Could providing inmates with access to free cannabis decrease violence and help them conquer opioid addictions? A police commissioner in the UK thinks this could work.
North Wales PCC, Arfron Jones has spoken out about reducing the dangers and violence in prisons. He told The Guardian that if justice authorities genuinely want to decrease these issues in prisons, “they should be addressing the causes.” Among those listed includes cheap synthetic cannabinoid spice that has been known to kill people.
At this point, many prisoners are given heroin substitutes to combat their addictions. The meds offered usually include methadone and buprenorphine. However, some commonly receive prescriptions for strong analgesics, like gabapentinoids and pregabalin.
All of the drugs currently prescribed to inmates are addictive and potentially dangerous. Even with these drugs being prescribed, illegal drugs are found throughout the prison system.
“If they’re on opioids, why can’t they be prescribed cannabis?” pondered the former police officer. “At the end of the day, opioids are a damn sight more dangerous than cannabis. It would be an improvement on the illegal spice smuggled in by corrupt prison officers too.”
The Guardian recently revealed that more than 300 prison officers and outside staff have either been dismissed or convicted over the last five years for smuggling prohibited items into the prison. These items can include tobacco, mobile phones, and drugs.
Recreational cannabis is still prohibited in the UK. However, it has been legalized for medical use. Access to full extract oil through the NHS is still nearly impossible though as the medical establishment is still resisting.
Jones says he believes a specific regime should be formed to create a framework that would allow cannabis trials at many UK prisons, including HMP Berwyn.
“The aim of the game is to make prisons safer. If they’re serious about reducing violence in prisons, they should be addressing the causes – and that’s psychoactive substances,” Jones explained. “Plus, there’s a whole range of issues that cannabis would be geared to reduce the risk of.”
According to the Ministry of Justice’s Official Statistics Bulletin published on July 30, 2020, the number of records drug finds in prisons was 18 percent higher in 2020 than in 2019. Psychoactive substances were the main drug fueling this growth.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that between 2008 and 2016, the prisons saw 88 drug-related deaths within their walls. Most of these deaths resulted from benzodiazepines, heroin, and methadone.
While some demonize cannabis, others observe legitimate research revealing how cannabis can be used to decrease the number of drug-related deaths in prisons. For example, one University of Michigan study revealed that patients using cannabis to control chronic pain significantly decreased their use of and dependence on opioids. The subjects said that the herb reduced their physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
The potential to improve prisons with cannabis prescriptions is apparent. Now it’s time to encourage these institutions to implement medical cannabis programs and analyze the impact.