Ending the war on cannabis: bold move or white flag?

William Hague  (Reuters, via The Guardian)

In an article in The Telegraph this week William Hague, the former leader of Britain’s Conservative party and now a member of the House of Lords, called for the legalisation of marijuana, claiming that the “war on cannabis has failed.”

Like so many other advocates of legalisation he fails to fully address the ramifications of this approach. Will corner shops sell it? Will it be advertised on TV and the internet? Will social workers allow children to remain in the ‘care’ of drug-addled parents? Will it, in defiance of every National Health Service warning, be smoked? Perhaps Mr Hague will say whether he would be happy to travel in a car, bus, train or plane being operated by a cannabis user.

Mr Hague warns that criminalisation only benefits the ‘criminals making billions’ out of the drug; however, waving a white flag of surrender is not a bold move, but a signal to those whom we must no doubt learn to call 'entrepreneurs' that they can look forward to making even more.

He says that Canadian advocates of legalisation envisage 'a major reduction in the black market, less pressure on police and courts and tax revenues running into billions of dollars’;  however, we would also have to increase medical, social and police provision to deal with the emergencies generated and the everyday harm to individuals caused by making cannabis an everyday drug.

The unfortunate case of young Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old who is subject to multiple seizures daily and whose cannabis medication was confiscated by Border Force officials, could be addressed by a dedicated NHS unit experienced in the medicinal use of cannabis; instead it is being hi-jacked to make the case for a general amnesty on cannabis use.

Indeed, the high-profile nature of the state intervention in confiscating the cannabis oil his mother brought back from Canada seems almost tailor-made for a liberalisation of the law based on one hard case.

Mr Hague argues that the war against cannabis has failed, but the same could be said for the war against stabbing, of which there has been a great deal lately on the streets of our towns and cities.

While being extra-keen on tackling ‘hate crime’ and historical sex offences, the police seem to have given up on investigating burglaries; ‘minor’ shop-lifters face only fines. Much of what used to be border-line criminal behaviour now receives a police caution.

We are deluding ourselves if we really believe that legalising cannabis will ‘free up’ the police to deal with more important matters; it will more likely unleash so much crime and disorder that they will be fully occupied, although in time they may well see these 'more important' crimes as less important, and take a similarly lax attitude.  

Canadian proponents of legalisation maintain that ‘a legal market will involve licensed stores selling cannabis of regulated strength, with a strict prohibition on sales to teenagers and no relaxation of laws against other and more powerful drugs’, notes Mr Hague. ‘Expected benefits’ are said to include, in addition to tax revenues and less crime, ‘reduced harm and addiction for users'. ‘If this works,’ he adds, ‘it sounds more sensible than the current position.’

‘If’ being the operative word. Advocates of ‘reform’ always insist that by making something easier, less of it will be done; 50 years ago we legalised abortion with ‘strict safeguards’ for a few hard cases, but  nine million abortions later, campaigners are demanding that it be completely decriminalised.

Abortion usually tops the list of humanist reforms, closely followed by obscenity, prostitution and drugs. Mr Hague insists that the war against cannabis is a failure, and that ‘we must be bold and change course’, but such ‘reformers’ are never deterred by failure; they never ‘change course’ but boldly move on to the next item on the list, regardless of the damage caused to the poor and vulnerable. Yet their determination to change society by changing the law is no reason to let them have what they want. 

As any decent policeman would no doubt tell this peer of the realm, it is much easier to strengthen a door than try to close it after it has been thrown open. Society needs to keep the door against cannabis locked and barred, or risk multitudes streaming through it to a life of self-harm that will affect not only them but the whole of society.

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).  


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