In their manifesto for the 2017 Elections, Liberal Democrats promise to legalise cannabis if elected. This may be a somewhat controversial or radical policy. However, the reasons for doing so are compelling. This single policy alone could see a large scale shift in the makeup of the UK as a country. Essentially it is the right decision that others did not dare to make.
Legalising the sale, cultivation and possession of cannabis would provide significant beneficial impacts in a wide range of areas including –
- Economy - £1 billion in taxes on estimated £6.8 billion industry
- Healthcare – medical use of marijuana has shown significant positive effects
- Crime – take money away from criminal organisations and remove the link to harder drugs
- Police Funding – law enforcement could see a vast increase in their available resources
- Society- creates a fairer, more open society, as opposed to a criminalised sub-culture
The Real Magic Money Tree
Liberal Democrats expect to raise £1 billion from taxation on the sales of cannabis although the figure could be much higher. The amount of revenue generated from taxes on the sales of cigarettes is around £12 billion. There would also be indirect economic benefits surrounding the cannabis “social clubs” and licensed vendors, as increased commercial activity seeps out into other services and businesses in the area.
Reports have suggested that the industry would turn over around £6.8 billion per year, this again could be quite a conservative estimate but the impact of a multi-billion pound industry popping up almost overnight cannot be ignored, especially as we look to find ways to fund vital services.
Furthermore, all this money would be taken from the hands of criminal organisations, creating a massive shift in power when it comes to fighting crime.
"Legalising Cannabis will help us Tackle Serious Crimes"
At present the police forces in every county in the UK are spending vast amounts of resources chasing down, putting under surveillance, arresting and imprisoning people for crimes related to cannabis. That funding and manpower should be being used to fight terrorism, violent criminals and organised gangs.
One direct saving would be the money already spent on pursuing crimes related to cannabis, freeing up police time and budgets. Decriminalisation would also mean taking away a large revenue stream from criminal organisations. Instead of the profits being used by an organised gang to expand their business, purchase arms and personnel to enforce their criminal methods and cause more violence, the money can be used to benefit the local economy, create jobs in a legitimate business and through taxation provide funding to areas where it is needed most.
Medical Implications of Legalising Cannabis
Medical marijuana has been used to treat a variety of illnesses in places where it has been decriminalised and studies have shown it to be an effective cure for a wide range of problems, able to lessen the impact of symptoms in a number of conditions and provide pain relief to patients. Conditions medical marijuana has been used to treat include:
Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Cancer, Fibromyalgia, OCD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), Depression, Chronic Pain and Spinal Injury, Digestive Issues, Anxiety, Anorexia, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Migraines, Sickle Cell Anaemia, Osteoporosis, Schizophrenia, Neurodegeneration
One of the counter arguments against decriminalisation is that cannabis can be one of many factors that triggers schizophrenia in a rare number of people who have a genetic predisposition towards it.
While this may be a one in a million chance, it is certainly a serious problem. However, at present those sufferers who find themselves in that situation will most likely be having their care and wellbeing take care of by a drug dealer on the street and the treatment they can expect currently is a criminal conviction or possible prison sentence. Surely that is not the best way to deal with that particular issue.
Another argument against legalisation is the harmful effects of the drug itself, mainly when taken through smoking. However there is strong evidence to suggest that a properly regulated and controlled industry is better equipped to mitigate any harmful effects, as opposed to criminalisation. After decriminalising all drugs in Portugal it was reported that instances of substance abuse had been cut in half, although that wasn't necessarily a direct result of the policy alone.
Impact on Society
In the UK today there are several million people who take cannabis either recreationally or as a self-medicated treatment for a health issue. Through current policy-making this large section of the population are being pushed out of society and away from any help they may need, creating a criminalised sub-culture of people who are isolated by the fact that they cannot turn to the official channels for support. This means in some cases they rely on criminal elements for their protection, employment and advice, as it is the only option they feel is available.
If given a criminal record at a young age it can affect an individual’s chances of getting a job and a career throughout the rest of their lives, leaving fewer avenues open. The criminal classification of cannabis therefore creates a level of fear and distrust for law enforcement that not only negatively impacts the individual user, but also prevents the police from doing their job effectively.
Legalising cannabis would create a fairer, more open society, help our economy and leave the security and police forces with more of the resources and time needed to tackle serious crimes that threaten the UK. We need to stop wasting time and money chasing after the wrong people.
If you agree then vote Liberal Democrats on 8th June.