete with the lad in the rusty nova who pays no tax?

    If the tobacco model was repeated we would just have the illegal dealers we already have + some new illegal dealers + the 'straight' people buying from shops.

  • Comment number 66.

    If the Gov't put so much tax on cannabis that it was totally unaffordable to anyone, then the 'lad in the rusty nova' would still exist. I agree with #60 - as too much tax, applied as a deterent would totally render decriminalisation pointless.

    If you look at the Netherlands, they have a big with street dealers selling everything that isn't legal (if you've been to Amsterdam, you will know). But anyone buying cannabis will always go to a licensed retailer and not the 'kid in a nova'.

    Is there any reason why it wouldn't be the same in this country?

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  • Comment number 68.

  • Comment number 69.

    All the evidence is starting to suggest that cannabis does cause all sorts of mental health issues. The dreadful impact of alcohol on physical and mental health is of course well known. So what do people, like me, who want something to get a bit high on and unwind do? Well there is a drug that so closely mimics substances that occur naturally in the body that it does virtually no physical harm at all. And far from causing bouts of paranoia or permanent mental illnesses it actually alleviates their symptoms. This wonder drug doesn’t cause the munchies either - in fact it can help you lose weight.The name of this miracle drug is heroin. Sure if you take heroin on a daily basis for months on end you will become addicted - just like alcohol. Heroin withdrawal is of course unpleasant but nowhere near as bad as other drugs like alcohol - the withdrawal from which can be fatal. If there is one drug that has been unfairly demonised its heroin not cannabis. They should ban cannabis (and alcohol) and legalise heroin.

  • Comment number 70.

    #65

    The problem with your argument Jon is that you are not comparing like with like.

    Cigarettes in the UK attract a huge tax hike completely out of step with other taxed items (even petrol). This is because tobacco has been stigmatised by Government Health Officials for as long as I can remember and yet is available in Europe and elsewhere at a much more realistic price.

    Even the arguments against tobacco in the UK are liberally sprinkled with make believe "facts" unsupported by many leading researchers including the WHO. In Asians countries where smoking is considerably heavier than in the UK the morbidity patterns from so called "tobacco related diseases" show an extraordinary and marked difference from the UK. So are our statistics tainted because medics are looking for something and not being objective? And if is true for tobacco is it also true for other drugs?

    As Richie says in #69 it is our responsibility what we put into our bodies not a mandarin in an ivory tower and it is not the mandarin's role to tax something disproportionately simply because it is considered a soft target.

    We are all addicted to life which has its tax (everything to do with governments). Some of us are addicted to love which has its tax (nothing to do with government). Some of us are addicted to sex which has its tax (nothing to do with government). The list of addictions is as long as there are things to do in life, and the list of addicts is, potentially, just as long. The list of taxes is even longer since if they cannot get you one way they'll catch you another.

    But this isn't really about cost is it? It is about what Governments believe is fit for the ordinary person as they patronise those who they look down and frown upon. There has always been hypocrisy in the ruling classes - have money and I'll do what I please - but you will do what I say not copy what I do. New Labour have mercilessly destroyed many freedoms in the last twelve years. They like to believe they know best what is good for us. When they get high on drugs they do it responsibly not like the common person on the street who cannot be trusted to do anything properly.

    That is what this problem is really about. Separate the common person from their spiritual "needs" and you rule them hook line and sinker. They become trapped in what ever corner you push them like slaves in another time, to be fished out of the pond whenever someone feels like a bit of sport.

    And the deepest horror and evil of all is that politicians really believe they are doing us all a favour! The Tolpuddle Martyrs wanted a piece of the freedom their landowning bullies had - that is where the Labour movement started. That New Labour has become what it has become is the greatest insult you could ever pay to a working person.

  • Comment number 71.

    Reggae is my brain food

  • Comment number 72.

    Eight of these lucky semi-finalists will be selected to win a free trip to Negril, Jamaica to participate in the MISS HIGH TIMES

  • Comment number 73.

    The Emperor Wears No Clothes

    no i'm not done
    and I can't run
    just take a look at my face
    you want to wipe it out
    and leave no trace
    simple words to the government then
    see me and them we ain't no friend
    because they've bamboozled the people
    much too long with institutional whips
    a campaign of propaganda
    it seems they have a hidden agenda

  • Comment number 74.

    Sounds, great! BUT, we tried it in my home town AnnArbor, Michigan years ago, and it didn't come out very well. It can harm alot of folks just trying to have fun and relax. Then there are those inocent kids getting hurt too. Think again, there is a big difference between giving a crazy 20 year prison term for a couple of OZs and making it legal. This should not be an all our nothing battle.

  • Comment number 75.

    74 Gorgon bennet

    coming from the guy who said "all should live with their own kind"
    and such classic tales of unbigotry this is almost a decent post by you.

    But as usual you get some of it so wrong.

    One town decriminalising draws others in.

    Innocent kids getting hurt?

    what as the cops take daddy away because he was black and in possession?

    let whitey off with a warning.
    The stats prove it.

    why make sense the bbc mod all that does?


