The policy of banning drugs has failed. It is time to face the facts and legalise cannabis (also known as marijuana). This would have numerous benefits. It would deprive criminal gangs of their main source of revenue. It would raise large amounts of revenue for the government. It would ensure the safety and health of users is protected. It would free up large police resources and ensure they are focused on more serious crimes. There would be minimal negative effects as cannabis in its natural state is not a dangerous drug. People should be free to make choices about their lives and live with the consequences.
Prohibition doesn’t work. This was seen when alcohol was banned in America between 1920 and 1933. It was banned for similar reasons to cannabis, that it was dangerous and bad for people’s health. However, it resulted in a massive black market for alcohol. Criminal gangs got filthy rich while large resources were spent on policing the law with little effect. Corruption was rife. There was an increase in violence as gangs fought for control of the lucrative market. There was a decline in health as people were hospitalised from drinking contaminated alcohol. In the end the Great Depression caused the government to look for new sources of revenue and decided to repeal prohibition. Prohibition didn’t decrease alcohol consumption; it only transferred the proceeds of it from the government and legitimate businesses into the hands of criminal gangs.
I am a follower of the ‘Harm Principle’ as argued by John Stuart Mill. This argues that a person should be free to do something so long as it does not harm anyone else. This is a free country so surely people should be free to live their lives. If a consenting adult makes a decision that affects only them, what right does the government have to prevent them? It is true that cannabis is unhealthy, but so is sugar and fast food, should they be banned too? Some argue that legalisation would lead to an increase in consumption. This is probably true, but this people will take drugs anyway, so at least it will be as safe as possible.
The main advantage is that it would deny criminal gangs their main source of revenue. Without drug revenue gangs would be severely limited in their actions. Most shootings in America are over drugs, without drugs to fight over, there would be less shooting. There would be large savings in police resources as they could be diverted towards more serious crimes. America’s prisons are clogged with drugs related prisoners. Legalisation would free up much needed space and ensure offenders of more serious crimes serve their full sentence. Under the current system they are released because the prisons are so over corded prisoners have to be released early.
Under any proposal cannabis would be taxed as heavily as alcohol and cigarettes currently are. This would raise enormous revenue to fund much needed services. I would propose the state have a monopoly of import, processing and distribution, ensuring the people of Ireland are the recipients of its proceeds. Cannabis would be sold only from pharmacies so people remember it is a drug and to afford any glamorisation that occurs in Amsterdam coffee shops. There would be restrictions similar to those for alcohol, such as you must be over 18, no smoking in public, no driving under the influence etc. There would be further research into its medical value and potential dangers so that we can make informed decisions. Heroin and cocaine have far more negative health affects so initially only cannabis would be legalised. This would lead to a decrease in consumption of these ‘hard’ drugs. Depending on the results of cannabis legalisation a decision would be made on other drugs.
Cannabis is safer than either alcohol or nicotine. While these drugs can lead to liver and lung cancer and are responsible for thousands of deaths every year in Ireland alone, there has not been a recorded death from cannabis. You cannot overdose on it. Alcohol has far more negative health effects (I don’t even need to mention nicotine). Cannabis is also nowhere near as addictive as either, in fact it is less addictive than caffeine. While alcohol is a major cause of crime and aggression, cannabis makes you calm, relaxed and completely unthreatening. Cannabis is not completely harmless. It is suspected that large amounts may cause mental health problems, but the topic has not been studied well enough (for obvious reasons). Over use makes you forgetful and lazy, but then again too much of anything is bad for you. (For a full comparison between alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and cannabis see here). There are even possible health benefits from medical marijuana (though as I said before more research is needed).
Cannabis has been legalised in Portugal and even TIME says it has been a success. We should do the same in Ireland. It will reduce crime, raise revenue and free up resources that can be better spent.