Prohibition of cannabis has been a total, unmitigated, and expensive multi-£billion, failure. More and more countries around the world are now beginning to either decriminalise or legalise the recreational use of cannabis.
In the USA, once the international leader of the “war on drugs', 8 states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have all legalised the production, sale, medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, with more states planning to hold referendums on this issue soon. The Canadian Government is on record as saying it intends to introduce legislation to make it lawful to produce, sell and use cannabis by 2018, making it the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to totally legalise cannabis.
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 to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis 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 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 6,072 cannabis related cautions and warnings were issued 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 Kent’s cannabis crime league table with 1,772 warnings and charges issued during 2010-15. Thanet was second with 1,182; Maidstone third with 1,176. Dover had the least recorded cannabis related crime with only 446 Police warnings and charges between 2010-15.
Assuming the average 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 have 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. Yet during this period Kent Police issued just 792 warnings, penalty notices, and charges, sometimes dealing with same person more than once. This works out to be 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.
|Source State of Colorado Government Website|
I think it would be safe to say that every other Police Force England and Wales is in the same position as Kent - spending loads of money fighting cannabis use for no discernible results. Just imagine how much money could be 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 £billions a year. A report commissioned by the Liberal Democrat Party in mid-2016 estimated that the legalisation of cannabis could raise £1billion a year in extra taxation. A report published at the end of 2016 by the Conservative-supporting Adam Smith Institute estimated that a legalised cannabis industry would be worth an estimated £7billion a year.
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, cannabis related taxes, licences and fees generated $127 million (£98 million) in the financial year 2016-17. 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 desperately needed income for the NHS, social care and schools.
There is no doubt that cannabis, just like any other drug, can cause harm. But it is an established fact that cannabis causes much less harm than alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal drugs. But the legalisation of cannabis and regulations governing its production and sale, can be used to manage most of the adverse effects and reduce harm to users.
Legalisation of cannabis would reduce the power of the criminal gangs who currently control much of the cannabis trade and would also create tens of thousands of new legitimate jobs and business opportunities in its production and sale. In my opinion the financial, social and health benefits of legalising and regulating cannabis massively outweigh any of the risks that might be associated with its change of lawful status.
Published and promoted by Ian Driver 45 Sea View Road. Independent Candidate Kent County Council Election 4th May. Fighting for Fairness.