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Scotland Decriminalizes Drug Possession

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Scotland’s new policy covers all ‘illegal drugs” including cannabis in a surprise turn of events.

In a surprise announcement, Class A substances have been effectively decriminalized in Scotland. This includes cannabis. According to the lord advocate, Dorothy Bain QC. this is a “diversion from prosecution” policy that came as a surprise to the Scottish Parliament (or Holyrood).

Officers can already issue formal warnings for possession of lower category drugs; however, this policy comes at a time when the entire cannabis discussion is being actively discussed in just about every European capital post-German election.

Scotland logged a record 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020 which is the highest rate in Europe. As a result, the Scottish government has pledged to make it a “national mission” to cut fatalities.

Per Ms Bain, “There is no one size fits all response to an individual found in possession of a controlled substance, or an individual dependent on drugs.”

While there are those who criticize the step for not going far enough, even this development is controversial. The Scottish Conservatives criticized the plan for merely being a cannabis decriminalization plan by another name. However, since that is in essence exactly what this move represents, the fact that other parties are supporting the idea is a positive development in a part of the world notoriously conservative about all “illicit” drug use.

Could Scotland Be a Tipping Point for the UK?

There are many forces driving a renewed interest in at least decriminalizing the use of cannabis in the UK. The CBD market is clearly up and running and more and more GMP-certified cultivation and extraction facilities are getting licensed (see most recently the movement on the island of Guernsey).

Beyond this, of course, European countries which are increasingly putting Covid in their rear-view mirror if not having national elections (see Germany last weekend) are also increasingly at least musing changing national drug policies. Sending in the fuzz to bust CBD stores or locking up legitimate cannabis patients is, increasingly, a political third rail. 

There are many reasons, in other words, to herald this new Scottish liberalization of drug policy – both directly south of Hadrian’s Wall and across the Channel.

And even if “all” that is achieved is that cannabis is decriminalized that is an important step.

Stay tuned to the International Cannabis Business Conference blog as autumn clearly blows in a new wind for cannabis reform across Europe.