Regulation for cannabis users is needed worldwide.

By Sarah McCulloch

When you woke up today, it was probably on a bed that didn’t collapse in the night because the manufacturers had made it from poor quality materials. When you went last went food shopping, none of the food you bought made you sick because the supermarket had thrown away all the out of date stock.If you’ve taken a public taxi, then you probably ended up where you wanted to go and didn’t get ripped off because all licensed taxis have to have visible meters fitted. All of these measures designed to keep you safe, healthy, and able to make your own financial decisions, are the result of government regulations.

There’s a lot of talk about how “bureaucratic red tape” slows down business and gets in the way of the consumer, but do you really want to go back to the good old days of “mad cow disease” when farmers were feeding infected dead cows to live cows and managed to kill 166 people in the process? This is why regulation of cannabis is important. Not because the government should be able to use the system to stop people taking drugs, but because cannabis users, especially medicinal cannabis users, shouldn’t be risking their health because unscrupulous dealers have a direct financial interest in compromising the quality of their product.

Cannabis on sale in an Amsterdam coffeeshop

Cannabis legally on sale in a Dutch coffeeshop.


Some cannabis activists have vehemently objected to any suggestion that the law should have any say in who sells what to whom. Some people believe that cannabis should just be decriminalised, because cannabis doesn’t kill anyone, and therefore no regulation is needed. But all drugs are psychoactive substances, it’s not really about whether they kill people or not, they all alter your consciousness. And even if something is harmless, the circumstances in which it is produced can be terrible. Trousers aren’t going to kill you, but the children making them in sweatshops in Indonesia might be happier if they didn’t have to work twelve hours a day to make them for us. So we should recognise that much of the time regulation is a good thing. When you get down to it, it seems the issue for many people is that the current laws regarding alcohol and tobacco are inconsistent and they object to the idea that cannabis will be subject to the same inconsistent regulation. In many places, you can smoke in the open air, but not drink, and you can drink indoors but not smoke! To argue that alcohol and tobacco should be regulated the same as cannabis really means that as reformers we should be supportive of a change in the alcohol and tobacco laws as well.

When it comes to the age of consent, it’s important to remember that the age of consent is not related to any form of scientific research into harms but the age at which you are deemed legally able to make your own decisions for yourself. So this public argument about when cannabis does and does not damage your developing brain seems to be irrelevant. It therefore seems fair to say that, within reason, certain drugs like cannabis should be commercially available to over 18 year olds without restriction, but from licenced production facilities which are subject to regular inspection in the same way that the sale of food is regulated and inspected, and that what you produce in your own home and give to your friends is your own business. I don’t mind taking the risk of eating a cake that a friend has made me, but I don’t want the kebab shop down the road to be doing whatever they want in their kitchen. In the same way, I’m sure that most canabis users are happy to consume whatever their friend grew in their garden, but are dissatisfied with street dealers selling them herbs with ground glass in – a tactic they often get away with because of the lack of regulation.

A selection of cannabis, Diablo Kush, Purple Gold, Afghani Kush, Super AfghaniAnother important thing to realise is that models of self-regulation already exist. The system by which medical cannabis could be regulated is already up and running everywhere that allows medical cannabis. Haborside Medical Centre has done a great job through their Weed Wars series to tell ordinary folks about how regulation can benefit rather than hinder cannabis consumers. We saw how they inspect every pound they get in for mould and reject any that don’t cut it, how they send a sample of every new grow to be chemically analysed so they can label it with the exact THC and CBD strength, and how they have gone out of their way to develop ranges of oils, creams, edibles and more to give customers choices in what they want to use and how they use it. So regulation of cannabis is already happening, in some places, but in some places it isn’t. Places where, to give a recent example, vietnamese gangs are human trafficking children to grow massive crops in residential houses which burns down from time to time and takes the neighbours with it. This is why the industry desperately needs regulation. We don’t just want good medical dispensaries, we want to prevent cowboy traders as well. But we can’t do this without a consistent regulatory framework set down in law. Cannabis communities can’t do anything about abuses in their area effectively if they face the same sanctions from a thoughtless government.

It’s ironic that I am writing this as the US federal government is cracking down on Harborside using housing legislation against their landlords, and the dispensary model would be inadequate for an area where cannabis was totally legal anyway, but a combination of dispensaries, coffee shops and already existing legislation for alcohol and tobacco shows us that regulation, voluntary or statutory, need not inherently be about restricting anyone’s right to use cannabis for any purpose, but could actually benefit cannabis users in providing them with a greater choice and safer range of cannabis products. Whether you’re a Tory or an anarchist, nearly everything in your life, from your clothes to your spice rack, are subject to safety regulations that you, the consumer, benefit from. It is unfair to cannabis users that they cannot be protected under the same legislation.

Sarah McCulloch is a blogger, activist and NORML UK board member. This article originally appeared in Weed World last year, you can read more of Sarah’s blogs on her web site at

Posted in News, Women´s Alliance and tagged , , , , .


  1. it is if it involves artificially tampering with the price or imposing punishments on those who for whatever reason decide they need more than the paltry 5g or something sanctioned by whatever halfway-house law would seek to continue imposing restrictions when it is patently clear that the restrictions are responsible for 85% of the total mess surrounding this natural plant that would grow wild everywhere if allowed.

  2. The thing is who do you trust to do all this regulating ? The same people who keep it illegal and tell us where playing with “lethal drugs” ? The very same people who would tax the arse out of us if it where to become legal ? The same people who love to criminalise and discriminate ? ..

  3. free the weed .currant food reg would be anuff same like a restaurant if it sells bad food nobody goes there . rotten tomatoes..its just a plant and should be treated as such you can buy tin carrots fresh carrots ,fair trade carrots organic carrots the choose is yours ..

