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Should Free Cannabis Be Distributed In British Prisons?

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All sorts of people are lining up to support an idea proposed by a Welsh police commissioner to give free cannabis to the incarcerated.

Arfon Jones, the police and crime commissioner for North Wales, has a radical idea. He believes that free cannabis should be distributed to British prisoners – and for several reasons.

The first is to target prisoners who are taking other kinds of drugs illicitly as well as those prescribed by the prison system. The second is to lower violence.

Jones, along with others directly involved in the welfare of prisoners is raising this idea in part because of the prevalence of other, more dangerous, and highly addictive if not deadly drugs taken routinely by those behind bars. This includes drugs prisoners are prescribed as well as illicit ones smuggled into prisons. 

Generally, Jones also falls into the camp of those who wish the drug to be regulated to remove organized crime from the equation. He is also a supporter of home-grow for limited personal use. But he is far from the only member of the police who sees a need for a formal policy about cannabis – both in and outside of lockup.

In 2019, an inquest into drug smuggling into a single British prison – HMP Berwyn – found that organized efforts to stop the same by authorities and prison staff had systematically failed after a 22-year-old inmate died in his cell from ingesting Spice. About 13% of male British prisoners have reported becoming addicted to illegal drugs while in prison.

Opioids are obviously a concern, but so is Spice – a so-called “cannabis substitute.” Spice is in fact made from a chemical, synthetic cannabinoid, but its effects can be deadly.

According to Professor David Nutt, former UK government drugs advisor and currently working in the industry, this is a great idea. Indeed, he is considering a study to see whether cannabis could reduce drug dependence by the incarcerated

Do No Harm

While political arguments on both sides of the aisle (from both Labour and Tory ministers) have also skewed to the prohibition side of the equation, there is a growing interest in this discussion from a public health perspective.

Indeed, as medical cannabis becomes more accepted as medicine, its role in helping to treat those who struggle with other kinds of dependency, from other drugs to alcohol, will become far more standard. 

Where better to test this idea than prisoners?

Be sure to book your seats at the International Cannabis Business Conference when it returns to Germany in July 2021.