Arfon Jones laments “fudged” cannabis law change and calls for cannabis social club model emulating Spain
North Wales Police Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has said that the law change over medical cannabis has been “fudged” in a face-saving exercise by the government that has only allowed companies to profit from “exploiting” patients and has called for a grow your own cannabis social club model, such as the one in Spain.
“Commercial organisations have taken over the medical cannabis market and are selling prescriptions at a vast cost even though it is cheap to grow. That’s just exploitation in my book,” he said.
“My view is that people should be allowed to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for their own use.
“Let’s face it, there are probably hundred of thousands of people in this country who grow cannabis in their own homes now. They’re not harming anybody else and there is no reason why they should be punished through the criminal justice system.”
As a long-standing campaigner for the reform of drugs laws, Jones is calling for a new licensing system. This comes after numerous visits to cannabis social clubs around the UK and embarking on international research to see how legalisation and decriminalisation projects are working within Europe and South America. Arfon Jones also spoke onstage alongside UKCSC chairman at the Welsh National Assembly in January at the Cannabis Industries Wales inaugural summit on hemp and cannabis in Wales.
“It would be sensible to follow the example of Spanish cannabis clubs where people are allowed to grow seven or eight cannabis plants in the club,” he says.
“If you were starting from scratch I think cannabis would be more lightly regulated than alcohol is now because I think everybody agrees that alcohol is far more harmful to individuals than cannabis is. Just like alcohol, you should have age restrictions on the purchase and consumption of cannabis is a regulated market.
“That age limit could be 18 or 21. If you’re in the USA you can’t consume alcohol until you’re 21 but I am not hung up on the issue of age. I would respect the advice of experts on this matter. What I am clear about is that chasing and prosecuting recreational users of cannabis should not be a police priority when they are causing absolutely no harm to anybody else.
“Rather than overload an already creaking criminal justice system, we need a more enlightened and more effective approach.
“In the autumn I will be launching a new scheme called Checkpoint in North Wales – after it was developed by Cambridge University and successfully trialled in Durham – which is designed to divert low level offenders away from criminality. We need to recognise that 90 per cent of drug consumption including cannabis is recreational use and non-problematic. In those cases, people should be given some educational information and that would be the end of the matter.”
Jones says that the legal position in relation to medicinal cannabis “has been well and truly fudged as a matter of political expediency to avoid a PR disaster caused by the heart-rending cases of several children like the chronically ill Billy Caldwell who needs cannabis oil to ward off life-threatening fits”.
“It is also unjust and cruel that people living with conditions like multiple sclerosis who use cannabis are putting themselves at risk of being prosecuted.
“At a time when North Wales Police has had to contend with £30 million in austerity cuts since 2010, we need to be focusing instead on the supply of illegal substances because of the violence associated with it, the problems it causes and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable people.
“It is unfair that a conviction for minor cannabis possession can blight a person’s future career. That’s what happens when people go through the criminal justice system. So we need to look at a different way and we are doing that here in North Wales.
“I recently visited Montevideo which is one of the most prosperous capital cities in Latin America, so clearly when they regulated cannabis back in 2014 the sky didn’t fall in. It’s a lesson we should learn here.”
UK Cannabis Social Clubs welcomes this honest and open call for a sensible, responsible approach to regulation. Prohibition has the most damaging effects on young and vulnerable people. As Arfon quite rightly points out, Spice misuse is at an all time high, leading to devastating social consequences, and knife crime has been a constant in the mainstream media for over 18 months. When the police say one of the policies they are tasked to enforce is causing damage, politicians should start listening. When do you hear the drugs advocating for drug policy reform? When there is something wrong with the policy.
We need your support now more than ever to help try and push the right to grow your own at home over the line. We might not want to grow it ourselves now, but we never know when we might have a friend or family member that needs it. With NHS restrictions, Home Office shelving the issue and only businesses trying to shape medical cannabis, we need to grow our campaign to gain the right to grow – no matter if you are healthy or sick. Patients shouldn’t have to wait three months to get their medicine if they can’t afford a private appointment and a prescription.
You can find details of our Tagged Plant Model here and more info on Collectives. Please get in touch if you have any more questions.