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Politicians need to stop blowing smoke and legalize cannabis

By Jack Fifield

With the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada, it’s time for politicians in the UK to wake up and smell the kush.

Countries and areas that have legalized cannabis have already seen plenty of success. Since legalization in 2014, cannabis sales in Colorado have brought in over US$900-million in tax revenue [1], even though Colorado’s sales tax rate is a meagre 2.9% — tiny compared to the UK’s standard VAT rate of 20%. Scaled up to the larger population of the UK, and with the generally-higher tax rates found in our country, cannabis would provide an extremely large amount of untapped tax revenue that is currently wasted on the black market.

Currently, cannabis is often easier for young people to obtain than alcohol. As drug dealers do not discriminate on the basis of age, there is no protection against the use of cannabis by younger people whose bodies are still developing, meaning the criminalization of cannabis is making it even easier to obtain for those who are most at risk from its use.

With the current situation of illicit cannabis consumption, adult consumers are also exposed to unnecessary health risks.

Firstly, there is a chance that the cannabis has been in some way tainted from the pure product that would be guaranteed if sold under regulated conditions. Whilst it is unlikely that cannabis is intentionally laced, the possibility for unintentional lacing with the use of improper pesticides is all too real.

Furthermore, with the introduction of legal cannabis comes the advantage of the free market, and the innovation that entails. No longer will consumers feel limited to purely smoking cannabis; factcannabis-infused food such as brownies or even gummy bears will become commonplace, reducing the risk to health that smoking entails, such as lung cancer and heart problems. This has already been seen in legal markets.

Legalization of cannabis would only make it safer than it currently is, an impressive feat considering that even now cannabis is safer than alcohol; in 2012, 5.9% of global deaths were attributed to alcohol [2], compared to zero deaths ever caused by a overdosing on cannabis [3]; according to David Schmader’s Weed: The User’s Guide, it “would require ingestion of fifteen hundred pounds in fifteen minutes — a physical impossibility for any human, even Snoop Dogg” to overdose on cannabis [3].

Cannabis’ legal status makes it the perfect gateway drug

Cannabis is sometimes called a “gateway drug” – proponents of this term say that cannabis opens the floodgates for users to try harder, more dangerous drugs. Looking at the statistics, it is true that most people who have tried illegal drugs have tried cannabis first.

However, this is manufactured by the status of cannabis being illegal. As drug dealers tend to diversify their operations to make more money, they offer harder drugs to their customers, providing a connection and opening the door to someone who was exclusively a cannabis user to start using harder drugs. Of course, with the safety record cannabis has relative to alcohol and some other drugs, it is no wonder that many may then question their views on the danger of other illegal drugs, even though they can be much less safe. If cannabis were legalized, this link between buyer and seller would be non-existent.

Personal liberty

With little evidence that there is good reason to ban cannabis, it is a deprivation of liberty to arbitrarily restrict what people can or cannot choose to do in their free time. Just as most people would agree that people should be allowed to enjoy a beer on the weekend free of restriction, so too should an adult be allowed to consume cannabis if they so choose.

Keeping it in the family

In 2016, the United Kingdom was the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis, [4, p. 43] but cannabis remains illegal for legal consumption in the United Kingdom. It is of note that Paul Kenward, husband of drugs minister Victoria Atkins, operates Britain’s largest legal cannabis farm [5]. Victoria Atkins has previously declared her opposition to the legalization of cannabis, despite her family directly profiting from its production in the currently tightly regulated market.

Conclusion

The United Kingdom has a tendency with this sort of thing to wait for others to take the lead before dipping its toes in. Others, such as Canada and many US states, have led; the positive evidence is there; the time for politicians to act is now.

References

[1] Colorado Government, “Marijuana Tax Data,” [Online]. Available: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data.
[2] World Health Organization, “Alcohol,” [Online]. Available: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/alcohol/en/.
[3] M. Robinson, “The Independent,” 8 November 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/how-much-marijuana-take-to-kill-you-fatal-weed-a8043856.html. [Accessed 26 February 2019].
[4] United Nations, “Narcotic Drugs — Estimated world requirements for 2018 — Statistics for 2016,” 2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.incb.org/documents/Narcotic-Drugs/Technical-Publications/2017/Narcotic_drugs_technical_publication_2017.pdf. [Accessed 26 February 2019].
[5] A. Gilligan, “Drug minister Victoria Atkins’s husband oversees cannabis farm,” 13 May 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/drug-minister-victoria-atkinss-husband-oversees-cannabis-farm-hv5q25pqr. [Accessed 26 February 2019].

 

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