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Published: 18/01/2019

A guide to cannabis legalisation


The legalisation of marijuana for medical use is a social issue of the moment and there is a trend in many countries legalising cannabis/marijuana for medical and sometimes even recreational use as some governments feel it has no less danger than alcohol and tobacco.

There are good arguments for both legalising and not legalising.


With almost half of adult Americans (approx.: 12.4 million people) trying cannabis at least once, today we pose the question: should cannabis be legalised for medical use across the Western World? Such a massive proportion of people have tried cannabis, despite it being illegal in just under half of the United States (and, indeed, half of the world). Conversely, as it's now legal in 29 states across the US for at least medicinal purposes, is there any sense in continuing the federal ban which exists on cannabis? With doctors losing licenses for prescribing something which many see it as a potentially life-saving medicine, we ask and answer the big questions connected to cannabis.


What is Cannabis? What are other names for Cannabis?

Cannabis, Marijuana, Weed, is a psychoactive drug which is used both recreationally and medicinally. There are some who think it's very dangerous, and some who think it's relatively harmless. There are 3 main types of cannabis, Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid. With Sativa being overwhelmingly cerebral, Indicas being normally a more body-high, and hybrid being either or both. The two main active ingredients in cannabis are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for making you feel high, and CBD isn't intoxicating, but may have a regulating effect on certain mental health illnesses. There are over 110 active ingredients in cannabis, and because of a lack of general research over the last 70 years, not much is known about the others. More recently, in places such as California and the Netherlands, the use of weed has become more and more technologically advanced. They now have concentrates which are up to 90% THC, they have edibles which are put inside your favourite sweets, and they have hash oil, which can be “dabbed” or even pasted on the outside of a cigarette to look less suspicious, although there will always be a smell that gives it away.

Here are some other street names for cannabis:











Mary Jane















What is Hemp, and is it the same as Cannabis?

Hemp, or industrial hemp, is cannabis which is grown purely for industrial purposes. It has been used for over 10,000 years, to create fabrics. Nowadays it is used in: textiles, paper, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Hemp, which is the industrial crop related to marijuana, is not the same as cannabis which is used recreationally. However, it was dragged down alongside its relative in 1937. The problem was that it doesn't get you high, it doesn't have any other uses except creating textiles and other useful things, so why outlaw it? It is thought that many people in power were worried about their own personal interests. For example, W.R Hearst, who had significant money in the timber industry (and therefore the paper industry) led a mass hysteria campaign against marijuana and hemp in the 1930s. The articles published in his newspapers were used as evidence by congress to support the ban. Hemp threatened his business, so he used his vast power and resources to have it banned. Interestingly enough, and to further highlight the hypocritical nature of the ban, hemp was actually de-criminalised in the 1940s during WW2, as it was a vital part of the war effort. However, it was banned swiftly again in the 1950s, showing that the US government recognised the usefulness of the plant, but too many vested interests appeared to be against it.


What are Cannabinoids and Cannabinoid receptors?

This is one of the most interesting parts about cannabis. Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, which are involved in many different bodily systems, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Interestingly enough, without these receptors, weed would most likely not get us high. Cannabinoids found in cannabis are a class of diverse chemical compounds which act on these receptors in the brain. This is what makes you feel high, and this is the reason a lot of people think that cannabis has so much potential as a medicine.


What are the dangers of Cannabis if any?

There are many dangers to cannabis, particularly if it's kept in the black market. Currently, in the UK, illegal gangs force illegal immigrants to grow large amounts of super strength (what is known as) “Skunk” weed in illegal grow-ops. This weed is then sold to anyone and everyone who wants to buy it, with literally no concern over their age or mental health conditions. This is one of the things which causes such a massive amount of problems. People who are at risk of schizophrenia or psychosis should not smoke “Skunk” weed in large amounts, as it will almost certainly increase their risk of developing a psychotic episode. There are many other dangers of cannabis, which are usually exaggerated either by the media is support of continued prohibition, or activists in favour of full scale legalisation.

