The next few years will, we believe, be critical in shaping what will become the ‘European Model’ for cannabis. The marijuana laws of individual nations are already being routinely ignored as more and more people travel around Europe with their legal marijuana medicines.
Dutch users of mediweed already travel freely with their weed through airports from country to country. People using ‘cannabis in a bottle’ Sativex from GW Pharmaceuticals can travel with, and use, this freely so long as the weed was originally grown by GW Pharmaceuticals and no-one else. A Dutch mediweed user can legally use their weed in a neighbouring country even if it is against national laws for the local residents to do the same. With each passing year the European cannabis laws are looking increasingly stupid and everyone knows it. The real question is ‘what should be done about it?’
Most people already accept that pot is much safer than either alcohol or tobacco, and those that don’t believe it can always check the statistics themselves. But making pot legal isn’t an easy moral step to take for the average person who has been brought up to believe that yielding a point of principle isn’t always the way forward. It is as if people are sometimes locked in to a denial of the facts. That somehow illegality will not just reduce the scale of the ‘cannabis problem’ but it will be tougher, and therefore better, for those that prefer a joint to a beer.
But whichever way you look at the ethics and morals of the cannabis legalisation debate, it always comes down to one undeniable truth. It makes no sense to have legal alcohol and tobacco whilst continuing to criminalise thousands of people across Europe for the ‘crime’ of preferring a bit of pot.
Each year of progress for medical marijuana and each year of peer-reviewed medical evidence continues to pile up proof that marijuana has a large role to play in many medical conditions. This creates more and more legal contradictions and ethical dilemmas for the prejudice against marijuana. Eventually, and not too far in the future, the European politicians will be have to look for sensible ideas to start harmonising attitudes towards marijuana just as they have done for alcohol and tobacco.
So where would it all start?
It should start with medical marijuana. There is no sense in any continued harassment of the medical marijuana grower. There is already enough science in place to accept that many people benefit medically from pot, and if they grow it themselves there is no cost to the state. Leave them alone, and allow them the freedom to grow say 15 plants each and legally own the pot produced from them. This will allow for a couple of mother plants, cuttings and perhaps a private breeding program. Allow medical users to operate in medical grow cooperatives and share their crop. Permit the preparation of oils, creams and extracts. What they do is their business not ours and certainly nothing to do with the police.
Many people could accept this is both a sensible step and a humane alternative to arresting and harassing the medical user and the pointless vindictiveness from the police and courts. And if you accept this, then there is really no need to continue prosecuting the self sufficient adult recreational marijuana grower and responsible user. After all, we allow people to produce, buy and sell alcohol which is a killer drug. You can buy a lethal dose of alcohol at any supermarket or any street corner shop. Marijuana, in the hands of a responsible adult user is not harmful at all, or at the very worst is significantly safer then alcohol and tobacco. Leaving the supply of marijuana illegal and therefore unregulated is the worst alternative of all available, especially for those trying to keep it away from the kids.
Regulate weed, legalise it and remove the criminality from it. A large chunk of the criminal underworld is left stranded high and dry, overnight. Keeping pot illegal never helped the situation or reduced usage. Trying to prohibit the use of alcohol and tobacco is a ridiculous idea, it would never work. So why do people believe that the prohibition of marijuana is any more likely to succeed? It is time for a rethink; current policies have clearly been wrong for a long time and have only ever benefitted the drug gangs and their bank accounts.
For self sufficient recreational growers you would have the same rules as medical growers. Just as you have medical grow cooperatives, there would also be ‘Cannabis clubs’ just like those in Spain. Membership would be for adults only, strictly no under-18’s. Your membership would allow for the collective growth and distribution of your share of the crop. Marijuana would cease to be viewed as a criminal problem.
I would leave it at that to start with.
Any further development of the concept to allow for sales and taxation (as they do with alcohol and tobacco) could wait. Keep it simple and achievable, our politicians don’t need it making any more complicated than it needs to be. It will be difficult enough for them to accept the change in legality, let’s not confuse them any further. The less interference and state involvement the better it is and the easier it is to achieve.
To continue with the policies of the last 50 years would be an exercise in the delusion that prohibition will one day make us all better off.
Dutch JoeApril 20th 2012