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Should Marijuana be Legalised in the UK?

Should we follow in the footsteps of our American cousins or is marijuana actually as harmful as the UK government is telling us?

Cannabis is currently a class B drug in the UK. This puts it in the same category as dangerous drugs, such as amphetamines. Then, take alcohol, for instance. It is completely legal, but there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2015. This seems insane when cannabis has never killed anyone and alcohol is connected to many long-term side effects such as liver disease and cancer. Currently, if you are arrested for possession of marijuana you can receive up to five years in prison and a fine. There have been 87,247 marijuana-related cases since 2015, costing the police £31 million. All of that money was spent over a plant that has been proven to possess medicinal properties. 

There have been many valuable studies conducted on medicinal marijuana and there are many happening currently. After the legalisation in certain states, the marijuana marketplace has boomed, motivating many private companies to conduct research in this field. One disorder that studies show marijuana can help with is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder develops after the subject witnesses or experiences a traumatic event in their lives. Symptoms of the disorder include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety. Sufferers have described the disorder as making them feel helpless and alone. In a study on PTSD sufferers, 75 percent said that they saw a reduction in symptoms with the use of medical marijuana. Currently, 24 states in America provide medicinal marijuana to PTSD sufferers. This is one reason why cannabis should be legalised in the UK. As PTSD is common amongst military veterans, we should be supporting the people who fight for our country and not leave them feeling helpless. There is also significant evidence that medicinal marijuana can be used for pain relief, especially chronic pain disorders. In a recent study, 12 out of 15 chronic pain sufferers reported improvements with the use of cannabis. Also, 92 percent of patients preferred using cannabis over their usual prescription medication. Pain prescription medication is also known to be highly addictive, whereas there is evidence to suggest that marijuana is not physically addictive. Studies suggest that only 9 percent of users will become dependent on it. The uses of medicinal marijuana doesn't stop there. There are many other uses such as lowering the frequency of seizures in epilepsy sufferers, treating Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and slowing the progression of Parkinson's Disease. With all of this evidence to support medicinal marijuana, it is hard to see how our government can say that it is so dangerous. 

Another reason that the UK should legalise weed is the financial gain of taxing marijuana products. In the Liberal Democrats' current manifesto, they state that legalisation would raise £1billion in tax revenues. Although other politicians have argued that this figure is not completely accurate, statistics from the recently legalised states do all show a financial gain. Oregon collected $3.48 million in the first month of legalisation and Washington collected $270 million in tax revenue in 2016. As the UK is not in the best financial state, this could be a real money maker and not just helpful to the public but also the government. All of the states that have legalised marijuana are using the tax revenue made to build schools, improve law enforcement, and to run drug abuse prevention campaigns. As a student myself, I am all for any money that we can put into education. Although legalisation could be a financial risk, all the states and countries that are legalised are profiting from it. 

One reason against legalising marijuana is the Gateway Drug theory. We have all heard that doing weed with always lead to something harder. In a sample of 6,624 people marijuana smokers, the calculated probability of further illegal drug use was 44.7 percent. However, the researcher did state that personal and social conditions also have an effect on the probability. This makes it hard to tell whether it is the drug or whether the person is pre-disposed to it. This links into the idea of having an "addictive personality" and if it is this, then it is hard to prove whether it is personality factors or the marijuana. There is also the argument that it is the tobacco in a joint that is addictive and not the actual marijuana itself. If it was to become legalised, it could then be sold in other form such as oils and edibles which would eliminate the problems of the tobacco. 

There is also the worry that legalising it and having it readily available would show children that drugs are acceptable. A better idea is to use in tax revenue gained by legalisation to provide better drug education programmes in the first place. Marijuana has also been linked to a risk of developing psychosis. It is associated with worsening psychotic symptoms and relapse. However, you are only at risk if you have an existing psychotic disorder or are a young person vulnerable to psychosis. This shows that as long as the users are sensible then you are not at risk. Legalising weed would make it so much safer because it would be being regulated. Weed bought on the street is known to have been sprayed with chemicals and even mixed with sand to make the deals heavier. Street weed is also considerably higher in THC than regulated weed, with the average content in the early 90s being 3.74 percent and now being 10 percent (2013). There is just no way to check that street weed is safe so the public is being put at risk for, what is for some people, their medicine. 

In conclusion, although there are some negatives about legalising marijuana, the positives outweigh them by a mile. Regardless of whether it should be legalised for recreational use, there is way too much concrete evidence to not legalise marijuana for medical purposes. Although there are so many campaigns supporting legalisation, until the government are prepared to talk about it there is not much that can be done. In July 2017, the government announced that they have "no intention" of making weed legal in the UK. All I can say is that we will have to see. At some point, they will not be able to ignore the evidence mounting against them, but for now awareness and research are the things to focus on.

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