Although you cannot overdose on marijuana and although there are no direct deaths by marijuana per year, there are many reasons why it is argued that marijuana should stay illegal: paranoia, laziness, hallucinations, dizziness, increased chance of psychosis, increased chances of lung cancer (similar to tobacco), lung damage, infertility and more.  Many people assume that marijuana isn't harmful, as they have been told that in documentaries, or on Facebook groups. The truth is, however, that frequent use in early teens can lead to a five-fold increased chance of depression and anxiety later in life. It is important to realise that if you start to smoke cannabis when your brain is still in development, there is a chance that it will affect your brain's development. By keeping marijuana illegal, governments around the world are trying to ensure that young people do not create the conditions in which a mental health issue can arise. However, the one key flaw in this idea is that by keeping cannabis illegal, it does not reduce the supply or consumption of the drug and it means that the government cannot control its strength at all. In the study about depression and anxiety in teenagers from Victoria, Australia, it is acknowledged that:

“After increases in cannabis use during the early 1990s, a majority of young people in the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, and Australia now use cannabis recreationally. Despite the high prevalence of cannabis use, uncertainty persists about its physical and psychological consequences.”

In all of these countries in 2002 when the study was undertaken, with the exception of medical use in California and a few other states, cannabis was completely and utterly prohibited. Yet, a majority of young people were now using cannabis recreationally. Therefore any argument in favour of prohibition which attempts to use a reduction in harm as a defence, could be flawed. So although marijuana could be considered harmful, prohibition doesn't really do much to handle the problem.


Is Cannabis addictive?

Yes. Cannabis is addictive. You may have heard otherwise, but it's frankly dangerous to pretend anything different. Although cannabis isn't chemically addictive, like cocaine or heroin, it's possible to become addicted to practically anything. That is why it's important to realise that cannabis is in fact addictive, and you can begin to develop a dependence on it. It's thought that around 10-20% of all those who use the drug, become addicted to it. This could be seen as a problem, as, for example, in the US, 49% of all people have tried or used cannabis in the past. That's a massive number, if 10% of people who use it become addicted to it and a whopping 49% of the population of the US have tried it, the overall number of people addicted to cannabis in the US could be quite a high number. This is problematic, and is a reason many people think that cannabis should continue being illegal across the world.


What are the benefits of legalising cannabis?

In 2006, an admittedly pro-marijuana study estimated that the annual production of marijuana in the United States alone was valued at $35.8 billion. An estimated 56 million plants were grown per year. If correct, these figures suggest that cannabis is the largest cash crop in the US. Currently, the tax for medical use in California is 20%. If you apply this across the whole country, hypothetically saying that all states & the federal government legalised and taxed the plant across the whole US, then the estimated tax revenue from the plant would be 20% of $35.8 billion. That's 7.16bn US tax dollars which can be spent on essential public services.

This is not all purely hypothetical of course, as we now have case studies in many different US states. The effects of legalising weed in Colorado, were that the state government collected $247,368,473 in tax from retail and medical marijuana sales in 2017. Again, the effects of legalising weed in Washington, total sales in 2017 were $1.3b, and tax collected was around $310 million. These figures don't even take into account things such as money saved on policing cannabis, jobs created by the industry (and therefore taxes paid by employees) and many other things related to the industry. Another massive economic advantage is the money which would be saved on policing the illicit nature of cannabis. The conclusion from this should definitely be that if nothing else, it makes complete economic sense to legalise cannabis for medical or even for recreational use. This is one of the good effects of legal weed.


What health benefits does cannabis have? Does Cannabis cure cancer?

This is a question that if you fire into Google, you will receive millions of results all promising any number of different health benefits. The main problem with this is that firstly people are very prone to exaggerate the benefits of medical cannabis, but also that the last 60 or 70 years of medical research has been lost, owing to the illegality, and therefore lack of studies, of the plant. However, it is still possible to look at some of the countries which have had medical cannabis for a while now, and draw some important conclusions from their research. Unfortunately, one cannot say for certain that cannabis helps with things such as cancer, despite many people claiming it helped cure them. Rick Simpson (Founder and creator of RSO, Rick Simpson Oil) claims that cannabis oil left on cancerous bumps for a few days cured his cancer, for example. However, cannabis has been proven to help with the following things:

  • Helps people through the process of chemotherapy, to avoid nausea and vomiting

  • Clinically significant reduction of symptoms in adults with chronic pain

  • Helps spasticity in patients suffering from MS.

