Failing to Regulate Cannabis Is An Attack On Public Health

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A woman stands on a dimly lit street corner, frequently checking her phone to see how long she’s been waiting. Some 45 minutes have passed, but the person she’s waiting for has yet to make an appearance, and isn’t replying to her texts. A further 10 minutes pass before a figure arrives and catches her gaze, ushering her towards a nearby alley. They exchange the contents of their hands and walk off in opposite directions. The woman gets into her car and inspects the package, carefully checking her mirrors to ensure there’s nobody watching. She smells it and feels the weight until she’s satisfied it’s what she wanted. She drives off.

Upon arriving home the woman is greeted by her teenage children who ask her what’s for dinner. “Sirloin steak” comes the rather hopeful response, as she recalls the name used by her dealer. She can’t be sure that this is sirloin, or even beef, but her family will have to make do. As she’s cooking the steak she notices it looks slightly mouldy in sections, and even smells like it’s on the verge of turning rancid. Normally she’d throw away food at the first sign of such things, but having just spent her last £40 she has no choice but to consume the meat and hope for the best.

Imagine a world in which your weekly grocery shopping is done in a back alley or at the house of a random seller. Imagine buying food which doesn’t have any labels, any best-before dates, any quality control, or any traceability. This would be utterly unthinkable with most consumables, but when it comes to cannabis the government likes to leave the standards up to unprofessional, unregulated growers? They hope that such operations – famed for nothing more than turning a profit – will grow a conscience and ensure that the item you buy is what they claim, and that it meets basic safety standards.

When it comes to substances which are supposedly the most dangerous, the government isn’t interested. Why is that? Why would you choose the ‘highest risk’ items to be the ones you don’t regulate? There’s no harm reduction in the law, but rather a sadistic empathy about users facing poor quality, unsafely processed cannabis. There are opportunities to discuss removing tobacco from spliffs or using vaporisers, but they refuse to do so. It’s almost like they want to teach us a lesson for doing something they don’t morally agree with. Is the thinking that hopefully we’ll get really sick, and that as dead people we won’t be able to use weed anymore? Given the safety of the unadulterated plant, I can only assume this is their best way of achieving such a noble feat.

Thanks to the advent of medical cannabis dispensaries in the USA, we already have bodies which have been created to provide quality control checks specifically for cannabis. For a relatively low cost, dispensaries are able to ensure that what they provide patients is free from mites, mould, or any other unwanted contamination. We could eradicate grit weed, which is a product of prohibition. It’s not difficult, if the government really wants it. At some stage the nation as a whole needs to realise that cannabis users are here to stay, and they’d better get used to it. Rather than trying to imprison us and ruin our career opportunities (in the name of saving us from a non-lethal substance), it’s about time the population grows-up and takes care of a minority group of a different sort. We may not have a common race, nor anything else in common outside of our favourite plant, but we exist as a huge consumer group, and we are humans. We’re not to be made examples of, we’re not to be coerced into using the government’s more dangerous ‘legal’ drugs, and we certainly don’t want to have to take toxic medication where cannabis can be used instead.

Government policy leads to poorer health outcomes for millions of people, which can have disastrous effects on their personal and professional lives. Does the government think that manufacturing criminals makes for a better society? Once somebody has been branded as such it increases the likelihood that their future path won’t be one which benefits themselves or others. Will putting a medical user in prison really sort him out? That will teach him to get cancer and seek pain-relief, won’t it Mr Prime Minister? I bet he’ll think twice before again choosing to make his painful existence slightly more tolerable, or desiring to eat after his chemotherapy sessions. Throw away the key, for we have a scoundrel of the highest order. In fact, he’s probably faking anyway. Let’s tip him out of his wheelchair to call his bluff. The writhing on the floor? I hear they can fake that too. Prison will help him come to his senses and act like a responsible member of society. When will those nails stop popping their heads up, asking to be hammered down?

Graphic courtesy of Leafly 

The government needs to create an infrastructure which ensures that private businesses wishing to sell cannabis are subject to regulation in the form of proper quality control and labelling. Along with this they should roll-out a cannabis website which discusses the safest means of using the plant, along with guidance for those who’re unsure which strain suits their needs. At present most buyers are left without any choice in the cannabis they buy – it’s just the variety their dealer happens to offer. Even then, there’s no guarantee that it’s the strain they claim, or that it has been grown properly to have the expected levels of cannabinoids.

This culture of ignorance means that people aren’t used to having choice or understanding the difference between a sativa and an indica, let alone the ideal balance between THC and CBD for their specific needs. Just as you can browse cough mixtures and choose the most appropriate based on the purported effects, cannabis users should be free to make choices depending on what ails them, or even what suits them recreationally. Some of the potential downsides of cannabis can be negated simply by allowing those who wish to relax or medicate to choose from one selection, and those who want something more uplifting and energetic to choose from another.

Along with labelling we should be given consumption guidelines. We know that cannabis is a very safe substance, but that doesn’t mean that somebody who’s never smoked should roll-up an entire 3.5g bag on their first go. They should provide age restrictions so that those who’re more susceptible to drugs of any sort are protected, rather than the current system, which allows dealers to sell to children. There are a number of websites which review different cannabis strains and see users provide feedback on the associated effects, so we’re just lacking the ability to confirm which strain our weed is, and that it’s up to scratch. There’s very little additional work to do outside of telling the police to leave us alone, and allowing private industry to sell to the public. It’s now time for the people who represent us to put up or shut up. Do they really care about our health?

We have the internet now. We don’t believe your lies anymore.




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