Should drugs be legalised?

Read our Volunteer Emily Bedson's summary of our debate on Monday 13 October 2014 - Should drugs be legalised? with Professor David Nutt of Imperial College, London and of drugscience and Pippa Bartolotti, Leader of Wales Green Party.

The debate on the legalisation of drugs was a roaring success, guest speakers Professor David Nutt and Ms. Pippa Bartolotti provided a comprehensive insight into the reasons why drug laws should be changed in the United Kingdom. Ms Bartolotti focused primarily on the legalisation of cannabis and Professor Nutt made a strong case for implementing a system similar to that which can be seen in Portugal. Here are some of the highlighted topics which were addressed during the debate:

·     Professor Nutt stated that the current drug laws censor research impeding scientific and medical research and development.

·     Both Ms. Bartolotti and Professor Nutt acknowledged that the ‘War on Drugs’ perpetuates a racist system as the police disproportionately target young black people.

·     Professor Nutt proposed that if cannabis were to be legalised more people would use cannabis rather than alcohol, alcohol abuse costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year. Cannabis appears to have very few detrimental health effects, which are obvious or long term, costing the NHS very little if anything, therefore legalising it would financially make sense.

·     Both Professor Nutt and Ms. Bartolotti acknowledged the numerous medical benefits of a wide range of drugs. Cannabis can help those suffering from MS and cancer, MDMA (ecstasy) can be used to treat people suffering from PTSD and Parkinson’s disease and Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) can treat depression. 

·     Ms. Bartolotti stated that if the government were to control the drugs on the market they could regulate their quality and strength and at the same time slow down or even eradicate the black market.

·     Ms. Bartolotti also discussed hemp; currently growers are required to have a licence from the Home Office, which is difficult to obtain. Hemp is a sustainable resource which can be used for clothing, food, providing clean energy and was formerly used in South England for making rope.

To end on a very powerful point made by Professor Nutt; Wales is receiving more and more devolved powers from Westminster and if we, as a country, wish to see drug laws that do not put a stranglehold on medical and scientific research, that do not restrict our autonomy, that do not treat people who suffer from substance dependency as criminals and which do not allow people who are ill to suffer, we need to ask for the power to make our own drug regulation laws in Wales.

Another Volunteer Ella Goupillon researched arguments for and against the debate - some of her findings are here.

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