  • Evidence by the epilepsy foundation that it helps with treating seizures

Although it is highly likely we will see much more research and proof of the healing effects of medical marijuana in the future, it is a dangerous game to assume things which haven't been clinically proven yet, and we must therefore wait and see what the research yields. This is only really possible within a system of legal weed, as if it's outlawed, often research is either banned or severely hindered.


Which countries is cannabis illegal for medical use in?

Cannabis is still illegal for medical use in many countries. In fact, the majority of countries around the world outlaw recreational, medical, and cultivation of the plant. These countries include, the United Kingdom, China, Afghanistan, Iceland, Ireland, Brazil, Cuba, France, Japan, Poland, Indonesia, New Zealand and many more. Some of these countries have incredibly strict penalties for drug use, and will enforce their laws regardless of the reasons and excuses used by the defendants.


Which countries is Cannabis legal for medical use in?

Cannabis is now legal for medical use in many countries across the world. It's also legal in 29

US states (although illegal at federal level).

Some of the states which now allow medical and recreational use of cannabis/marijuana are:

Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Washington DC.

Medical weed is also legal in over 30 different countries, including Canada, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, and Mexico. Countries such as Israel are leading the way when it comes to medical cannabis research, and despite their incredibly high percentage (%) of usage amongst adults 18-65 (27%), the country is only opening up more and more to the idea of medical cannabis. Furthermore, since the government allowed companies to export their medicines across the globe, it has added an estimated $270 million to the Israeli economy each year.

Reference: US State marijuana use:


What is Cannabis Oil and is it legal?

Cannabis Oil is a thick substance which is made up of cannabinoids, which are extracted from the cannabis plant. There are many different names for cannabis oil, so if you hear any of the following, then the person is likely talking about cannabis oil. Marijuana Oil, Cannabinoid Oil, THC Oil, CBD Oil, Cannabidiol Oil, Hemp Oil, Hash Oil. Cannabis Oil is a large umbrella term which encompasses a lot of different things. So, for example, while all of these things are cannabis oil, they are not all the same. Depending on which cannabinoid is inside the oil, and how it is made, is what makes it a specific type of cannabis oil. Cannabis Oil is legal in most countries these days, but, for example, cannabis oil with any amount of THC inside is illegal in the UK. Many people think that Cannabis Oil is most effective when THC and CBD are mixed together, so this can cause a lot of problems for potential Medical Marijuana Patients. As THC products are mostly illegal, whereas pure CBD products are mostly legal.


Is Cannabis more or less harmful than alcohol and tobacco?

The fact that cannabis is illegal and alcohol and tobacco are completely legal is often a stark example of hypocritical policy. Alcohol and Tobacco cause 33,171 and over 480,000 deaths respectively per year (Surgeon General's report estimates - 2014) and yet they are the most widely available drugs on the planet. In many countries that carry the death penalty for possession of Marijuana, millions of people smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. By these numbers alone, it is easy to see that cannabis is not more harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Furthermore, if you look at the potential damage caused by each drug, not just death, then tobacco and alcohol both cause massive societal damage to most countries where they're completely legal. A great contrast of this is “The Irony of it All” by The Streets (Music group). However, it's definitely not all sunshine and rainbows with smoking cannabis. It can cause many bad things, it can be highly addictive, it can make people paranoid, it makes people very lazy and is definitely a way to escape from real life, and increases the risk of psychosis (particularly in those who smoke before their brain is fully developed.) So there's no doubt there is a lot of potential harm from cannabis, but not necessarily more than alcohol and tobacco.


What are the positive effects of legalising Cannabis?

