Should cannabis be legalised?

Hash, weed, pot, dope, marijuana, grass, skunk, whatever you want to call it, it all comes down to the simple fact that cannabis is still an illegal drug. It is not necessarily as harmful as other drugs like cocaine, ecstasy or heroine, but it is illegal.

There are among more than 70 million people who have used cannabis and possibly among more than ten million, who use it regularly. No matter what you may believe, it is still illegal in Scotland and the UK to be in possession of cannabis. Possession is punishable by up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine. Supplying cannabis (which includes passing a joint to a friend) is punishable by up to fourteen years in prison and an unlimited fine. Cannabis is the most commonly and widely used illegal drug and yet it is not harmful.

The marijuana plant originated in the warm climates of the Middle East; together with China, it played an important part in its history. Hoatho was the first Chinese physician to use cannabis for medical purposes as a painkiller and anaesthetic for surgery. The British Medical Profession is broadly in favour of its use in the treatment of some conditions, for example multiple sclerosis - where it has been shown to be more effective than conventional drugs. As a medicine it has helped sufferers of AIDS, glaucoma, migraines, epilepsy, asthma, insomnia, spinal injuries, muscle spasms, indigestion, loss of appetite, depression and nausea with cancer patients.

Marijuana has been used as a medicine since the times of the Ancient Chinese and Egyptians. Many ancient cultures such as the Persians, Greeks, East Indians, Romans, and the Assyrians used it for many things too; even Queen Victoria used it regularly to help period pains and cannabis was only criminalized fairly recently.

The law that prohibits cannabis is called the "Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970". The Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act reviewed the nation\'s drug regulations. Title II of the law, known as the Controlled Substances Act, determines which drugs should be controlled, ways of reducing the availability of controlled drugs, and penalties for illegal supplying and possession of controlled drugs.

Since cannabis has been used for so long, it obviously has benefits. When cannabis is used in small quantities, people feel relaxed, have a greater appreciation of sound, colour and a huge appetite. But the long-term effects of cannabis use are not clear. Usually with heavy use, lethargy, no energy, short term memory loss, and if used with tobacco, coughs and sore throats are common. But recent research has shown that cannabis could cause up to 30 000 deaths each year. The Imperial College School of Medicine team claimed cannabis smoking was linked to bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer and mental illnesses. Researcher Professor John Henry said: “Cannabis can cause the same effects as tobacco smoking.”

If cannabis has no long-term effects then it should not be banned. If it does, then this provides grounds for banning not only alcohol, but also chocolate cake, watching TV all day, basically anything that is bad for your health. Some may suggest that cannabis use leads to the abuse of harder drugs which have much more serious effects, but no actual proof has supported this view.

I believe people should be able to choose what they want to do, and what they want to get involved in. We should all have the freedom to express who we are; cannabis is not harmful and has never killed a single person. Therefore I believe that it should be legalised. This would keep people away from drug dealers, and would result in lower crime numbers because no one would be breaking the law. Cannabis is helping thousands of people with illnesses and is giving people a sense of freedom. Who are we to condemn what they do? This law will not last forever, for example people in Amsterdam have no law against cannabis. They smoke it freely on the streets and in cafes. Nearly everyone will agree that a society needs laws – these laws are there to protect us from others, to encourage co-operation, to uphold basic rights and to protect us from ourselves, but we do not need a law to protect us from a harmless ‘drug’.