Cumberland meets Cannaland!
Anyone who’s hopped the pond or popped a British tabloid knows they’re not quite so comfortable with cannabis. Despite legalization sweeping North America, cannabis is still largely viewed as a dangerous and illicit street drug in the United Kingdom. This makes it all the more surprising that the Institute of Economic Affairs, a notable conservative think tank centered in London, has joined a burgeoning chorus of British peoples calling for the full, country-wide legalization of cannabis.
Pointing to the successes of Uruguay, Canada, and the United States, the IEA describes the current war on drugs in the United Kingdom as “failing,” noting that over £3.5 billion Pounds (approximately $6 billion Canadian Dollars) are lost to the black market each year. As Chris Snowdon (head of lifestyle economics at IEA) notes, “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.”
It’s a well-known fact that prohibition drives the production of cannabis and cannabis-derived products to an unregulated, untested, entirely underground market, ultimately meaning a much higher risk of dangerous products and pollutant contamination.
Some of the results of an unregulated market include unsuitable levels of mold, mildew, fungus, bacteria, pesticides, and heavy metals in cannabis flower, all of which can have their own negative effects on health and wellbeing. This risk is then magnified by dangerous extraction techniques that have been known to concentrate pesticides further and to result in house fires and explosions.
There are an estimated 3 million regular cannabis users in the U.K.’s ~66 million inhabitants or almost 4.5% of the population. Although Sajid Javid (the Home Secretary of England) has begun a review of medical marijuana, an increasing number want to see recreational cannabis treated in the same light. Rather than criminalizing those individuals, the country could benefit from massive tax revenues and a job boom if cannabis were legalized, all while drastically reducing the enormous financial burden enforcement of drug laws and substance use treatment has on the health and justice systems.