    I am Hemp .
    I am able to transcend worlds ,the upper the middle and lower are open to me at all times and I can take you there .I can see all sides at once and can open up to any of these .So while I am in the physical world,I can be working with the spiritual world as well .I AM LIKE A FLOODLIGHT and bring light in .You need to take care how you use me .I cannot choose your path .I can only light the way from you and give you many options,I can gather infinite number of opportunities for you but you have to focus on that which is for you but YOU have to focus on that which is for you.Use me if you are too focussed in your life ,static or rigid in your beliefs.Iam a mirror which does not exist ,the reflection which is real,Iknow neither the confines of of space of space or time,I the traveller with out feet who is every where and the clock with out hands which does not not exist in any time .I am you but who are you ?
    credit to Lora Starling .2001
    please re post :

  5. I agree that you need regulation. I remember it was a few months ago that 3 people died because of bad ecstasy pills in Manchester. A lot of people say that we don’t need government because we can take care of ourselves. I don’t think a lot of people realise just how much legislation has a part to play in taking care of us.

  6. “but are dissatisfied with street dealers selling them herbs with ground glass in” if you buy that stuff, No if anyone buys that stuff then the Cannabis Dealer is a bad business man and you as the buyer are Retarded. Come on Regulation is not needed if you can grow it yourself want a job done correctly DO IT YOURSELF and dont put Glass in it!, only decriminalised is the correct way forward, that way if you cannot grow it your self and your friend does I m sure he will let you have some and not put Glass in it. Get Real Sarah!

    • We have regulations at the moment, where you can get your door kicked down by people in uniforms if you grow your own cannabis and have it away, get arrested and even sent to jail.

      NORML UK is campaigning for the right to be able to grow your own cannabis, just as you can brew your own beer, however, we accept the commercial supply of cannabis might need regulating, just as the commercial supply of most commodities is regulated in some shape or form.

      • I grow my own and take great pleasure enjoying thee rewarding crop, I germinate in Feb. And grow it naturally, I can’t afford to do it any other way. My beloved plants alonside my bird of paradise get regularly fed with baby bio or whatever food I have. When wwe have visitors, the plants are moved but mostly stay out of sight n warm in house. I despair as I suffer with crumbling neck and spine vertebrae and have constant sciatica, my flowers when dried are the best to help me cope with pain, the same as my feverfew helps headaches and lavender scones to keep me calm. I love growing my weed and safe knowing what has not been added.. I am a professional with a science degree in nutrition and hate feeling I am a criminal for growing my plants

    • I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to grow cannabis, or any plants. I hate plants and I detest gardening. I am no more interested in growing my own cannabis than I am in weaving my own clothes or carving my own furniture. Why on earth should cannabis be the only product on earth that you should have to make yourself instead of buying it from someone else who has considerably more interest and resources in producing it than you? Should everyone own and milk their own cows as well? It’s just a bizarre idea.

  7. Regulation doesn’t allow horsemeat in your burgers.If the food market wasn’t regulated you’d never have found out that there was horsemeat in the burgers.Not everyone is in a position where they can grow their own and even if they were some people are better at growing than others.It’s legal to produce your own wine and beer but hardly anyone bothers because you can buy it over the counter and that’s what will happen to home grown weed after legalisation.

  8. In order for a government to regulate a product such as “cannabis”, it first needs to be legalized in the country in question. It seems to me that for the foreseeable future the U.K. government is taking the position that the argument for medicinal cannabis is completely covered by G.W. Pharma’s “Sativax” and similar products. I personally do not expect the British government to decriminalize or legalize cannabis in it’s natural form for recreational or even medicinal use.

  9. Despite this article starting off with a mistake “When you went last went food shopping, “, it began with a false premise. The UK does not regulate food products the way it used to. It’s all done through EU regulations and regulators; which is why the “Horse meat sold as beef” blunder wasn’t detected by the British, which were renowned for being strict.

    The sentence continued with, “none of the food you bought made you sick”. It’s true that horse meat has not made anyone ill, however, the UK does sell GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), labelled on food as simply “Modified”; despite the fact that these GMOs have been shown to induce cancerous tumours in following generations through the genetic mutation of their DNA while they still existed as both sperm and egg.

    So, to say the UK doesn’t sell you food that makes you ill is a misleading statement, to say the least.

    Note also, that Cali just lost a battle to have GMOs labelled on their foods AT ALL. Governments don’t care about you, they only care about their share of profits from corporations like Monsanto and GW Pharma, at your expense if necessary.

    The only way to know what’s in your weed is to be the only one near it while you’re growing it yourself. The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) stated some months ago, that it would not waste public funds prosecuting individuals that grew upto 9 cannabis plants for their own consumption due to aiding a medical need, if a medical requirement can be demonstrated. Sounds good, right? Take another look. In order for such a matter to come to the attention of the CPS the Victim first has to have their home intruded by a few uninvited uniformed strangers, then have ALL plants removed which then later either die off in the evidence locker or are destroyed (passed out amongst the officers and distributed for personal enjoyment or financial gain. That’s not conjecture!) and so can’t have those medically required plants back, and the Victim is regularly checked on to prevent any attempt at growing their required medicine of choice again until the CPS hearing or review. The Victim is then clearly designated as a “drug user” by the officers and is regularly checked upon time and time again, with home invasions without a warrant, for years to follow; despite the CPS not prosecuting them, to prevent them growing their medicine again.

    Call me cynical, but that doesn’t sound particularly fair or Just.

    The Home Office’s Theresa May has called for a report on the Portugal style of decriminalisation of drugs with a view to doing something similar in the UK. May, if you’ll pardon the pun, take some time to see any positive results, though.

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