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Is this the answer to the UK’s financial worries?

Greg Devine


Cannabis plant on left corner on pale green background

Cannabis, marijuana, weed…these are all words that a large proportion of the UK public find scary, but why? Does tobacco scare you in the same way? What about alcohol? We know that all of these things aren’t necessarily healthy but two of them are legally sold to adults in the UK. Why not all of them?

The isn’t me endorsing the use of cannabis; I think it’s a personal decision in the same way that tobacco and alcohol is. I’m looking at the possible financial gain the UK could make from the legalisation of the drug. The UK is facing a cost-of-living crisis as inflation rises and the economy collapses…I believe, by legalising cannabis, the UK could create a massive industry that could bring in much-needed tax revenue.

The United States are way ahead of us here, with many states legalising cannabis for both medical and recreational use. The USA, typically, isn’t the most progressive of places—if they believe there are benefits to legalisation, surely we should be following suit?

The mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, recently launched a commission into the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws. The commission won’t investigate the most harmful drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, which are classified as class A drugs, but it will focus on those of a lower classification. UK drug laws are supposedly based on how harmful a drug is to the human body, but this categorisation is often disputed. Kahn recently took a trip to Los Angeles to see the impact legalisation had had on the city. LA took the decision to legalise cannabis in 2016 and drug related crime dropped dramatically as a result.

By selling cannabis legally, tax revenue could be generated. This could go straight into the public purse, and it’s revenue the economy desperately needs. It could help fund the decaying NHS, local councils, care homes, and the rest of an ever-growing list of underfunded services. The cannabis market could also be regulated, which would make consumption of the drug safer. Like with tobacco, health warnings could be placed on the packaging; however, I don’t think this would have a dramatic impact on the usage of cannabis—I think everybody knows somebody who takes the drug, be it a neighbour or a friend.

Cannabis leaf on top of 100 dollar bill

Cannabis leaf on top of 100 dollar bill

As well as providing a taxable industry, the police force would be positively impacted from the move. They may benefit from more funding, and they would also see an increase in their most valuable resource: time. Yes, there will still be black market trade, but this would likely decrease, as people who are currently criminals will see their skills in demand with legal companies, maybe as a grower or a seller in a legalised setting.

Some people claim that, if we legalise cannabis, we will be encouraging more people to take it. I’m not sure this would be the case. For instance, I can legally go to a shop and buy a cigarette, which has zero health benefits, yet I’ve never done it. This is because we’re more educated now and understand that smoking isn’t a healthy hobby to take up. Why would this be different for cannabis? We can simply explain to people the benefits of the drug but also detail its negative health effects. Ultimately, people can make their own decisions. After all, the legality of a substance doesn’t make it good for us—sugar is in most of the things we eat, yet ‘the effects of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse are similar to those of drugs of abuse’.

There are also claims that legalisation will help those in marginalised communities, especially ethnic minorities. This seems to be the opinion of the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, who says legalisation offered ‘historically marginalised communities opportunities for healing, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation’. Police in the UK are encouraged to issue warnings to first time offenders in possession of cannabis, as long as it’s for their personal use; however, there are claims that ethnic minorities are more likely to be prosecuted. Legalisation would see the end of this type of racism.

Currently, neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party are in support of decriminalisation. Boris Johnson claimed illegal drugs ‘destroy lives and fuel violence’ whilst Labour leader, Sir Kier Starmer, said, ‘I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. I’m very clear about that’. He did say, however, that he would look at the London Mayor’s report when it’s published.

Change is not just important, it’s a necessity. The war against drugs should be targeted on those who only cause damage, not something with possible health benefits that’s on a par with alcohol and tobacco. Our economy is failing right in front of us, and this could be something that could help us turn it around.

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