Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the world, with the predicted number of users exceeding 200 million people (UNODC, 2015). Within Europe, it is estimated that a quarter of the population aged between 15-64 years have tried cannabis, with nearly 7% indicating they have consumed it in the past year (EMCDDA, 2016). This frequency of use far surpasses the use of other illegal drugs: cocaine, the second most frequently used drug, is reported to have a lifetime use of 5.1%, with only 1.1% claiming to have consumed the drug in the past twelve months (EMCDDA, 2016).
Although considered acceptable on an individual basis by many, little has changed to the cannabis laws across most of Europe over the last few years. Not, actually, since its reclassification in Britain from Class C to Class B drug in May 2008, moving it up the scale away from ‘soft drugs’ like anabolic steroids, and towards the ‘harder drugs’ of the Class A crack and cocaine, amongst others. In the aftermath of this change in policy, Professor David Nutt was sacked from his position as head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (the UK government’s official advisory body) for outing criticism against the decision in light of scientific evidence. It is my belief that this is just one example of politicians refusing to reflect upon the state of cannabis legality from a neutral standpoint, and I will now attempt to bring some transparency into the picture.