A tale of two crimes

In the local paper, two crimes.  In one crime, a man was caught drink-driving for the fourth time in ten years.  The other, a sixty-four year-old man with no previous convictions caught growing cannabis.  The convictions are very different.  The drink driver, who has a history of putting his own and other people’s lives at risk whilst in control of a deadly weapon, gets a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and a four year driving ban.  The cannabis farmer is jailed for twenty months.

This is what passes for justice in the UK, applied through a blurry lens of morality which our society should have already outgrown.  I can’t see a rational argument for putting sixty-four year-old William Smith, who has hurt no-one, behind bars.  Yes he broke the law.  He supplied cannabis for profit.  But what risk did this man pose to society?  Judge Jeremy Freedman said to Smith:

“You know very well cannabis, albeit a Class B drug, causes much harm and misery within the community and that is why it is prohibited.”

Ill informed nonsense.  The scientific evidence that cannabis is less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol is clear cut.  That’s not to mean that there are no dangers, there is certainly evidence of health problems related to cannabis use, but much of any ‘harm and misery within the community’ will be down to the criminal supply chain because cannabis is illegal.  This ‘harm and misery’ though, pales into insignificance against the huge cost to society through alcohol related illnesses and crime.  The biggest harm from cannabis use?  I’m guessing that it’s otherwise harmless and law-abiding people becoming criminalised and brutalised by an out-dated legal system and black-hatted judges.

Judge Jeremy Freedman didn’t provide a judgement, it was a moralising sermon.

A recasting of UK drugs law to reduce the harm of drug use is long overdue, despite prompting from successive government science advisors, but whilst there are politicians desperate to look tough on drugs and judges like Jeremy Freedman passing moralising punitive judgements, it’s difficult to have a sensible grown up discussion about a rational drugs policy.

On a side note, Smith’s capture was another in a long line of cannabis arrests featured in the Gazette due to nasally skilled police officers sniffing out cannabis with their super sensitive schnozzles:

“Officers attended the address because of the strong smell of cannabis actually coming from the address.”

Yeah, right.  They would make mint hunting truffles.

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