Drug Decriminalisation

Channel 4 showed a documentary a couple of days ago about cannabis. One of the commentators was Dr David Nutt, once the government’s chief drugs adviser until he suggested some decriminalisation, when he was very unceremoniously sacked. Cannabis now comes in two varieties, the original ‘hash’ and modern ‘skunk’. Skunk is a hybrid, and is certainly more dangerous than hash. Without criminalisation, skunk probably would not have been developed, according to the Channel 4 programme. Skunk was developed in the US, though I don’t quite follow the argument that it was developed because of criminalisation.

The Independent reported on the programme, here.

Dr Nutt previously classified alcohol and tobacco as much more dangerous than many illegal drugs, including cannabis, and at the end of the programme, he kept skunk where he had had hash on a scale of danger; and he moved hash to the least dangerous area.

President Nixon began the ‘war on drugs’ in 1971. It’s not been a success; it’s reckoned that 100,000 Mexicans have died in drug wars, yet demand and supply remain.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The US had a ‘war on alcohol’ during Prohibition. Demand continued as before, though production was then in the hands of criminals. Alcohol was available in speakeasies; there was even a supplier in Congress. Eventually, Prohibition was repealed.

It’s a really simple lesson of history; humans have needs and demands. If there is a demand for tobacco, alcohol, drugs or sex, and these are made illegal, then criminals will enter the industry and supply the goods. And what’s equally simple is that governments don’t learn the lessons of history.

Portugal was the first country to try another course (see here). If found in possession of small quantities of drugs, the person would be treated as a ‘patient’, and offered support and counselling. Of course, some expected that there would be a massive rise in illegal drug used after this decriminalisation. There wasn’t.

In the UK, the government continues with the ‘war’. However, Richard Branson and Nick Clegg have recently entered the debate, supporting decriminalisation (here). And however much I find it difficult now to support Nick, I do feel that on this he is correct.

If you aren’t winning the ‘war’, would it not make sense to admit this, to legalise but regulate—and tax—drugs which are now illegal?

The Channel 4 programme is available on 4OD for the next four weeks, here.

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  • guest

    Where did biftergreenthumbs comment go.? It was true.

  • guest

    “Skunk is a hybrid, and is certainly more dangerous than hash.”
    Oh dear…where do you start
    Skunk is not a hybrid its a strain of plant and you can make hash from skunk. Get your facts sorted

  • mickfealty

    Everyday ethics had Peter McVerry on pushing a version of the Portuguese model: http://goo.gl/qhfFhO. One reason why I think the CISTA approach is smart is not to stand for a given outcome, but to focus on further serious inquiry into the matter: http://goo.gl/EgtHM8.

  • Brian O’Neill

    We have no problem with commentators correcting anything in posts but we draw the line at being abusive towards contributors. You can make your point without being a snarky. Keep things civil.

  • Brian O’Neill

    According to Wikipedia skunk is a hybrid. I don’t care if it’s made from boiled up bunnies can we stay on the topic of decriminalisation.

  • CISTA will be Standing Candidates in Northern Ireland. (2 candidates so far) I intend to stand in West Tyrone and am convening members, volunteers and candidates in Northern Ireland.

  • guest

    A hybrid what? Skunk is a strain same as other strains ie. Purple haze, cali mist, ak47 some of which have been round a long time. The strengh isnt just in he strain its in the growing. Believe me in he 60’s the weed was just as strong.
    Im not being snarky just very annoyed that you have swallowed the tory/msm lies on this hook line and sinker..

  • guest

    As for decriminalisation yes all the way. Legalise it completely. The ruc tsg running about busting kids with a couple of plants and calling it a factory worth thousands. Next thing you have said kid being told to report to have his knecaps done cause the cops put their name in the paper. I know 2 ppl hat have had to flee the country and another one who lost his house due to these unjust laws.

  • AstroSmurf

    I believe guest is on topic as the name Skunk is having an effect in slowing down the process of reform, due to the Media portraying Skunk as “a dangerous form of Cannabis”. We need to stop using the word if we are to progress with the debate at all. The Cannabis used on Channel 4 was not Skunk at all.

  • mickfealty

    We’ll happily give one of you space here to make a pitch Barry…

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Point taken. My comment was a bit “snarky”. Apologies to the author.
    But easily avoidable factual inaccuracies undermine any authors authority. Why should anyone take someone’s arguments seriously when they don’t have a clear grasp of the issues involved? Surely it is perfectly reasonable to call out someone who is voicing an uninformed opinion. This is the internet after all!

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “A hybrid what?”
    Exactly. The use of the word “Hybrid” in the article above and in other discussions of the dangers cannabis is used to scare people. The word has connotations of artificiality and unnaturalness and mad scientists splicing genes together.

    Skunk like many other cannabis varieties is a hybrid of two cannabis strains and as such is no more or less natural that any other contemporary variety of weed.
    You can buy hybrib tomoato seeds in any garden centre.

