Some people have been pointing to this article by Patrick Cockburn http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/is-this-the-tobacco-moment-for-cannabis-8349054.html as something that should be read before uncritically accepting the HASC recommendations.
This is the letter I wrote in response to a previous article by Patrick and another by John Rentoul that were published in the IoS last year. I thought it would be worth publishing it again. An edited version was published the week after in the IoS but I can't find it online. I'm very happy the Independent has printed an editorial this week that has called for decriminalisation of drugs despite Patrick Cockburn's articles on the subject. Please understand that I do not criticise Patrick Cockburn in any way and only have sympathy for what he and his family have had to endure.
(in reply to the articles of John Rentoul and Patrick Cockburn of the
5th of June 2011)
I last had a letter published in the Independent on Sunday on the 15th
of September 2002. It was a desperate plea for increased education on
mental health issues informed by my deeply distressing experience of
my brother's worsening psychosis. Within that letter I said "We don't
need it to be easier to lock up the mentally ill. We need a society in
which everyone knows how to look after their mental health and can
look out for the health of others." Some 9 years later, and with a
brother sadly still severely limited by his condition, I am now a
passionate campaigner for the strict control and regulation of a legal
cannabis market. I have taken this position because I recognise the
potential within a strictly regulated legal market for that education
on mental illness to be delivered directly to people who have around a
doubled risk of developing schizophrenia. If cannabis was sold from
pharmacists and there was a requirement to undergo education on the
early warning signs of psychosis before people are permitted to use,
then I do hope that John and Patrick can recognise that "legalising"
cannabis can present a marvellous opportunity to intervene early in
psychosis and reduce its impact upon young lives, families and
society. Permitting use by adults should also reduce the viability of
criminal enterprises that deal to children, and increase the ability
of the police to rightly target such enterprises. Prohibition did not
stop Henry Cockburn using cannabis from the age of 14. I desperately hope that
controlling and regulating the market, alongside improved education in
schools, can reduce the level of use in the next generation and reduce
the incidence and severity of the terrible condition that Patrick and
I have had the misfortune to witness first hand.