Drug use is becoming big business

In Colorado there are now more medical marijuana outlets than Starbucks, McDonalds and Seven Eleven’s combined. 

This is not because Colorado contains a population that is excessively pained by life but because there is money to be made from dispensing marijuana. Within the UK a recent report from the loftily titled All Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform recently argued that the UK is now lagging behind sundry other countries in not allowing medical marijuana to be legally available as a pain relief treatment.

Within the UK, as with many other countries, we have a system for carefully assessing the case for prescribed medicines based on determining their effectiveness, their risks, and their cost. In the case of medical marijuana what we have is a growing number of personal stories of people that have tried other prescribed medication for various conditions and concluded that the reduction in symptoms and pain from marijuana is greater than any of the other drugs they have been prescribed. The question then surfaces as to how many of these personal stories you should need to collect before you have reached a point where your prescribing plebiscite has determined that a drug should be duly prescribed. Democracy has much to recommend it but whether public preferences should be the basis for determining whether a drug should be available on the NHS is hugely questionable.

There are other flaws within the case for medical marijuana including the fact that the preferred method of consuming the drug by those who favour its therapeutic properties is to smoke it. Smoking is one of the most efficient means of getting a drug into your system but it is probably only second to injecting in terms of its risks.

The All Parliamentary Group also recommend that people should be allowed to grow small amounts of their own cannabis for their personal use. Sounds a neat way of avoiding contact with your local drug dealer but would such a system lead in turn to the development of the Gardening Police section assessing whether you have been a little too enthusiastic in your planting activities and that more than the legally accepted number of plants are flourishing in your back garden?

If it is true that what happens in America today impacts on the UK tomorrow, then expect further appeals to liberalise our drugs laws- many of which will be accompanied by the suggestion that it would be so much better if the government could derive taxation from drug sales. I am not sure, though, that it would be a good thing for governments’ to have a vested interest in drug sales. Such a system may not lead to the government actually promoting drug use but it could lead to the further dilution of our already parsimonious efforts at drugs prevention.

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