Written By: J. Laura
According to The Cannabis Exchange, conservatives’ views on cannabis, for the most part, still maintain the belief that cannabis should remain an illegal substance. But within recent times, this belief has shifted.
Back in 2017, the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party spokesperson told BBC that, “There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities. We have no plans to change the law.”
Until now, the usage, production and distribution of cannabis remains illegal in the U.K. According to the U.K. Government cannabis is classed as a Class B drug. Those in possession of cannabis could face up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Similarly, those who supply and produce cannabis could face up to 14 years in prison, and an unlimited fine or both.
But in 2019, The Telegraph reported that U.K.’s Conservative Minister, Crispin Blunt aims to legalize cannabis within five years’ time. “Five years is the time I’m going to aim for,” Blunt told The Telegraph.
In 2018, Lord Hague from the U.K.’s Conservative Party also called to legalize cannabis. However, it was rejected by the government, reports BBC.
This new reform could happen because of the voter appeal. “Such a shift would appeal to younger voters, while not necessarily riling traditional (and new) Conservative supporters,” Ian Hamilton and Harry Sunmall mentioned in The Conversation.
At some point of their lives, 15% of the population have consumed cannabis — and this figure is highest among 18-24 year olds at 28%, and lowest among 65+ year olds at 7%, according to Volteface.
Volteface mentioned that the legalization of cannabis in the U.K., “could take an estimated £2.5 billion a year out of the hands of criminals and the black market and bring this money into the regular economy.”
Though they have argued as well that its legalization would increase the rate of car accidents, and the amount of people driving under the influence of cannabis. They further stated that, “legalization will lead to an increase in addiction (59%) and mental health problems (63%).”
However, Volteface’s poll from 2018 shows that there continues to be a high level of support from the British public for cannabis legalization in the U.K. In terms of recreational use, “the general public is almost twice as likely to support the legalization of cannabis in the U.K. than they are to oppose; 59% strongly support or tend to support the legalization […], compared to 31% who strongly oppose or tend to oppose.” While for medical use of cannabis, 76% would be willing to consume it if prescribed to them by their doctor.
Meanwhile, American conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro, mentioned in an interview with Joe Rogan that, “I used to be a proponent of criminalization of marijuana; I’m no longer.”
“My personal values probably haven’t shifted much, but my political values have shifted libertarian,” Shapiro stated.
When asked why he changed his views on the decriminalization of cannabis, he answered, “A couple of things. One was just a general sense the government sucks at everything. The more I see the government try to crack down on things, the more prevalent it becomes. I mean people are dealing pot on my sixth grade, seventh grade playground in public school.”
Shapiro thinks drugs should be criminalized for two reasons: if the drugs “legitimately make you violent and then you are going out committing acts of violence against people,” and “a drug where it legitimately robs you of your capacity to reason.”
“But even then I’m not sure that the government solution is criminalization,” Shapiro continued. “Because we’ve criminalized it and it’s still incredibly prevalent.”
“We should honestly discuss the evidence that for the subset of the population there is some evidence that marijuana is addicting. But it’s a subset, it’s not everybody who’s on marijuana. The vast majority of people on marijuana are not addicted to marijuana,” Shapiro told Rogan.
Shapiro notes as well that, “the statistical overuse of marijuana among teenagers does have detrimental brain effects that have some long-term after-effects.”
In regards to an individual’s choice of consuming cannabis, since some could overuse its consumption, Shapiro mentioned that, “To solve some of these problems, is a social fabric problem.”
“It’s a personal choice problem,” he answered.
“Conservatives like me, who are libertarian leaning are constantly accused of being non-compassionate,” Shapiro argued. “No, it’s just our compassionate solutions don’t involve the use of government. It’s like we’re going to encourage people to make better decisions with their lives. And if you choose not to do that; it’s a free country.”
The U.S.’s neighbouring country, Canada, however, legalized the use of cannabis in October 2018.
Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), Marilyn Gladu, expressed her concerns about the legalization of cannabis in the country to CTV News. Gladu mentioned, “the lack of information that’s out there and the misinformation that’s gone to the young people.”
“A lot of young people are not informed about the permanent health conditions that they will have if they smoke marijuana under the age of 25 — you know, addiction, anxiety and depression,” Gladu explained.
But when asked on whether she would reverse the legalization, Gladu said it would be, “difficult to reverse.”
This is because, “provinces and municipalities have put their rules in place, there’s businesses that have been started and Canadians are invested, so I think it is unlikely, but certainly we’ll listen to what Canadians have to say,” she continued.
Gladu herself mentioned that it is unlikely that she would reverse the legalization. But one thing is for sure — she would approach legalization differently.
“First thing is public education, the young people are really uninformed about the harms to them — we have to fix that,” Gladu said. “We know that in other jurisdictions they saw a doubling of traffic deaths.”
Certainly, Gladu will, “be looking to see how we can protect the kids, how we can protect the public and how can we address and enforce the rules that are in place,” she said.
Though the debate on the “right” of the political spectrum is not fully settled, it clearly seems that each side of the political spectrum is moving towards modernizing and researching the effects of cannabis use even more in order to ensure a right and safe policy is imposed for the public and consumers.
As of for now, only time will tell where the direction of the “right” is going in regards to this matter.