As cannabis gains recognition for its medical properties, and with four American states having legalised the drug, will the UK decriminalise weed?
The Liberal Democrats seek to end the alleged ill-effects of the prohibition with a complete turnover of the current ‘unworkable’ drugs and alcohol policy.
Their official stance lies in tune with popular opinion among Manchester’s youth – that prohibition criminalises and abandons addicts in need of help and is a significant tax loss.
In an interview with MM, Calderdale Lib Dem councillor James Baker said: “Prohibition has failed as a policy in the UK.
“The war on drugs is damaging society, criminalising people, and wasting millions on enforcement while denying tax revenue that could repair the nation’s finances.”
MM reporter Richard Brown spoke to Lib Dem Councillor James Baker on his strong views regarding changing our attitudes to drugs:
The councillor argues that not all drug use is harmful, and drugs can be taken without any ill-effects.
However, he believes some drugs, like alcohol, are damaging and those people who suffer from a problem should be given help to tackle their addiction.
“All you do when you prohibit something is put control of that market under criminal gangs and organisations,” he said.
“They increase the harm associated with drug use and the drugs trade.”
Its legal status is a hot topic throughout Manchester with many having varied opinions on the future of this popular drug.
Canvassing the streets, MM found Nick Clegg’s stance on drugs is on the beating pulse of popular opinion – at least in Manchester.
MM’s Jordan Bluer spoke to young people across the city to find out whether people want to see cannabis decriminalised (filming by James Burford):
MMU student Mark Hunt, 21, said: “If alcohol is legal I don’t see why cannabis shouldn’t be. Comparing the effects you get off both, alcohol is a lot more damaging.”
Sarah Wild, a 19-year-old waitress from Fallowfield, said: “Decriminalisation causes more harm than good, because it puts people in situations where they’re going to commit crimes.”
Tom Underwood, 20, from Manchester, said: “Everyone does it anyway; all students do it, when you go to a party people are whipping their keys out, rolling up and that sort of stuff.”
Potential benefits of decriminalisation are not without proof. In The American state of Colorado, cannabis is now legal and is believed to raise $134million (£85million) in taxes in the next financial year.
Crime has reportedly halved, relieving pressure on the criminal justice system, allowing more time to tackle offences that hurt other people.
Councillor Baker added: “The taxes raised can be used to help provide health services, education and help support people who are addicted to other drugs like alcohol or smoking.”
Additional reporting and filming by James Burford and Richard Brown.
Image courtesy of Prensa 420, with thanks