A new report from the Adam Smith Institute claims that cannabis prohibition has been a failure for the United Kingdom, and urgently calls for legalization and regulation.
While the United Kingdom has long been a strict opponent to cannabis for any purposes, recent polls, reports and announcements indicate that a shift toward support for cannabis legalization is fast approaching.
The country’s health service announced in October that it acknowledges that cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in marijuana and hemp, does hold medicinal value and argued it should be regulated like other medicines. A few weeks prior to that, a UK cross-party group composed of politicians released a report citing cannabis’ therapeutic properties and called for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
Opinion polls suggest that a majority of the UK public is in favor of a legalized and regulated cannabis market.
Most recently, a new report from the Adam Smith Institute and Volteface says that Britain’s harsh prohibition drug policy has failed to prevent the production and consumption of marijuana, or any crime associated with the illegal industry.
The ASI report calls for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, claiming doing so would remove the market for criminal gangs, reduce the number of offenders in prison for cannabis-related infractions, and save taxpayers about £50 million a year in costs associated with enforcing prohibition.
Economically, legalizing and regulating marijuana would produce a market worth £6.8 billion, allowing the Treasury to pull in more than £1 billion in tax revenue, the report claims.
“Only regulation,” the report reads, “address all four key issues: ensuring that the product meets acceptable standards of quality and purity; removing criminal gangs from the equation as far as possible; raising revenue for the Treasury through point-of-sale taxation; and best protecting public health.”
Currently in the UK, cannabis is categorized as a Class B drug, with possession punishable to up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine. Medically, a single cannabis-based pharmaceutical is limited to patients with multiple sclerosis.
The ASI report has elicited passionate and supportive responses from a cross party group of MPs, suggesting that legislative changes are soon to come.
“Cannabis prohibition is being swept away on a tide of popular opinion and replaced with responsible legal regulation,” said former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, backing the findings in the report. “Now is the time for ministers to start writing the rules for this legal market, including age limits and health warnings, so that we can finally take back control from the criminal gangs.”
Liberal Democrat and former health minister Norman Lamb and Conservative MP Michael Fabricant also voiced support for the report’s findings and called for legislative changes.
“While other countries and US states are increasingly coming to adopt a more enlightened approach to drug policy, we are stuck in the dark ages, filling the pockets of criminals and perpetuating the stigma which prevents so many drug users from seeking help,” said Lamb.
“There can be no doubt that just as prohibition on the sale of alcohol failed in the United States and encouraged gangsterism, the banning of drugs has promoted a wicked and lucrative black market which pushes illegal drugs on the innocent,” echoed Fabricant.
While as of now there’s no cannabis-related bill that has been introduced into Parliament, there’s clearly a growing agreement that England’s current drug policy needs to be overhauled.