  • Jay

    Without regulation people don’t know if their weed is 4% THC of 20%(skunk). Its like buying a carryout and not knowing if your drinking Coors or Kulov. Some people can handle vodka, others can’t. Its the same with stronger strains of weed. I’ve stoner mates who wouldn’t thank you for the stuff. They want a nice taste and easy hit. They don’t want to be paralytic for 6 hours.

  • Zig70

    I was offered drugs on the street in Portugal. Didn’t make me want to come back with my kids. Anyone with any experience will know that the ‘drugs kill’ or ruin lives media and government portrayal has a backward effect because a kids first exposure is usually a happy, relatively safe one. It doesn’t deter because it is at odds with peer exposure. However also to think that they don’t have serious long term effects in terms of your mental state and functionality is naive. Society should not condone or white wash their use.

  • Brian O’Neill

    This is not high times, we don’t claim to be cannabis experts. We are more than happy to accept your corrections all we ask us you do it in a civil manor.

  • AstroSmurf

    I agree with you about regulation and not knowing the content of your Cannabis, but the stuff your talking about is not Skunk. High strength Cannabis could be any strain of Haze or Cheese etc.. Skunk is only about 8% THC…See my other post

  • Korhomme

    My understanding was, and is, that skunk is a hybrid in the botanical sense. It has more THC than ‘normal’ hash; THC is what gives you the high, but also the downer, the anxiety. The other chemical, CBD, acts to ameliorate the bad effects of THC. Skunk is therefore considered more potent than hash, and more dangerous—though still not as dangerous as alcohol.

    But then, the danger with any chemical rises with consumption, and I’m not certain how and if this has been estimated for cannabis. Surprisingly, perhaps, water in excess can be fatal; and oxygen toxicity is certainly recognised.

    But my main point was about decriminalisation of cannabis, not on the details of whether skunk is a hybrid or not—that’s a side issue.

    Can any reasonably well-informed person really believe that cannabis should be banned rather than regulated and taxed?

    And what about other illegal drugs? Is there a case for legalising, say, cocaine and other opioids? (And regulating, and taxing them.) Or, why do we put up with the suppliers of these being ruthless ‘barons’, quite capable of murder and of using unaware mules? It’s the mules who go to prison, or get executed in some states, (almost) never the barons.

    Why are only tobacco and alcohol amongst the really dangerous drugs the ones that are legal? Just an accident of history?

  • guest

    You can make hash out of skunk. As for “normal” hash. Depends where you get it 😉

  • Korhomme

    How do you make hash from skunk? And why would you want to?

  • Jay

    Haze is a variant of the original skunk strain. The term has become generic for all high potency weeds. Which is where the confusion lies. The media want people to think there is some sort of super weed that is taking control of our streets and skunk is the term they’ve chosen. Lack of education on their behalf. People need to know that weed comes in a variety of strengths just like alcohol. When you go to a dealer its pot luck (see what I did there) on what strength your weed is. Regulate and educate!

  • AstroSmurf

    Skunk is Cannabis… Any Cannabis makes Hash. All hash is, is Tryclomes/or resin taken off of the leaf or flower. Its 90% pure THC.

  • guest

    You really dont get it do you. Hash is made from the resin from a cannabis plant . Any cannabis plant of which skunk may be one of.

  • Practically_Family

    A hybrid cultivar of cannabis, grown for effect.

  • Jay

    Just tried to do a bit of research on different strains and chemical compounds and all that jazz to post up. It appears that virgin have blocked 99% of the websites I click on. Keep us all in the dark, its scarier there!

  • AstroSmurf

    “My understanding was, and is, that skunk is a hybrid in the botanical sense. It has more THC than ‘normal’ hash; THC is what gives you the high, but also the downer, the anxiety. The other chemical, CBD, acts to ameliorate the bad effects of THC”…….Correct to the point that Skunk is only About 8% THC.. You can get Haze at 20% THC not Skunk… So is Haze not the so called dangerous form of Cannabis? or cheese or Kush?

  • AstroSmurf

    you are spot on!!!
    Not lack of education they know what they are doing…

  • AstroSmurf

    That’s David Camerons great censorship of the Internet.

  • guest

    It may not be high times but a basic understanding of the plant in question would be useful if your going to start a post on it. The ignorance being pedaled by the media about weed is scandalous.

  • AstroSmurf

    Its not anyone’s fault who believe Cannabis is Dangerous or, that we shouldn’t reform our drug laws due to the propaganda from the Media.. Cannabis is neither harmless nor dangerous at the same time.. Cannabis is not for all people as goes for Alcohol or Tobacco which we know are harmful and dangerous.. We should not just decriminalize as this leaves room for the black market to thrive but we should Legalize, regulate and educate now!!!

  • Korhomme

    I gather that there are varieties that go up to 30% THC—such as ‘white widow’ and others. Skunk does seem to be bad.

