Cannabis in UK: legalisation could raise £1bn a year in taxes

Cannabis Queen Elizabeth
 

Legalising the sale of cannabis in specialist shops would generate £1bn a year in tax revenue and reduce the harm done to users and society, according to the most detailed plans ever drawn up for the liberalisation of UK drug laws.

The study, which was carried out by a panel of experts including scientists, academics and police chiefs, calls for the UK to follow the lead of some US states and allow the sale of cannabis to over-18s in licensed retail stores.

The report’s conclusions will form the basis of a new drugs policy being drawn up by the Liberal Democrat Party, which is expected to debate the issue at its spring conference later this week.


The proposals

  • Adults would be able to buy cannabis from licensed single-purpose stores modelled on pharmacies, like the marijuana dispensaries operating in Oregon and Colorado.
     
  • Home-cultivation of cannabis would also be legal for personal use and small-scale licensed cannabis social clubs could be established. However, branding, promoting or advertising cannabis products would be banned.
     
  • The price, potency and packaging of all sold cannabis would be controlled by the Government with a new regulator established to oversee the market. The price would disproportionately rise for higher-strength cannabis to discourage sales of the most harmful forms of the drug.
     
  • Both drug production and sales would be taxed, raising, the panel claims, between £500m and £1bn a year. However, unlike some countries that have legalised cannabis, the panel does not come out in favour of ring-fencing the revenue for drug treatment, prevention and harm reduction.
     
  • A new regulator would be established to oversee the market, possibly modelled on Ofgem and Ofwat.

A responsibly regulated market rather than an unregulated criminal market

The experts behind the study say legalisation would reduce drug-related crime and mitigate the harmful effects of the drug on users. The proposals will be discussed at the Liberal Democrats' spring conference next week.

The panel was set up last year by the former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb and has been chaired by Steve Rolles, from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

It claims the health risks associated with cannabis use can be more effectively managed and minimised by through a "responsibly regulated market and public health interventions rather than an unregulated criminal market and punitive criminal justice response".

Mr Rolles said the reality was that millions of people used cannabis anyway, and there was “a pressing need for Government to take control of the trade from gangsters and unregulated dealers”.
 

“Legal regulation is now working well, despite the fear-mongering, in Colorado and Washington, and will roll out across the US over the coming years,” he said.