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Should Britain Legalise Cannabis?

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Dr Jamie Banks, Nick Glynn, Professor Rob Canton, and Dagfinn Hessen Paust look at the question, “”Should Britain Legalise Cannabis?” They were speaking during an online event held on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2021, as part of the 8th annual Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

About The Speakers:
● Dr Jamie Banks is a Wellcome Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Leicester, whose research focuses on the colonial and postcolonial histories of drugs and their consumers. His current research explores the intersections between cannabis, race and mental illness in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, with a particular focus upon the psychiatric condition ‘cannabis psychosis’ and its disproportionate diagnosis amongst young, Afro-Caribbean men
● Nick Glynn is a Senior Program Officer at the Open Society Foundations and a former police officer. He works on police accountability in several European countries, with a particular focus on police powers, use of force and racial disparity
● Professor Rob Canton is Professor in Community and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University. Professor Canton worked in the probation service for more than 20 years and has contributed to the development of probation policy and practice in several countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. He now mainly researches into the practices and ethics of punishment, and
● Dagfinn Hessen Paust is from Foreningen Tryggere Ruspolitikk, a Norwegian organisation that is calling for the decriminalisation of drug purchase, possession and use and for a shift in Norwegian drug policy towards injury prevention, information and health-promoting measures.

About the Issues

Cannabis became illegal in the UK in 1928 after being added to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. It was recategorised as a Class C drug in 2004 under Tony Blair’s government but was brought back up to a Class B in 2009 under Gordon Brown’s government.

In the UK, although Medical Cannabis has been legal since 1 November 2018 and is available for use when prescribed by a registered specialist doctor, cannabis remains a Class B drug and is illegal for recreational use. Those caught with the drug can face up to five years in prison, while those involved in its supply or production face up to 14 years behind bars. Despite these laws and penalties, an estimated 2 million people regularly smoke cannabis in the UK, making it the most widely used illegal drug in the country. And while Black people are no more likely to use cannabis than their white counterparts, they are 12 times more likely to be prosecuted for cannabis possession than white people.

Around the world, countries are moving towards the legalisation, regulation and taxation of cannabis as opposed to policing, prosecution and criminalisation. Countries that have legalised the recreational use of cannabis include Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay, plus 18 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia in the United States and the Australian Capital Territory in Australia. Is it now time for Britain to do the same?

About the Organiser

The Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is a grassroots festival that runs from 4 December through to 10 December every year and is now in its 8th consecutive year https://hraffl.wordpress.com/

The festival aims to explore human rights issues through film and the arts and to give a platform through which people can engage with human rights issues at home and abroad. The festival also aims to draw attention to International Human Rights Day which is celebrated annually, across the world, on December 10.

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