    BTW, I do realise that ‘hash’ is technically a resin, but I’m using it as a generic for original cannabis.

    I gather that the varieties used medicinally (MS, glaucoma, pain relief) have lots of CBD which skunk doesn’t.

  • AstroSmurf

    Medical Cannabis can be as much as 22% THC and as little as 1% CBD.. Check out Bedrocan. Cannabis used for Epilepsy has more CBD present with little to no THC at all. Check out Charlottes Web..

  • Neil

    Get TOR browser.

  • Korhomme

    Some clarification: I understand that hybrids of cannabis were developed such that they could be grown indoors, under artificial light, rather than outdoors. That was clearly a response to criminalisation. It seems that these newer varieties (hybrids) were also more potent.

  • eiregain

    kill them with kindness from now on bif u have valid points to make. With the exclusion of morph we need to be aware that mods are clamping down on insults even if your regularly correct and the point your making is valid. They don’t care, the fear of turning into p.ie is stronger than their fear of a meaningless discussion, built on misinformation.

  • eiregain

    Yes, potatoes and wheat also have been bred the same way, flowers have been bred this way for centuries. it’s normal agriculture to select the best breeds for crops and splice with native species or hardy species. Why has this suddenly been linked to cannabis’ criminalisation. the experimentation in the plant now like in ALL PLANTS comes from our advancments in technology and knowledge, it is done in labs and greenhouses across the world (in countries where it’s not illegal) and the outcome is a more effective plant. don’t you buy whiskey or vodka when u don’t want to drink beer? Same thing here, stronger strains for different people. You wouldn’t give a first time drinker absinthe in his first time would you?

  • Brian O’Neill

    Hash is solid right? It is compressed. A relative got given some for his wife who has arthritis. He had no idea what to do with it, could not cut it etc. One benefit of legalisation is they can stick the instructions on the side 😉

  • Derek

    Some more clarification – prohibition created the market for the domestic cultivation industry. Prior to around th emid-90s, most of our cannabis came from north Africa in the form of hash – the sort of hash the programme was talking about. What happened in the mid-90’s was the combined effect of customs seizures and crop eradication in the producer countries reduced the quality of imported hash. Hence the market was primed for the higher quality home produced product.

    So it is correct to say that prohibition created the domestic grow industry and changed the mass market from what they tell us was a safe version of hash to what they tell us is the more dangerous “skunk”.

    A little rider to that: The market shift had happened by around 1998. In 2008 the government discovered what had happened following the Home Office “Cannabis potency study” of that year. It took 10 years for them to notice, and the call cannabis a “controlled drug”, seriously you couldn’t make it up. The claims that “skunk” now dominates the market comes from that Home Office study of seven years ago.

  • Korhomme

    The point I’m trying to make is not what exactly hash/skunk/cannabis is; rather it’s whether it’s so dangerous that it must be criminalised, or not. So, should cannabis be decriminalised, yes or no? And why?

  • Flombletrue

    The reason a high strength strain was developed was the same reason that high strength moonshine was produced in prohibition era America. The criminality of it drives the price up so people produce stronger versions so they can get equally high/drunk without overspending

  • Korhomme

    Rhododendrons are hybrids, as are many soft fruits. Even grapefruit is a hybrid between a pomolo and an orange.

  • Guest

    Colorado.

    The debate is over and it is a moral obscenity to continue inflicting the horrors, loss of life and corruption of the state by continuing the drug war.

  • chrisjones2

    By all means educate, regulate and tax. Criminalisation simply gives organised crime a big cash cow. But tax will need to be set low or the illegal will still be so profitable it will flourish

  • chrisjones2

    The debate isn’t over and pretending otherwise is just foolish. There are people out there who would regulate sex and laughter if they could

  • chrisjones2

    Absinthe is just the same strength as many vodkas. Its just a myth that its psychoactive these days

  • eiregain

    I’m speaking solely of alcohol content , absynth can be up to 80% vodka is usually 40% I’m fully aware of absynths history they used to add poisonous roots to get that effect and many prominent artists a writer’s lost thier minds on it, I never suggested modern alcohol still has those psychoactive properties( even though alcohol itself increase the risk of psychosis).

    Skunk is the same chemicals as ditch weed just different concentrations.

    So we are on the same page then?

  • Jay

    Sell it at current street prices. £10 per gram.
    A single plant can yield up to 250gs.
    £2500 per plant. I doubt there is any other crop in the UK that could bring in such a high profit. A single factory cultivating 1000 plants, 3 yields per year adds up to £7.5million. It would cripple criminal gangs and bring in ridiculous amounts of tax. It would free up our court system and free people from criminal records. It just makes sense!

  • David

    Sex is already being regulated here Chris. Last October the assembly voted to criminalise anyone visiting a prostitute on the premise that it would stop sex trafficking. Despite the fact that there wasn’t a single case of trafficking for prostitution in NI last year. That ‘debate’ wasn’t even allowed to happen because our moral guardians know best.