Cannabis is categorised as a Class B drug in the UK, meaning it is illegal to possess or sell. Those found in possession of cannabis (even in small amounts) can be prosecuted and face up to five years in prison. Those who supply it to someone else can be imprisoned for up to fourteen years. Under the law, even those just giving it to another person are considered to be supplying; irrespective of whether if it is one friend giving it to another for free.
The implications of being found in possession of cannabis are quite serious. If you are convicted for a cannabis-related offence, it could affect your ability to get a job or to travel to other countries. Cannabis addiction can lead to your imprisonment.
For a long time, campaigners have been fighting to get cannabis legalised in this country, and many famous names have been involved, including former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. It has now come to light that a leaked Treasury report has shown that not only would legalising cannabis raise millions of pounds every year for the Treasury but it would also save millions for the justice system. However, the Home Office has been quick to reiterate that there are no plans to legalise cannabis at this time.
How Legalising Cannabis Could Raise Money
In the UK, the average cost of street cannabis is £5 per gram. LoveMONEY’s Matt Brady has looked at how, based on that price, the Government could raise millions of pounds every year in taxes. With around 216 tonnes of cannabis used every year in the UK, this equates to a street value of around £1.1 billion.
VAT on this amount could raise £220 million and, with a cannabis duty potentially being similar to that levied on tobacco, another £181.5 million could be raised. As well as the money raised in taxes, there would be substantial savings made in the justice system with reduced court and police costs of up to £200 million every year.
It is thought that the cost of cannabis could drop if it were legalised as dealers would no longer have to account for seizures and lost profits in their prices, and would not have to spend so much on secret production and transportation of their product. Many believe that the current system of prohibition only serves to put more money into the hands of the criminals.
The Transform Drug Policy Foundation believes that there is an annual worldwide turnover in the drugs market of $320 billion. This is more than the turnover in other crimes including counterfeiting, human trafficking, and cybercrime.
Opposition to Legislation of Cannabis
Despite so many people believing that certain drugs, such as cannabis, should be legalised, there are still many who oppose the idea. The use of any drug poses certain risks, and the Home Office has issued a statement that says “there is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage people’s mental and physical health and harms individuals and communities”.
Winning the War on Drugs
Nevertheless, others believe that legalising the drug would make it difficult for children to obtain and would ensure that end users would be getting a pure product with no risk of it being mixed with potentially dangerous substances.
Those who are in favour of a change in policy are pointing to Portugal and the fact that since that country decriminalised the use of drugs in 2001, they have had fewer drug deaths. They have three deaths per 1 million drug users, compared to the EU average of 17.
Many believe the UK Government should be adopting a similar policy.