  • Comment number 76.

    ps "you want to take my pipe away and lock me in jail. I'll kill you"is considered enough to say "see they are all crazed"

    it is not unreasonable.
    Why should a man loose his liberty because others are blinkered alcoholics.
    to note look at the editors blog on alcohol.
    no one saying young kids drink so lets ban all alcohol.

    Anyone, anyone. NO, didn't think so.

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    What the government seem unable to understand is the harm they are creating with clamp downs.

    As a previous poster said 15 years ago resin was freely available and skunk was pretty rare and expensive.

    Resin in the UK started out in north africa and would be smuggled over the gibralter straight and in to spain. From there it would filter across europe.

    The resin wasn't particularly strong but it met the needs of the average smoker in terms of cost and relatively low harm.

    Today due to the clampdown on international terrorism, illegal immigration and drug smuggling in that region the supply has been cut.

    And the result? Over 60% of cannabis in the UK is produced in the UK. Now if you are going to do a operation like that your going to get the most bang for your buck, hence all you can buy today is strong skunk weed often adultered by being sprayed with chemicals to increase weight.

    This also brings gangs to the UK and organised crime that never used to exist here.

    So where is the benefit? Think about it if they banned alcohol tommorow do you think you could buy your beer anymore? No you'd be buying 80% grain alcohol and run the risk of it making you go blind.

    Its time the government took their own departments advice and actually looked at the results of there short sighted puritan policies.

  • Comment number 79.

    Also may i make another point. Why is it your questionaire is on 'newsbeat' with referances to r and b celebs at the top?

    Is that whats the BBC thinks the average weed smoker is like? A young poorly educated person who has little interest in serious news?

    My interests include world politics, network security and particle physics thank you very much.

  • Comment number 80.

    legalise cannibis for over 21s, you have no right to keep it from people, all other drugs medically distributed to cut drug related crime and help stop the young being exposed to it.

  • Comment number 81.

    Baffling Smoke Signals

    http://www.upsetter.net/scratch/main.htm

    Eternal Thunder

  • Comment number 82.

    Legalising cannabis for responsable adults would almost certainly reduce crime, not just directly, but indirectly. Your Drug dealers would realise they can't make a living off selling pot and might actually move out of their parents basements and get a real job! You would have no 'turf wars' - although those are more linked to harder drugs like Heroin and cocaine.

    Furthermore, complaining about 'Skunk' is pointless, it's stronger so you only need to smoke half the amount for the same effects, and as far as i can discern, its the actual smoking and inhaling burning plant matter that is bad for you. Its near impossibly to overdose on Marijuana as you would have to smoke several ounces at a cost of thousands of pounds, before which, you would suffocate from lack of oxygen. 1/8 of an oz is usually the smallest amount sold, at a cost of £10-£15 for 'bush weed' or around £20 for bud, with bud being much more potent. Those are prices for someone who is not especially well connected, an average 'stoner' Also Original skunk no 1 is a strain of cannabis plants. This is true skunk, but skunk has become drug slang for any potent cannabis sold, even if it isn't actually of that variety of skunk.

    Dealing drugs is immensly profitable to the people high up on the chain, Large-Scale Growers and main dealers. A grower might sell perhaps 1lb of bud to a main dealer for perhaps £1200, who sells to smaller dealers a few oz at a time. for maybe £ 100 an oz. The smaller dealers can charge maybe £20 for 1/8 of an oz, the smallest amount old by many dealers.

  • Comment number 83.

    http://www.jackherer.com/chapters.html

    Maybe some of the uneducated in the field of this subject would like some back ground knowledge regarding the facts surrounding the reasons behind the suppression of Marijuana or Hemp

    Please read!!

  • Comment number 84.

    83 Double Zero 007
    nice one son

  • Comment number 85.

    legalising cannabis wouldn't reduce crime figures by much cannabis causes very little crime except the legality of it. Possession and supply is where you get arrested for weed not mugging old ladies for drug money or getting into a fight after the pubs close, socially cannabis does little harm. Unlike alcohol or heroin for example

  • Comment number 86.

    Is it not true that a hell of a lot more people killed/ violently attacked or face domestic violence through alcohol related problems. Mmmm I wonder if alcohol is only legal because so called decent people drink it. I would rather bump into someone stoned than someone after 10 pints of stella. Yet again the people in charge dictating what grown adults are allowed to do. How can it be illegal to smoke something which grows in the dirt. I understand it could have health implications but so does crashing a car are we going to ban driving?

  • Comment number 87.

