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Conservative UK Think-Tank Urges Legal Cannabis for Britain

Legal Cannabis for Britain
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Conservative UK Think-Tank Urges Legal Cannabis for Britain

In another sign of turning tides, a prestigious British think-tank once beloved of the conservative Margaret Thatcher has called on the government to legalize cannabis. The breakthrough report finds that a legal cannabis industry could raise 1 billion pounds per year in tax revenues for the United Kingdom, while undercutting the black market.

If we needed any further evidence that cannabis isn’t just for hippies anymore, it is the report issued last week by Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs, a pillar of the UK’s political establishment, calling for legalization — albeit under close government regulation.

The IEA describes itself as the UK’s “original free-market think-tank.” It was founded in 1955, with an ideological Cold War mission — “to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.” On June 30, it hosted a press conference and discussion at the Royal Geographical Society, wittily entitled “High Time to Legalise Cannabis.” There, the think tank proposed exactly how they believe Britain should legalize marijuana.

The IEA found that the UK’s black market in cannabis is worth 2.6 billion pounds annually (equivalent to $3.4 billion), with 255 metric tons of cannabis sold to more than 3 million people last year.

Chris Snowdon, the IEA’s head of “lifestyle economics,” was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “It’s high time for reform of cannabis policy in the UK. Canada and the USA are showing the way. Done properly, the legalization of cannabis is a win-win-win: criminals lose a lucrative industry, consumers get a better, safer and cheaper product, and the burden on the general taxpayer is reduced.”

A legal cannabis market would generate sales of 2 billion pounds, the IEA found — that’s twice the size of Britain’s cider industry. The think-tank stated that a value-added tax (VAT) and excise duty, together with new streams of business and income taxes, would lead to a 1 billion pound “windfall” for the Treasury. This, significantly, would be enough to close the budget gap at the financially troubled National Health Service. The IEA added that legalization would “virtually eradicate” the black market.

Irrational Fear of ‘Skunk’

Unfortunately, the report at times indulges in reefer-madness-style misconceptions about cannabis, specifically towards those high-THC varieties that UK citizens colloquially call “skunk.” It states: “The dominance of hazardous, high-strength ‘skunk’ cannabis in the black market should be a key reason for legalisation. Licensed sales would allow safer, regulated cannabis to displace the more dangerous strains and generate tax revenue that could be spent on mental health services.”

The proposal calls for regulators to establish maximum limits on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for feeling high, and minimum limits on cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that shows a growing array of medical benefits.

Of course, keeping “skunk” illegal would undermine the effort to “virtually eradicate” the black market. And there is a case to be made that high-potency strains are more beneficial, as they require users to smoke less to achieve the same effect — sparing the lungs exposure to tar and carcinogens.

The IEA proposes that sales be restricted to those over 18, and take place only at specially licensed outlets. A license would also be required for growing and importing.

Breakthroughs in the Bureaucracy

The report comes on the heels of other signs that Britain’s political establishment is starting to bend towards cannabis legalization, at least. Last month, the Home Office announced that it will allow the use of medical cannabis products in one case — that of 12-year-old epilepsy sufferer Billy Caldwell. A general review of the policy that has heretofore barred such products even to the seriously ill is now underway.

In announcing the policy review, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was quick to emphasize that there are “absolutely no plans” for a general legalization. However, he did say: “I have now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis.” And he acknowledged that the current policy “unsatisfactory” for everyone involved.

Prime Minister Theresa May last year pledged to continue the “War on Drugs,” citing “the incredible damage [drugs] can do to families and the individuals concerned.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has come around more forthrightly on the question. This week, he told a reporter: “I think criminalizing people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not particularly a good idea, and does lead to great difficulties, particularly for younger people in communities like mine so I do think the debate is moving on.”

TELL US, do you think the UK will legalize marijuana soon?



  1. Paul Steel

    July 9, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    As a someone who suffers from nxiety and mood disorder i would love to be able to try something else other than prescribed diazepam and antidepressants to give me some relief.
    However as things stand I would have to break the law to use cannabis and 90% of the time when my friends buy it its a high THC strain, having tried these strains i know that it causes me further anxiety which can go on for some time.
    In a legal market I would hopefully be able to approach a professional who could recommend a more suitable strain.
    In all I think a legal, regaulated market will be beneficia to all citizens, education to the effects both good and bad are the key to ensuring the majority of users are kept safe.
    I would also recommend that the market 18+ and not 21+ as many young people smoke cannabis and having an older age for purchase would force them to use the black market which is counter productive in any effort to educate and ensure safety.

  2. Shaun

    July 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Ultimately the UK will have no choice in the matter, the cat is out of the bag, police forces apparently are increasingly showing signs of being reluctant to prosecute for possession, particularly where there is no indication of associated violence involved.
    When people talk about “drug associated violence” they tend to forget that the “violence associated with drugs” results from battles between rival gangs. and strong arm tactics meted out against people who cannot cough up the readies on demand because they know full well that there is no legal recourse available!!
    looking towards the medicinal element of legalization I am concerned that the pharmaceutical industry will push for legalization of synthetically derived alternatives which, due to the additives needed to mimic the effects of the natural constituents of the plant, will lead to products being marketed that will have unwanted negative side effects associated with them because of the chemical additives required as binding agents.

  3. Jonathan

    July 9, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Whilst this is obviously great news, why are we still discussing the issue of “skunk”?
    It takes virtually no time at all to establish that “skunk” is just one of thousands of cannabis strains, jumped upon by journalists in an effort to demonise cannabis. There are far stronger strains out there and this needs to be made more clear.
    No – high THC strains do not cause psychosis IN MOST PEOPLE, however it can be said that those already susceptible to developing psychosis can have this process sped up by the consumption of cannabis.
    Perhaps I’m already preaching to the converted here but it can be frustrating to read the same “facts” over and over.

    Just my two cents…

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