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Could the upcoming cannabis debate really make a difference?

The government has recently announced that there will be a debate in Parliament on the legalisation and sale of cannabis on Monday October 8 after a YouGov petition received over 200,00 signatures.

But before you reach for the flavoured papers and novelty smoking paraphernalia, it would be wiser to look at the likely impact this debate will have. Namely, very little.

Despite the progress made by the USA, where four states have legalised cannabis for recreational use and 23 states allow it to be used for medicinal purposes, expecting such rapid change this side of the pond would be naïve.

I spoke with Newport West MP Paul Flynn, who supports the legalisation and regulation of cannabis about the likelihood of the upcoming debate bringing real change.

His outlook was less than optimistic, saying: “It is unwise to build up high expectations on the value of the debate. I will concentrate on legalising medicinal cannabis because that is the only realistic concession we can hope to get from this Government.

“The main obstacle to reform is the cowardice of MPs terrified of being accused of going to pot and being soft on drugs. Public opinion is ignorant of the benefits of legalisation or decriminalisation that has happened elsewhere.”

While he was realistic about the outcome of the upcoming debate he was hopeful that pressure from constituents to get MPs to tackle this issue will bring eventual change.

However, there are those who feel that in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, Ukraine’s proxy-war and the looming threat of ISIS that debating cannabis legislation is simply not that important.

To such critics Mr Flynn was unapologetic, saying: “There are enormous financial benefits in reducing police, court and prison costs and in relieving pain for millions that justifies time being devoted to legalisation.”

The recent vote on the ‘Right to Die’ in Parliament showed how they government are more than willing to fly in the face of public opinion. Despite rising public support for allowing terminally ill patients to choose to end their life, MPs voted overwhelmingly against the measure.

When looking at the current government’s history with it’s own appointed advisors, with Select Committee reports and Advisory Committee recommendations being dis-regarded, it is hard to believe that mere public pressure will change their attitude.

While the upcoming debate is hardly a matter of life and death, I have no doubt it will prove to be just as contentious.

Photo courtesy of  West Midlands Police

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