November 23rd, 2016
A report published this week urges the UK to follow California’s lead and legalize marijuana. “The Tide Effect,” produced by the Adam Smith Institute and Volteface, notes that current UK policies fail to tackle criminality associated with cannabis supply or rehabilitate problematic users. Legalization, the report argues, is “the only workable solution to the problems of crime and addiction.”
The report strongly advocates regulation over basic decriminalization or unregulated legalization. Regulation ensures the optimum protection of public health and “will allow long-term studies of its health effects not currently possible.” Consumers would thus be able to access safe, quality-tested products.
It’s estimated that a regulated cannabis market in the UK could be worth up to 7 billion pounds (almost $9 billion) per annum—a figure drawn from current trends in the USA. Of this amount, the report proposes, up to 1 billion pounds would be made available to the state through tax, which could, for example, be used to bolster existing drug treatment resources.
The report, subtitled “How the World is Changing Its Mind on Cannabis Legalisation,” also scrutinizes previous strategies by cannabis reform campaigners. Its author, Boris Starling, discusses efforts organized by Rosie Boycott, the former editor of UK newspaper The Independent on Sunday, which culminated in a march to protest UK cannabis prohibition in March 1998:
“Although grassroots support was strong, the campaign lacked the backing of lobbyists, think tankers, special advisers and all the other players in the Westminster circus. Policy changes may not happen even with their input, but they rarely happen without it.”
Starling synthesizes a range of data and opinion, investigating where and when previous legalization attempts around the world have succeeded and failed. As a result, he advocates a “multifaceted” approach to cannabis policy, one that brings together “public support, media analysis and political engagement.”
Crucially, the report also recommends that responsibility for cannabis policy become primarily an issue for the Department of Health, as opposed to the UK Home Office, who should move focus from “enforcement of prohibition to enforcement of regulation and licensing.”
Current UK government policy is firmly opposed to cannabis legalization, though a growing number of British politicians support it.
“The Tide Effect: How the World is Changing Its Mind on Cannabis Legalisation” can be read in full here.
Calum Armstrong is a senior writer at Volteface. He lives in London. You can follow him on Twitter: @vf_calum.