At the moment, the British government is involved in what I can only describe as an unseemly row of the 'screaming' variety. He is at loggerheads with the head of the drug advisory council (I should really say: former head) on the classification of cannabis as an illegal drug. The government have reclassified cannabis to category B, up from the less severe category C. The advisory council have advised the government to downgrade cannabis, but the government have declined to follow this advice. The head of the council, Prof Nutt, has attacked the government over this decision. The government in turn, has asked the professor to resign - which he has done - for interfering in government policy and acting outside of his remit.
This is very harmful to all parties involved. Other members of the advisory council are quitting as well. At lunchtime, we were treated to the spectacle of a Home Secretary raising his voice on BBC TV to put his point across that he really felt the council acted out of order.
Rather than sitting down behind closed doors, and if necessary shout their heads off at each other, this is now being conducted in the full glare of the media spotlight. As a result, the credibility of both government and council is undermined. The misuse of cannabis, an illegal substance, is a major problem in society across the world. In my personal opinion, cannabis should remain classified as a category B substance. On its own, it is a harmful substance. Smoking it is more harmful than tobacco, as the amounts of tar inhaled are far higher. Cannabis can bring on florid (overt) schizophrenia in those individuals predisposed towards that incurable condition. Furthermore, there are thousands of people who can tell the horror story of a relative or friend using cannabis, then as a result, moving on to the use of heroin or cocaine. Cannabis is not an innocent "soft drug".
However, it should be borne in mind that its use is widespread, and a pragmatic approach, along the line taken by the Dutch authorities, might work. Cannabis is a proscribed substance in Holland, but the authorities will not prosecute anyone found in the possession of a quantity, sufficient for their own personal use. They also do not prosecute the owners of so-called coffeeshops, where cannabis can be purchased in small quantities. Anyone found in possession of large amounts of cannabis, clearly intended for supply, will be prosecuted with the full force of the law.
There is this misconception that cannabis is legalised in Holland. It is not. And anyone returning from Holland to the UK or any other country, in possession of a small, user's, quantity, will be liable to prosecution and a criminal record.