Methamphetamine and cannabis are illegal drugs that have their supply chains controlled by gangs. While both cause harm, they exist at separate ends of the spectrum. The stigma surrounding the use of cannabis is steadily eroding, and while there are laggards, namely of the political kind, the general consensus is that we should overhaul the current laws that govern its use. They are after all, almost half a century old and with 40% of adults having used the drug, have demonstrably failed.
No one is denying the harmful impact that cannabis use can have, but it’s blindingly obvious by now that the billions of dollars spent on prohibition have been wasted. People have used it regardless of its legal status, and by continuing to prohibit its use we are simply funding the criminal underworld rather than having its use generate tax revenue that can be applied to drug & alcohol education and addiction.
We are also leaving wide open an avenue for the supply of a much, much more harmful drug: methamphetamine. As anyone who follows the news will know, meth use is skyrocketing. It’s cheaper than ever, easier to get hold of than cannabis, and terrorising our communities. One of the most concerning aspects of this is the speed in which its use is growing. The numbers admitted to hospital due to meth has risen year on year, jumping an incredible 51 per cent between 2014 and 2015. Even as the police seize more meth than ever, rates keep climbing.
To this point we have heard little in the way of solutions for a problem that is quickly spiraling out of control. Drug reform is tricky due to the lack of concrete evidence, however, we have seen examples such as in Portugal, where the population was gripped by crippling heroin dependency. They reacted by loosening regulations and decriminalizing all drugs in order to shift the focus onto the health system. The outcomes have, in many respects, been overwhelmingly positive. There are other examples of decriminalization of cannabis, and harder drugs across Europe and in other nations, where the evidence suggests the results have been beneficial.
While we do not advocate for measures as extreme as those Portugal has adopted, there are interventions available that can have a significant, positive impact and these must be prioritised. Our "Real Deal Cannabis Policy" is an example of positive intervention that can reduce social harm, not just from cannabis, but also from meth, by limiting the interactions normally law-abiding citizens have with criminal suppliers.
The evidence suggests that limiting the exposure of people to the criminal underworld will reduce those exposed to meth. This makes sense when you consider that these drug dealers are simply out to make a profit like any other business. Meth is a very lucrative product and one way that dealers acquire new users is by upselling their already loyal cannabis customers. By removing these users from the supply chain, we cut off a main source of their potential cliental.
Creating a regulated market for the supply of cannabis will also mean we can reallocate resources to help prevent the spread of meth use and generate revenue streams that will prop up our drastically underfunded addiction services. The evidence supporting cannabis intervention is considerable and the fact that it will limit the number of people exposed to meth is an added bonus to what is already a pragmatic approach to drug reform.
For a country that prides itself on being progressive and forward thinking our current action is regressive and counterproductive. Part of the frustration is that policy intervention from the government for cannabis law reform is not even politically unpopular; very rarely do we see such unanimous public support for change. The watered-down reform we have ended up with has made a mockery of Labour’s pre-election promises and shows that ill-informed thinking prevails within establishment parties - the evidence is overwhelming, opinion based on a legacy of prejudice should have no role.