Cannabis failures show why we need to legalise drugs

Published by The Times (10th September, 2020)

Carly Barton is a former university lecturer who suffered a stroke at the age of 24. It left her feeling as if her bones had been “replaced by red-hot pokers”. Doctors prescribed opiates of increasing strength but they left her feeling “zombied” and still in severe pain.

In desperation she smoked a joint and discovered that cannabis dulled the pain, enabling her to live a productive life. But she did not want to be a criminal and could not afford to spend thousands of pounds on private prescriptions. So she came up with a simple idea: a “cannabis card” to show police officers that she used the drug for health rather than recreational purposes.

It is thought that another million Britons who endure conditions such as arthritis, cancer and multiple sclerosis self-medicate with this drug. This is why Barton’s concept has been backed by police officers fed up with wasting their time. “I did not join the police to arrest people who are unwell and trying to manage their symptoms,” Simon Kempton, a Police Federation board member, has said.

This is a significant step forward. But why does progress on drug reform depend on ordinary citizens pushed to the limit and police officers infuriated about squandering time and resources? The reason, sadly, is that politicians privately accept their war on drugs has failed yet lack the nerve to sort out the mess they created even as it fuels gang violence and inflames racial tensions.

Two years ago I joined Charlotte Caldwell in Canada as she obtained drugs to stop her son suffering life-threatening epileptic seizures, and then openly brought the illegal products into Britain. The subsequent storm led to legalisation of medicinal cannabis. Yet, unable to afford her own private supplies, this courageous woman is still fighting to have the drug supplied by the NHS.

These issues go beyond cannabis. Enlightened police chiefs have started ignoring the law, effectively decriminalising all drugs. Four forces have stopped prosecuting all people arrested for possession, preferring to offer the smarter route of treatment instead of the traditional path to court and prison. Others sanction the testing of drugs at festivals and outside clubs in city centres for contents and purity to help save lives.

What a dismal reflection on our politicians that it is left to citizens and the police to end the stupidity of prohibition. Trying to stop the flow of drugs is pointless as proved by falling prices, rising potency, new synthetic products and the number of overdose deaths. So when will Westminster finally wake up from its stupor on drugs?

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