Cannabis campaigners say there's never been a more perfect time to legalise weed than during the coronavirus lockdown.
With Brits facing pub curfews and months of misery, the pro-dope brigade are urging the UK government to change the law.
They claim smoking the reefer can help those suffering from anxiety and mental health issues heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But critics say the drug is often actually more damaging to people's mental health and are keen for it to keep its illegal status.
Back in 2018, medical marijuana became legal to patients in the UK on NHS prescription after mounting pressure on the government.
Earlier this year, access to cannabis was also eased during the pandemic and users were able to deliveries through the post.
However, campaigners want No 10 to go a step further and legalise it for all Brits.
Paul North, director of the advocacy NGO volteface, believes it could offer an alternative to booze – with a second lockdown and pub closures looming on the horizon.
He told Daily Star Online: “In places where cannabis has been legalised for adult use we have started to see a reduction in alcohol consumption as people move to consuming cannabis.
“In-fact, across North America the cannabis industry is quickly developing cannabis-infused drinks and I have no doubt in the next 5-10 years such drinks will be commonplace around the world.
“The UK should quickly reform its cannabis laws to catch up with North America and embrace one of the most interesting, innovative and lucrative developing industries.”
Mr North also argues it could offer relief to Brits struggling with lockdown blues.
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He added: “There is a massive misconception that all cannabis use involves smoking strong, potent strains of weed.
“The reality is that cannabis comes in a wide variety of forms in the legal market and many people find use of the drug exceptional at easing and dealing with anxiety.
“Alongside a regulated market, we would need clear education and regulation as to how people can use the drug safely along with well-funded treatment and addiction services.”
CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform is also pushing to reform Britain’s laws on weed.
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Its leader Peter Reynolds said: “Cannabis could in theory protect more vulnerable people by placing a limit on the level of THC.”
He believes there could be huge financial benefits that come with legalisation, at a time when economies across the world are being hammered by the coronavirus crisis.
He added: “There have been a number of very credible and very well sourced studies on what the legal regulation of cannabis could bring to the economy.
“They range from a minimum of £1 billion per annum net gain up to as much as £10bn per annum net gain.”
Mr Reynolds argued there would also be a “huge opportunity for business and employment”, saying “a legal cannabis would generate industry in sophisticated cultivation and processing facilities”.
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Back in May, British cannabis producer Bridge Farm was bought by a US-based private equity fund for $81m (£62m).
It has a Home Office licence to grow high-THC cannabis for medical tests.
Professor Dame Carol Black is currently carrying out a government review on the harm drugs cause along with prevention, treatment and recovery.
Legalisation itself still has many sceptics.
Brian Dow, deputy CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “Our research found that a fifth of people are unaware of the potential health risks connected to the use of this drug.
“That’s one in five people unaware that the use of cannabis, particularly high strength or synthetic cannabis, can dramatically increase your chances of developing symptoms of mental illness, like psychosis.
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“So while we recognise the problems with the current law, the debate around the decriminalisation of cannabis needs to consider the potential impact that legalisation could have on the most vulnerable in society.”
In 2018, a report from the thinktank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found legalising cannabis could lead to an extra one million people using the drug.
This may in turn create 100,000 addicts.
Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”, last year wrote for NBC News that “scientists have found a link between cannabis use and severe mental illness”.
He added that “people who use cannabis as teenagers [having a] much higher risk of developing schizophrenia, the most devastating mental illness”.
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