Making cannabis legal:
Legalising cannabis in the UK could earn the Treasury between £1bn and £3.5bn a year in tax revenues, a report has claimed. An international development organisation called Health Poverty Action, says the ‘time has come’ for regulating and legalising cannabis in the UK and that the surplus income could be used to help the NHS. The report, written by Health Poverty Action officer Matthew Bramall, says: ‘It is time to accept that prohibition is not only ineffective and expensive, but that regulation could – if it is done well – protect vulnerable groups and promote public health. ‘It would also generate both taxes (at least £1 billion annually, but potentially more) and savings, which taken together would mean more resources for health, harm reduction and other public services.’ Support for legalisation is growing in the UK, with 47% of people in the UK supporting the selling of cannabis in licensed shops, according to a recent poll, with the figure rising to 52% among those aged 18 to 44.
Legalisation of cannabis has accelerated globally in recent years. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalise cannabis. Last year New Zealand pledged to hold a cannabis referendum within three years. Similarly North America is making huge strides in this area, with nine states in the US having legalised cannabis for non-medical use, whilst a bill that would make Canada the first G7 country to legalise marijuana is making its way through parliament in Ottawa. It’s been shown from the US state legalisation that once it’s been introduced, more people come to view it favourably.
Health Poverty Action suggested that a regulated cannabis market would bring a number of benefits, like reducing harm to users via regular testing and monitoring of the product, and also reducing reducing the reach of potentially harmful high-strength skunk, as many would opt for the safer legal alternative. Decriminalisation would also ultimately reduce pressure on police forces and the legal system, potentially saving £291 million for police, court, prison and rehabilitation services in England and Wales.
Alcohol consumption has notably declined in some US states that have introduced a regulated market, so legal cannabis could also help alleviate some of the burden that binge drinking places on the NHS. The Health Poverty Action report added: ‘While we do not know exactly how the market will respond to regulation, and while we do not know exactly what regulatory model would be used, it would seem a fair assumption that a legal recreational cannabis market is likely to bring at least £1bn annually, and it could be much more.’