Uruguay, one of England’s biggest rivals in the tough World Cup Group H, became the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana yesterday.
Will this country be following suit?
The South American country has permitted both the large-scale distribution of marijuana and the growing of small amounts by individuals – although the country’s left-wing government have stated it will be tightly controlled.
The decision was met with delight from cannabis-smoking supporters who cheered and set off fireworks as they celebrated the new legislation in the centre of the capital, Montevideo.
Meanwhile in Manchester drugs campaigner Colin Davies announced plans to set up a ‘cannabis social club’ in the city centre in which customers could bring their own drugs to consume.
The ‘cannabis cafe’, planned for the Northern Quarter, is splitting opinion and the police have promised to act if anything illegal takes place on the premises.
Norman Baker the new Liberal Democrat minister responsible for drugs policy in the UK, has refused to rule out a policy of legalising cannabis and research but said that it is not his main objective in the job.
The Institute for Social and Economic Research, published in September this year, claimed tax revenue from licensing the drug could raise between £400million and £900million.
However, many groups including the NHS are concerned that the potential legalisation in the UK is ignoring the dangers associated with cannabis use including dependency problems, mental health problems and lung damage.
MM took to the streets of Piccadilly to find out what the public thought about the possible legalisation of the class B drug.
Should cannabis be legalised in the UK?
Dominque Sutton, 37, an administrator from Norwich said: “It definitely should not be legalised, it destroys your brain cells and leads to severe mental health problems.”
Paul Killey, 48, a financial advisor living in Bolton, said: “I don’t see the point in it. I’ve never been near it and neither have my kids. People make excuses for using it but if it’s illegal they shouldn’t go near it.”
Many people, like Ruth Pearce, 27, a research assistant from Liverpool, believes that if cannabis is legalised it could be very dangerous as it may potentially ‘lead people to use other drugs like heroin and cocaine’.
However, others such as Maggie Miller, 39, an accountant, from Chorlton, said: “I am anti-drug in general but if it’s for medicinal reasons then that is fine as long as it’s for a properly recognised medical condition.”
Rich Sheheen, 30, from Bredbury, shop worker, said: “I can’t see the problem it’s only like having a drink really I think most people think it’s legal anyway.”
Dario Parati, 28, a bathroom fitter from Manchester, said: “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be legal, I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times and they seem to benefit from it. It’s no worse than cigarettes and alcohol really.”
While the majority of people believed that cannabis should remain illegal there was a strong suggestion from many Mancunians that it makes more sense to legalise the drug.
Paul Thornton, an 18-year-old student believed that the government have failed to see the bigger picture.
“Look, at the end of the day people are going to do it and it’s their choice,” he said.
“The fact is that weed is an amazing crop that can ease pain as well as stimulate your creative senses.
“Of course there are downsides to abusing it but there are downsides to abusing anything do you know what I mean?”
Gina Davenport, a factory worker from Salford, said: “It makes no sense to sustain a failing system,” she said.
“Other European countries have successfully integrated more lenient policies on drugs and it is about time that our government got with the times and realised that making something illegal doesn’t stop people from doing it.
Paul Folks, a 58-year-old musician felt the same.
“Why can’t someone smoke a joint if they want? I don’t drink excessively and then roll about in the street,” he said.
“The government don’t know what they are doing. If people want to smoke weed then they should be allowed to do so without fear.”
However, others were more cautious. Sally Parsonage, a 29-year-old accountant from Stockport said: “I don’t think it’s bad really but if it’s illegal then you just shouldn’t do it.
“It’s illegal for a reason and the government and the experts have said it’s dangerous so it shouldn’t be legal.”
Image courtesy of Bjorn Hansen, with thanks