‘Can you blame someone for wanting a mind-altering substance to be able to deal with life in Wales?’
Cannabis, Wales’ favourite drug. Most people know of it, many have had…experiences with it. With nearly 2.4 million people using it between 2017/18, Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK.
If the population of Wales makes up just 4.8% of the UK, you could make a good argument that over 115,000 people use Cannabis in one form or another each year within Wales.
Despite widespread usage, Cannabis still remains an illegal substance. Between 2017/2018, nearly 82,000 people were found in possession of the drug in both England and Wales.
Is this criminalisation protection of Welsh health, or rather a prohibition out of moral panic?
Valleys Underground have talked through these issues with a spokesman for Cannabis Industry Wales on
- How the criminalisation of Cannabis affects communities in Wales.
- How legalization could help radically change Wales for the better.
The sheer amount of Cannabis ingested regularly in Wales already poses deep problems in actually policing the law. In a time of continued budget cuts to public services (cut by 20% in seven years within Wales), more serious crimes are usually given a higher priority over low level drug offences.
With huge numbers of people purchasing and using Cannabis in Wales regularly, the question is how police forces in Wales could realistically deal with the significant numbers facing them.
In this climate, a spokesman for Cannabis Industry Wales argues, police officers are more often than not actively ‘turning a blind eye’ to Cannabis usage.
What’s more pressing to the police, anyway? Lads on a stag night drinking cheap Jager bombs and starting fights, or the average Cannabis user, eating pizza and watching Netflix?
An issue of Class?
Though posing as a broad and fair policy, the current legislation on Cannabis unfairly targets the young, the working class, and the vulnerable in Wales.
As a spokesman for Cannabis Industry Wales stated, the criminalisation of Cannabis is ‘a significant class issue’. Especially in the de-industrialised areas of Wales, areas where jobs are minimal and nearby opportunities are limited, could you blame someone for ‘wanting a mind-altering substance to be able to deal with life in Wales?’
But surely it’s a gateway drug? Cannabis leads people onto stronger substances. It could be argued that, yes. But in the same way the average professional who enjoys a glass of wine after a hard day doesn’t immediately move onto entire bottles of Vodka a night, the sporadic Cannabis user doesn’t immediately move onto injecting between the toes.
As an adult, the spokesman argued, provided you are not hurting anyone and act responsibly (i.e. current policy on Alcohol), should you want to engage in a bit of escapism, who are the Government to tell you otherwise?
Whilst the police on many occasions are turning a blind eye to Cannabis usage, can you rely on the generosity of the individual officer? For the unlucky ones who’ve been charged and convicted – most often the young and working class, convictions add considerable obstacles to the limited chances of finding employment in these depressed areas.
(South Wales Police taking part in ‘Operation Avalanche‘, seizing over 500 Cannabis plants from a factory in the Rhondda.)
Healthy or harmful?
One of the first points brought up our discussion with Cannabis Industry Wales was the ‘artificial’ classification between ‘medical’ and ‘regular’ Cannabis. In their words, both are inherently the same product with the same properties. You can even argue that both are used with the same motive – alleviation of pain, be it physical or mental.
And what of those who use it for pain relief? Those with serious medical conditions? Often, they too are made criminals. The spokesman for Cannabis Industry Wales claims that many sufferers of debilitating conditions – such as MS or Arthritis, are having their Cannabis seized, and are subsequently charged for wanting to ease their pain.
Ironically, government attempts to ‘protect the health’ of people in Wales from Cannabis, are in fact fuelling dangerous situations, with potentially lethal consequences.
Through allowing a black market to control sales of Cannabis products, rather than legalisation and safety legislation, the Government is increasing the likelihood of consuming tainted or unsafe Cannabis. In the words of Cannabis Industry Wales, would you rather ‘your children buy untested weed from unscrupulous people’, or should we stop them accessing it until they are adults, via a controlled, age restricted environment ?
What can be done?
So where does the future of Cannabis lie in Wales?
Cannabis Industry Wales argues for the legalisation and regulation of Cannabis in Wales, accompanied by a blanket amnesty of those convicted of Cannabis related crimes.
Most importantly however, is the creation of Cannabis Clubs across Wales. In these clubs, members communally grow Cannabis in a safe environment, ready to be distributed equally across the membership base. Through these clubs, as Cannabis Industry Wales argues, Cannabis can be grown locally and safely, whilst the clubs provide a safe space to consume.
At the moment though, Wales isn’t there yet. Whereas countries such as the Netherlands, Canada and Uruguay have led the way in legalisation, Wales remains stuck in the past.
But what can be done in the now?
Cannabis Industry Wales argues that Wales needs to take devolved action, rather than wait for Westminster to finally acquiesce. Though North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has often pledged his support for the legalisation of Cannabis, a united effort between Welsh Commissioners would be key in the road to legality.
Similarly, increased political support for legalisation would be needed. As the spokesman for Cannabis Industry Wales argued, ‘you would be surprised by the number of senior political figures’ who support legalisation in secret. This secrecy in support, the spokesman argues, is due to the potential political stigma of ‘supporting people getting high’ – implying Cannabis users are inherently addicts, and not your teacher, your neighbour, your sister looking to take the edge off.
Will Wales see legalisation in the near future? The times seem to be changing, and legalisation of Cannabis is an idea whose time seems to have come in various countries across the world.
However, if left up to the bloated, outdated Westminster, legalisation will likely reach Wales long after many other countries in the global North.
Only through Wales taking the first stand among the nations of the UK can we then see the production and sale of legal Cannabis in our country.
The fight may be hard now, but what better way to unwind after it’s won?