Comment: Quantum cannabis - How drug policy turned sci-fi

The government's drug policy has veered towards science fiction
The government's drug policy has veered towards science fiction

By Deej Sullivan

As the case for drug prohibition has fallen apart, its defenders have had to come up with ever more imaginative ways to justify it. When it comes to cannabis, that now includes bending the laws of science to their will.

The government created a bit of a problem for itself when it allowed GW Pharmaceuticals to grow cannabis under license in order to produce Sativex - a cannabis tincture used to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. This was odd, because under the scheduling system for drugs enshrined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 cannabis is classified as schedule one, meaning it has no therapeutic value.

Before Sativex came along it was easy enough, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, for the government to defend cannabis' scheduling. There was no legal cannabis medicine in the UK, so therefore cannabis wasn't a medicine. But as soon as this new drug was licensed, they had a problem.


Sativex is simply cannabis extract suspended in alcohol with a dash of peppermint added for taste. How would they be able to get away with keeping cannabis in schedule one?

Surely the whole house of cards was about to come tumbling down? But get away with it they did - by granting cannabis quantum status within the Misuse of Drugs Act. Rather than admit they were wrong, the coalition government somehow contrived to grant Sativex its own special scheduling: schedule four, part one.

What they seemed to be suggesting was that 'raw' cannabis absolutely and definitely did not have any kind of therapeutic or medicinal value. But add alcohol and peppermint to the equation and this formerly highly dangerous and illegal plant was suddenly a safe and effective medicine.

The continued efforts of governments to ensure prohibition remains in place forces them to continually twist logic to the point that drug policy has veered towards pure science fiction. With the drug argument now lost to everyone but those in power,  they're forced to come up with ever more fantastical contrivances to ensure the status quo survives.

In the face of these ever-evolving fantasies it can be difficult to keep arguing without sounding like a broken record. But there are still good, old fashioned methods we can utilise to move the conversation along. The latest e-petition calling for cannabis to be rescheduled has gathered over 20,000 signatures so far - and the numbers are rising rapidly.

Until these efforts succeed, we're forced to continue living in the science fiction parallel reality the government has created.

Deej Sullivan is a writer and activist from the UK. He regularly writes on drug policy for London Real, NORML UK, the UKCSCs and his own blog, thedomesticextremist.co.uk. You can follow him on Twitter here.

The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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