The Moral Case for Legalisation of Cannabis

Generation after generation has been brought up to believe the blanket statement “drugs are bad”.
Drugs - meaning illicit drugs. For one reason or another, the majority of people don’t view nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, sugar and pharmaceuticals as drugs so they are perceived to be good - or at least, in a different category to cannabis. .


Cannabis springs to mind at the mention of recreational drugs. Until recently, cannabis and its numerous health benefits were not seriously discussed. Even now, those working in the industry are met with wise cracks when answering small talk questions like - “so, what do you do?”.

In recent years, people have learned that cannabis was not only a pleasant way to unwind it was also effective at treating ailments that mainstream medicines were failing to do in some way or another. Globally, cannabis was proving to be effective in helping people avoid the nausea of chemotherapy, allowing war veterans to escape the horrors of PTSD and helping with more conditions. People learned the truth about cannabis.

The moral case for cannabis

To say cannabis is bad because drugs are bad lacks any moral coherence. To such an extent one could argue that keeping cannabis illicit is a lot worse than giving all adults (and children who could benefit) safe access.

If someone is suffering, the moral thing to do is to help relieve them of their suffering. There is growing evidence that cannabis can relieve suffering. Therefore, the moral thing to do is to grant safe access to people whom cannabis will help.

If you don’t, you are compounding their suffering. Especially if you stigmatise and criminalise them. At which point you are moving into the realms of cruelty.

Smashing down a sick person’s door in the small hours of the morning for growing a therapeutic herb to relieve their chronic pain just doesn’t make any sense when you look at it from a moral perspective. Whom exactly is being protected here?

What about recreational use?

Here’s the thing, cannabis can help a lot of people. It can help relieve the suffering of people with multiple sclerosis, it can relieve the suffering of children with severe epilepsy, it can even help with Aunt Fanny’s glaucoma. It’ll also help Uncle Jim get a good night's sleep despite his chronic back pain.

On the topic of sleep, what about Mary’s work stress that is keeping her awake at night which makes it harder to deal with the next day due to sleep deprivation? A vicious cycle that could lead to burnout or worse.

Mary’s only legal option to unwind is to drink alcohol which - as a poisonous depressant that leads to insomnia - is hardly going to help. According to Professor David Nutt “The safe limit of alcohol, if you apply food standards criteria, would be one glass of wine a year.” Should we force her to take sleeping tablets? She may accidentally overdose leaving her heartbroken husband Paul to bring up their kids alone. Doesn’t seem such a good moral stance.

We could find ourselves in a situation where one group of people can have access to safe cannabis products but everyone else has to get what they can from the criminal market, run the gauntlet with the law and risk losing their job, house, children and freedom. Again morally questionable.

It is difficult to draw a line as ultimately everyone on the wrong side of that line will suffer more than they would were they to be on the “morally” correct side.

People’s suffering can be extreme through to mild - but it’s shades of grey rather than black or white. Therefore, if you are going to have a moral stance on cannabis it can only be that everyone should have safe access to it.

Even if you have no medicinal reason for consuming cannabis you would immediately become safer should you switch from an illicit to a legal supply for a variety of reasons. Not dealing with criminals, knowing the THC content, avoiding contaminants to name a few. If someone is going to consume it anyway, the moral thing would be to allow them to do so safely.

Regarding medicinal cannabis the Church of England gets it, the Dalai Lama gets it but unfortunately the Pope does not.

Will SloaneComment