Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The question in the title of this post is prompted by the recent release of this report by several U.K. lawmakers titled The Tide Effect: How the world is changing its mind on cannabis legalisation. The executive summary states:
The people of California have just voted to legalise cannabis – a decision which will have immense repercussions both in America and around the world, while efforts are already underway in Canada to legally regulate the cannabis market. The Tide Effect argues strongly that the UK should follow suit, and that the legalisation of cannabis here is both overdue and imperative.
The eight main points outlined in The Tide Effect are:
- The government strategy is based around three main pillars: reducing demand, restricting supply and building recovery. All three are failing.
- Regulation is substantially more desirable than simple decriminalisation or unregulated legalisation, because only regulation addresses all four key issues: ensuring that the product meets acceptable standards of quality and purity; removing criminal gangs from the equation as far as possible; raising revenue for the Treasury through point-of-sale taxation; and best protecting public health.
- The entire language used to address cannabis-related issues needs to change. Language poses a barrier every bit as formidable as legislation does. The opponents of legalisation have long been able to reinforce their position by using the words of public fear – ‘illegal,’ ‘criminal’, ‘dangerous’, and so on. Only by using the language of public health, consumer rights and harm reduction, the same language used about alcohol and tobacco, can we move towards regulation.
- The scale of a legalised industry will be huge. The US market is estimated to be worth $25bn by the time of the next election in 2020. A similarly regulated UK market could be worth around £7bn per annum.
- Legally regulating cannabis will allow long-term studies of its health effects not currently possible. The effects of both tobacco and alcohol are well understood because of the amount of scientific scrutiny brought to bear on them.
- Many shifts in public policy are prompted, or at least prodded, by an emotional response on the part of the public. Greater efforts must be made to show that the cannabis issue also has a human aspect to which many people respond.
- Any campaign to legalise cannabis must be multifaceted, involving public support, media analysis and political engagement.
- Responsibility for cannabis policy should be moved primarily to the department for Health, while the role of the Home Office should change from enforcement of prohibition to enforcement of regulation and licensing.