In England and Wales, cannabis remains illegal despite its medicinal legalization in 2018 under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, classifying it as a Class B drug.
While there's ongoing debate on decriminalization or legalization due to potential crime reduction and revenue generation, the UK government has not taken steps to legalize recreational cannabis.
Now, let's delve deeper into the intricate landscape surrounding cannabis legalization in England.
Legality of Cannabis in England
Government and Legislation
In 2019, a petition calling for the legalization of cannabis received over 200,000 signatures, but the government responded by stating that "there is strong scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health."
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is responsible for advising the government on drug policy. In 2018, the ACMD recommended that medicinal cannabis should be legalized, leading to the change in legislation.
The UK government has also set up a Drugs Commission to review drug policy and make recommendations for reform. However, the commission has not yet released its findings.
In conclusion, cannabis remains illegal in England and Wales, except for medicinal use under strict conditions.
Medicinal Cannabis and Decriminalization Efforts
Medicinal Use of Cannabis
In England, medicinal cannabis has been legal since November 2018, but accessing it via prescription can be challenging and costly. Only a select few patients have received medical cannabis prescriptions, typically for conditions like chronic pain, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.
A notable case shedding light on this challenge was that of Billy Caldwell, a young epilepsy patient whose mother had to advocate fiercely for a medical cannabis prescription. This case prompted a legal amendment, empowering specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis.
Decriminalization and Public Opinion
Although medicinal cannabis is legal in England, recreational use remains illegal, although there are ongoing efforts to decriminalize personal use.
A 2019 poll showed that 47% of the public supported cannabis legalization, while 39% opposed it. The Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Green Party have voiced support for decriminalization or legalization, with some MPs calling for legislative review.
Sadiq Khan, London's Mayor, has also backed decriminalization, citing the current approach's ineffectiveness in addressing violent crime.
However, the government has yet to signal any intention to decriminalize cannabis. Enforcement of existing laws by the police continues, leading to potential criminal records for cannabis possession.
In summary, while medicinal cannabis is legalized, the debate over recreational use decriminalization or legalization remains contentious, with varied opinions among both the public and politicians.