Oxford, United Kingdom: The potential health risks associated with cannabis are less than those associated with alcohol and do not justify the continued criminalization of the plant or its users, according to a report published last week by The Beckley Foundation - an independent British think-tank that analyzes drug use and drug policy.
"There is no justification for incarcerating an individual for a cannabis possession or use offense, nor for creating a criminal conviction," concludes the report, entitled "Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate."
Authors of the report recommend that governments consider enacting legislation to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis, or - at a minimum - to institute administrative 'fine-only' penalties regarding its use.
"The rationale for severe penalties for possession offenses is weak on both normative and practical grounds," authors state. "In many developed countries a majority of adults born in the past half-century have used cannabis. Control regimes that criminalize users are intrusive on privacy, socially divisive and expensive. … They clearly do harm to the many individuals who are arrested, they abridge individual autonomy and they are often applied unjustly.
"In an alternative system of regulated availability, market controls such as taxation, minimum age requirements, labeling and potency limits are available to minimize the harms associated with cannabis use."
The Beckley Foundation report will be submitted to the United Nations, which will conduct a strategic review of global drug policies next year.