    My perspective-working with children during their formative years, as a subject teacher, a guidance teacher and a member of the Children's Panel.
    Children themselves point out the adult hypocrisies of promoting the use of alcohol and up to quite recently, tobacco, both addictive drugs.
    We then lecture them about the dangers of other recreational drugs. Our advice is obviously not worth listening to, in their opinion.
    I have witnessed the effects on children of gradually commencing the use of cannabis and other drugs. Weed is not harmless by any definition, apart from the damage caused by inhalation of hot smoke, persistent alterations are caused to brain chemistry, leading to behavioural aberrations. Once in the hands of dealers who supply the weed, the customers are soon encouraged to try out other more profitable, and more effective chemical substances. Very few cannabis users do so exclusively, but most graduate to more exotic substances to experience other psychotropic effects. These drugs are not all toxic by the way, but their methods of ingestion can cause sometimes fatal infection.
    Also the substances used by dealers to "cut" or dilute them can be more toxic than the active ingredient. Once the cost of the daily diet of mind benders becomes greater than the lunch money can cover, they have to resort to crime. There is no easy answer to the problem. The drug culture is now too deeply entrenched globally to halt it.
    For about twenty years I have been saying that it might be preferable to legitimise the controlled use of recreational drugs, to try to eliminate the associated crime wave., and to erase the hierarchy of the supply chain. The base cost of most of the popular drugs is minimal, witness the fortunes made by the drug lords.
    We can only try to educate as many young people as we can about the dangers of taking any drugs, including medicinals.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    How many of these studies are done on people who drink Nothing.

    Could it be the drink that makes the drunk and stoned teen drive like an idiot. Combined with maybe being an idiot.

  • Comment number 90.

    Correlation and causation.

    Learn the difference.

  • Comment number 91.

    Mr Phelps please please refuse to perform for the monkey grinder when they do not even respect you.

    This ,obviously not first time ,smoker is a national hero.

    Except he is now made to feel like crap because more alcoholic old dufs think it un seemly that he smokes.

    If he were to turn around and say Fine I'm giving up. it would be interesting to see f the debate would get going.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    wow mods still not printing personal experiences because?

    "I work in a homeless hostel and would say a quarter of our cannabis users have drug-induced psychosis. The other three-quarters suffer from depression which results in lack of motivation"


    drug-induced psychosis.what is that. seems that if someone that has been smoking and had to face the worry of the law and is angry at being given less opportunity than drunks and been left out of the (2/3) business done over a drink, might get angry.
    is it a "psychosis" because the person smokes pot.

    Other angry people are just called angry.

    when told to shut up you stoner enough may not that anger build.

    i like to say shut up drunk to anyone who has had even a chocolate liquor.That always gets a defensive and eventually if pushed angry reaction.

    The moderation ere should remember there is no reason in asking questions and not taking replies.

  • Comment number 96.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7883752.stm

    The bar man would not have been able to kill the kid iif he had been smoking not drinking.

    Alcohol is a POISON.
    Toxic, killer.

    Pot is not.
    that should be enough but no oldies think they know better.

  • Comment number 97.

    A passionate blog, to say the least.
    I think the issue here, the issue of whether drugs should be legalised or not, is a matter of our civil liberty, and the confusion of legislation that supports that liberty.

    For our US participants, a lot of mention has been made here of 'chemists' and 'pharmacists'. Of course, everyone knows that in the US, a more common term is 'drug store'.

    ALL pharmaceuticals are drugs in one way or another. They are trialled and tested and then released for public use, either by prescription or over the counter, and usually at huge expense to the consumer and tax payer. Legal drug money. But the argument is that these drugs are to improve life, make us better, help us with ailments etc.

    Then we have 'socially' accepted legalised drugs. In the UK these are alcohol and tobacco (and amyl nitrate oddly enough), although tobacco is seemingly becoming the demon of the bunch. Talking to a doctor friend of mine, who specialises in mental and psychological behavioural patterns, I was told that it was generally conceded in medical circles that if alcohol was 'discovered' today, it would be classified as a class A drug in the UK. It ticks all the boxes. We sell it by the pint and 25ml measures in shops, supermarkets and licensed bars in streets nationwide. Take a look at the UK alcohol laws – there are some surprises when it comes to the age a person can consume versus age you can purchase the stuff.

    I agree that drugs are harmful. Alcohol and Tobacco each do their own damage, as does any form of weed, coke or any other substance you decide to impregnate yourself with. During the 70s we had the glue sniffing craze, but we didn't ban glue, we warned people. TV ad campaigns warned of the dangers, and shops were told not to sell 'solvent' based substances to minors. I agree in part with most of the comments, but taking everything in a balanced, thoughtfully constructed way, my feelings are that we need a standard, across the board, when it comes to drugs.

    At 18 we are considered adult (in the UK and Europe anyway - never did understand the 21 rule in some US states), we work, pay taxes, drive our own car, can own our home, can even fight for the cause, whatever it may be, can get ludicrously drunk in public but there's hell to pay if we want to spice up a Friday or Saturday night with a line of coke or calm down after a hectic 'rat-race' day with a bit of weed.

    Drugs are drugs - pharmaceutical or recreational - they are drugs. Treat them all the same at the highest level. License the production of all recreational drugs and ensure that the standard is levelled, risk is minimised or at least reduced, and introduce the kind of control on the substance that is currently being exercised on the population. Proper controls on the manufacture and distribution will lend better support to the networks of rehab clinics, user support schemes and family members dealing with addicts of their own. Just take a look at the support networks available for those trying to ‘kick’ the tobacco habit.







  • Comment number 98.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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