"I'm on record saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I'm also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we're going to be" [1]Barack Obama

Putting people in prison for growing their own cannabis for medical use is not helpful, and in fact costs the taxpayer a lot of money every year. People's lives have been ruined by drug possession charges, and simply have two bags of cannabis in your pocket when being stopped by the police can carry hefty prison sentences, due to you being considered a dealer. People such as Billy Caldwell are denied life-saving treatment, simply because the medicine they have found so much success in is made from cannabis. Although, thankfully, Billy's medicine was eventually returned, he suffered at the hands of the laws which are supposed to protect him, not hinder him.2 It takes a special license, granted specifically from the Home Office, for any person to be prescribed this medication in the UK. If they do not go through the proper channels, and buy instead at somewhere like Holland and Barret, then they are simply not receiving high quality medication. What is needed is evidence-based drugs policy, and not simply to outlaw one set of drugs, but to keep legal another set of incredibly harmful drugs (alcohol and tobacco). However, until the harm from marijuana is fully understood, it should not be considered completely safe as many people believe it to be. Being able to control the supply means being able to control the strength, and stopping incredibly strong cannabis flooding the streets in Britain. Also, by making it legal, it promotes far less paranoia in those who smoke it illegally currently.


The Billy Caldwell case and why it could be a turning point for the UK in legalising Cannabis

The Billy Caldwell case in the UK in June 2018 could be a turning point in UK law regarding medical marijuana.  His severe epilepsy had not affected him for almost a year when his mother was stopped on her way back from Canada and his epilepsy medicine was confiscated. Billy then suffered his first seizure in over 300 days, and despite his medication not getting him high at all, it was seized. Then a couple of days later it was given back. This could now open the case for me people to argue they need cannabis oil for medical use. In some countries, the death penalty still exists for drug traffickers. The problem here is that people can be considered a drug trafficker if they have over a certain amount of cannabis with them at one time even if for medical use.

At the time of writing, the UK has taken its first steps towards legalisation of medical cannabis. Sajid Javid on the 19/06/2018 that there would be a review into the laws of cannabis use for medical purposes. The Home Secretary of the UK has said that the review will be completed very quickly, and more news is expected daily. The laws are changing all the time, and it doesn't seem very long that at least medical use will be legalised across the world. It's cases like Billy's which are such strong arguments in favour of legalisation for medical use. People like Billy are being denied life-saving medicine for what reason? Outdated policies seem more and more laughable by the day, and although cannabis is harmful, so is blocking the medicines derived from it to certain people.


What are the negative effects of legalising Cannabis?

Continuing to keep it illegal for medical use doesn't really have many benefits overall to society. It means that cannabis isn't readily available as an over-the-counter medication, but instead is bought in the back alleys of cities and towns across the earth. Marijuana use hasn't dropped at all since prohibition began, and, in fact, just like in America in the 1920s with alcohol prohibition, it has spread to secret cannabis shops, and is more readily available illegally than ever before. Therefore the reduction in harm which is spouted as the number one reason for the continued prohibition of the herb is simply false. Furthermore, another one of the main arguments used by the prohibition camp is that cannabis has no medical benefit, and should therefore not be legalised. This is the position, for example, of the UK government:

This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis. Raw cannabis is not recognised in the UK as having any medicinal benefit.”

However, this is also proven to be false, as explained previously. Although the medical potential for cannabis has yet to be fully explored, and although a lot of people exaggerate the healing potential of it, it is clinically proven in countries such as Israel that there is at least some medical benefit of cannabis. Therefore, the fact that Marijuana is schedule 1 in the US, and considered by some governments around the world to have no medical benefits by legal definition, is factually false. Furthermore, it's already beginning to become legal in the UK. For example, in 2015, Durham police said they would stop targetting small-scale growers and pot smokers. Also, with the recent case of Billy Caldwell, there are calls within parliament to change the laws, at the very least to allow children with epilepsy to have legal access to the it. When even Jeremy Hunt is calling for a swift change to the laws, you know something is about to change.

Conclusion: We hope we have given you all the facts, now let us know in the comments below, why you think cannabis should be made legal or illegal?




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