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This debate pack is prepared for the Westminster hall debate on 12 October 2015 on the e-petition relating to making the production, sale and use of cannabis legal. The E-petition has been signed by over 220,000 people so far, and following consideration by the House of Commons Petitions Select Committee was scheduled for a debate. The E-petition states that:

  1. Legalising cannabis could bring in £900m in taxes every year, save £400m on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs.
  2. A substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses. It is believed to have been used by humans for over 4000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925

Cannabis is currently controlled as a class B substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (it has previously also been a class C substance). This means that possession carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Supplying cannabis can result in up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

A Government response to the petition has been published, this says that scientific evidence shows that cannabis is harmful to health and there are no plans to legalise the substance as this will not address the harms. The response also states that to legalise cannabis would sent the wrong message to young people and may increase drug use.

There are mental and physical health effects associated with cannabis use.  Short term mental health effects can include disorders of perception, impaired memory and anxiety. There is also evidence regular cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic illness. However, only a minority of young people who use cannabis will develop a psychotic illness. Recent studies have attempted to compare cannabis harms with those from other substances.

The medicinal use of cannabis has been the subject of much debate recently. Currently, no form of cannabis can legally be supplied or possessed for medical use in the UK without a specific license from the Home Office. Such a license exists for one commercially available cannabis extract, Sativex, which is also the only form of cannabis extract to hold a medicines marketing authorisation (licenced for treatment of muscle spasm in multiple sclerosis).

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