So what about the UK? Well as someone who has used cannabis and several other recreational drugs I think it’s time for the government legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use as quickly as possible. There are many powerful financial arguments to justify this and also lots of social and health reasons too. But let’s begin with by looking at the economics of legalisation.
First it’s costing an absolute fortune to police cannabis. According to data I obtained from Kent Police they issued 6,072 cannabis related cautions and warnings in the five years between 2010 and 2015. During the same period 4,170 people were charged with cannabis related offenses including production, supply and possession. That’s a grand total of 10,872 cautions, warnings and charges related to cannabis production, supply and use, which is the equivalent of 6 Police actions per day over 5 years. Medway topped the league of Police actions against cannabis with 1772 warnings and charges issued during 2010-15. Thanet was second with 1,182; Maidstone third with 1,176 and Tonbridge and Malling fourth with 927. Dover had the least recorded cannabis related crime with only 446 Police warnings and charges between 2010-15.
Assuming the average Police cost of dealing with a cannabis related incident, including officer time and associated overheads, is about £300 then Kent Police have spent £3.26 million between 2010-15 on policing cannabis use in the county. But that doesn’t take into account the cost of intelligence gathering, surveillance, forensics, planning and executing raids, preparing and submitting evidence to the courts which I estimate will bump up the total cost of policing cannabis in Kent to at least £10 million over the 5 year period which works at to be £2million per year”.
Is this money well spent? I don’t think so!. The 2015-16 Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates that 6.5% of 16-59 years olds used cannabis at least once during this 12 month period. Applied to Kent, which has an estimated population of 1,019,000 16-59 year olds, this means that at least 66,235 of the county’s residents would have used cannabis during 2015-16. Yet during this period Kent Police issued just 792 warnings, penalty notices, and charges, sometimes dealing with same person more than once. This is a detection rate of just 1% at a cost of more than £2 million per year. These figures demonstrate that despite a massive investment of public money the war against cannabis in Kent has most definitely been lost. I think it would be safe to say that every other Police Force England and Wales is in the same position. Just imagine how much money could saved on policing costs if cannabis was to be legalised. In fact a growing number of senior police officers and Police and Crime Commissioners are now beginning to openly talk about this.
But it’s not just police budgets which will benefit from the legalisation of cannabis. Making the production, sale and use of cannabis lawful would generate massive additional taxation streams worth hundreds of £millions a year. Earlier this year a report commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimated that the legalisation of cannabis could raise £1billion a year in extra taxation. A report published just this week by the highly regarded think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, estimated that a legalised cannabis industry would be worth and estimated £7billion a year. And in the USA we now have some real life examples of how much tax can be raised from a legalised cannabis industry. According to figures produced by the US state government of Colorado, taxes, licences and fees generated $52.5 million (£43 million) in 2015. This is a state which has only one twelfth the population of the UK. Just image how much tax could be raised in the UK though the legalisation of cannabis. This single measure could generate enough new income to offset most, if not all of the costs associated with leaving the EU and give us, in more ways than one, a relaxed, chilled-out, Brexit instead of a hard one”
Last but least legalisation of cannabis would reduce the power of the criminal gangs and violence associated with the drug. Legalisation would create tens of thousands of new jobs and business opportunities. A regulated cannabis industry would allow the control of the super-strong skunk variety and it would also provide health benefits for millions of people. In my opinion the financial, social and health benefits of legalising and regulating cannabis massively outweigh any of the risks