Friday, October 28, 2005

Going to Pot

I really am reconsidering my view on cannabis these days. As a student in the Sixties, although I wasn't a smoker (didn't smoke cigarettes either) I wasn't too bothered about the weed, and all that I knew about it was that it made people who were already boring even more boring, with the addition of a silly grin.

Since becoming a magistrate I have become accustomed to the typically British half-hearted compromise, that dope is, well, illegal, but so long as you don't, you know, like sell it to other people, and hey, it's no worse than alcohol, is it, and it's been reclassified in a half-cocked sort of way, and a £50 fine is about right for a local kid with a bit of blow, but dealers, well, it's off to the Crown Court for them. Nobody, by the way, has ever been able to decide where dealing starts and passing on a bit to mates to help pay for your own supply stops.

Well now it's turning nasty. I know that millions of young people use dope and that much of it is locally grown and that the new strains that are grown hydroponically have a much higher THC (the active ingredient) content than the stuff that was formerly available. I do not suggest that regular use of smallish amounts will immediately scramble your brains. What I do know is that for people who already have a tendency towards some commonly occurring mental problems cannabis use can push them over into full-blown psychosis. I recently read a 26 page report on a defendant, prepared by a consultant psychiatrist. The defendant had a history of depression and had been admitted to hospital on a couple of occasions for short courses of drug treatment. He took to cannabis use two years ago, was re-stabilised by the hospital after the effects became apparent, and now he is, having relapsed, such a prolific offender offering significant danger to the public, that we have kept him in custody for several months while the doctors try to sort out what to do with him. He may well end up being compulsorily detained. Now that's only one case, but it's about the sixth such that I have seen, and I only sit part time in one of many courts.

With emerging evidence that long-term use of high-THC cannabis damages unborn children and causes other as yet unresearched problems, my attitude towards dope is no longer relaxed. I am against it. Having said that, I do not believe that the law has the slightest hope of doing anything more than keep the price high (although heaven knows, street drugs are cheap enough today, often cheaper to use than alcohol).

It's a bit of a mess, I am afraid.

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