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Sovereign governments have taken massive steps and policies in making the world more free and liberal. LGBT rights have been established, privacy reforms have taken place and climate change protocols have also been implemented. However, a key legislation that millions of people have been fighting for in recent years has been the movement to legalise the ‘Mary Jane’.
Cannabis is widely consumed all over the world and is legal to some extent in countries such as Netherlands, Norway and parts of South America, amongst many others. Other countries such as the U.S. permit recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington while other states are given a permit to allow cannabis for medical purposes.
In recent weeks, Canada has taken significant steps to legalise marijuana by July 2018, being the first of the G7 countries to draft a plan for its implementation and could be a key lesson for other countries to learn from.
Prime Minister Trudeau believes that legalising recreational cannabis could help the government gain additional revenue, reduce enforcement costs of the police and bring down organised drug-trafficking crime in the country. However, could the U.K. follow suit?
It is anticipated that in the light of Brexit, the government would need to implement austerity measures through stricter government spending, budget controls, reduction in benefits and cuts towards public sector services. To cut down their spiralling budget deficit, the government has also considered the possibility of raising taxes to fund additional revenue within the next 5 years. Dampened relations with the EU and the consequent impact on trade and FDI into the U.K. could further hit a blow to the U.K. Government and the Treasury.
However, several MP’s including Nick Clegg, have voiced their support for legalising cannabis, which currently has a potential market of approximately £7bn in the UK, possibly raising over £1.2bn in annual revenue to the Government.
Furthermore, legalisation could potentially save over £300mn in cannabis enforcement and crime prosecution. This figure excludes the revenues gained from selling licenses to cannabis products, which, according to the London Cannabis Club, could be between £400-900mn.
In addition to this, the number of cannabis-related offenders who are currently in prison cost the taxpayer £50mn/ year. Legalisation would bring in additional tax revenue, which can be used to fund vital British services that lack funding in the public sector, such as the NHS.
Several other intangible benefits could follow as legalisation could also lead to better education on drug use and more rationed distribution.
Why is it not being legalised then? Are cannabis really that dangerous?
Research has shown that weed is less harmful than alcohol, with statistics proving that there are almost 10,000 alcohol related deaths in the U.K annually. In contrast, drug-related deaths (including harder drugs) were just above 3000.
However, despite claims by the MP’s, the Home Office has reiterated that “This government has no plans to legalise cannabis.” More than 150,000 people signed a petition calling for cannabis to become legal, which means it must receive a formal government response.
The topic of legalisation was widely debated in 2015 and closed after the government responded with: “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.”
Nonetheless, it is important to consider that the benefits of legalisation to an economy can far outweigh the costs if managed strategically and well monitored. Although the topic is hotly debated, we currently live in an age of information, research and technology where the dangers and benefits of cannabis should soon be clear, which could eventually pave the way for authorisation in the future.
Disclaimer: This article is by no means supporting drug-use but rather highlighting the positive effects cannabis could bring to the economy if legalised and effectively managed, produced and licensed.