On the 1st January 2018, California became the eighth US state to legalise the recreational use of Cannabis creating the world’s largest regulated commercial market, a move which is expected to generate up to $1bn (£740m) a year in tax revenue.
Dozens of newly licensed stores catering to adults who enjoy the drug for its psychoactive effects open for business up and down the state.
There are varying levels of toleration of personal use of cannabis across Europe however no EU country has legalised cannabis to date.
In December, Norway’s parliament started the process to decriminalise illicit drugs and to shift the focus to treatment options, rather than criminal prosecution for users found with small quantities.
In ten other UL countries; Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – the law does not allow imprisonment for possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use only, although the drug remains illegal.
Holland’s famous “cannabis cafes” are not strictly legal – authorities simply tolerate unlawful acts taking place inside.
Portugal is arguably the EU country that has come closest to legalising cannabis. In 2000, all illicit drugs were decriminalised in an attempt to get to grips with a national heroin crisis. People found using or possessing small quantities of such drugs are sent by police to a “dissuasion commission”, which can fine them.
Cannabis was made illegal in the United Kingdom on 28th September 1928 as an addition to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. However doctors were able to prescribe cannabis for medical uses in the UK until 1971.
On 28 September 1971, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 came into force creating the Class A, B and C classification system and making even more drugs controlled substances.
The UK government stance is that they have no intention of decriminalising drugs with the Home Office stating “Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.”
The Home Office have clearly not spoken to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which has licensed Sativex, a cannabis extract as an authorised medicine.
It's time for the lawmakers, health professionals and Home Office to start working together and act on fact based evidence.
A Bill put forward by Labour MP Paul Flynn (The Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill 2017-19) is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on the 23rd February 2018.
Lets hope the UK government take a common sense approach and give the bill their backing.
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