Updated: Jul 27
By Jack Street
If we are serious about tackling many of the issues that impact the poorest people in society, we must legalise drugs in the UK. I don’t mean blanket legalisation of all drugs overnight, although in a perfect world and with the correct policy, this would be preferable. But we need to take an incrementalist approach to the legalisation of all drugs in the UK, starting with cannabis.
For me, the argument to legalise, regulate and tax drugs has always been a strong one. Prohibition has been an abject failure. According to the Institute for Economic Affairs, the illicit cannabis market in the UK is worth around £2.5 billion per year. This represents money currently fuelling violet gangs, child labour and the development of cannabis strains that are far more hazardous than legally grown ones. The report goes on to suggest that if cannabis was legalised, tax revenue alone could exceed more than £1 billion every year.
Not only are we losing out on vast amounts of tax revenues that could be used to benefit society, by not regulating the cannabis market we are allowing even more dangerous strains to be developed.
The cannabis plant is made up of two main compounds: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound and whilst CBD still interacts with your body, it does not have any psychoactive effects because the two compounds offset each other. However, the kinds of cannabis strains that are found on the streets of the UK commonly referred to as ‘super skunk’, are overwhelmingly packed with THC and therefore have far stronger psychoactive effects than regulated cannabis strains. If cannabis was legalised, we could regulate its strength in the same way as alcohol, ensuring that everyone knows what they are consuming and the impact that it is going to have on them. By allowing these abnormally strong strains to flood the streets we are putting people's mental and physical health unnecessarily at risk.
There is no doubt that cannabis can, if used by those with underlying health conditions, cause mental health problems and, if used by minors, can stunt the growth of the brain. These problems, however, are all the more reason to legalise the drug. You will never stop people from using illicit substances and even though cannabis is extraordinarily safe, there are still some risks. Therefore by regulating it, controlling who can take it and providing proper support for anyone that abuses the substance, the risks of using cannabis can be majorly reduced.
Most importantly, cannabis is crucial and life-saving medicine. I will now list just some of the illnesses and conditions that cannabis can aid with; Chronic pain, cancer, depression, seizure regulation, bone repair, ADHD/ADD, anxiety, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. To not make available treatment for these horrible diseases that tear people’s lives apart is to catastrophically fail to care for the most vulnerable in society.
Cannabis must be made available as a treatment on the NHS, it must be legalised and regulated to take it out of the hands of violent gangs and ensure that it is safely integrated into society. It must be taxed at the right level to ensure that the black market stays small but large amounts of tax revenue can be taken to pump into helping the country’s most vulnerable. To not legalise cannabis is to accept that you want to leave drugs in the hands of violent gangs, not provide life-saving medicine to those who need it and miss out on massive amounts of tax revenue that can be used to help people. Cannabis legalisation is the common-sense position.
Some further resources:
UK Leap (Partnership calling for drug & law enforcement reform)
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company