Letter: NHS can profit from cannabis

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his rhapsody on profiting from the legalisation of cannabis (10 January), Jerome Burne failed to mention the main impediment to legalisation, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which requires states to prohibit the possession of cannabis.

The French text of the convention implies that the meaning of 'possession' is more nearly equivalent to 'possession with intent to sell' in UK law. Thus the state could not license cannabis dealers to possess what they sell. The Nixon administration is said to have concluded, on this ground, that only the state could act as the supplier of legal cannabis, on the model of the old French tobacco monopoly.

In any case, cannabis smoking is a minor vice. The idea of maximising profits is an obscenity. My view is that cannabis should be nationalised and that advertising it should be prohibited. When I gave evidence to the Wootton Committee - whose report was published two years ago this month - I said that the tobacco companies should not be permitted to sell cannabis and added that I doubted whether they should even be permitted to sell tobacco.

My proposal is that the profits from the sale of cannabis should go to the NHS. The licence to buy a ration of cannabis from a chemist should be purchased from a GP, who is entitled to know the drug habits of his patients. Since cannabis of high quality can be grown in this country under controlled conditions, a licensing scheme might be put into operation through the promulgation of regulations under existing legislation. If it did not work out, it would be reversible.

Yours faithfully,


London, W11

10 January