Carl Sacklen

A Regulated Cannabis Market

The Liberal Democrats have announced their policy to create a regulated market for cannabis. Here’s why it’s a convincing policy.

The devil’s lettuce, weed, grass. Call it what you want. Right now, the laws prohibiting cannabis are counter-productive and the LibDem policy to create a regulated market is a welcome one.

Some were quick to decry the policy as a patronising attempt to lure in young voters. That’s not the case, though. It would be patronising if the Conservatives started talking about the legalisation of cannabis because, well, they’re conservative. This is a fundamentally liberal policy, so although it may well help with the youth vote, that’s probably not why it’s LibDem policy.

It’s a liberal policy for two reasons. One, it recognises the individual’s right to “smoke dope”. Second, it’s an embrace of the market.

The justifications, especially the economic ones, of legalising cannabis are worth examining further. The key here is a regulated cannabis market rather than simple decriminalisation or unregulated legalisation. This is because only such a policy will ensure a certain safety standard; remove criminal gangs from the picture; best protect people’s health; and raise taxes.

1) Protecting the consumer

  • In the UK, there are 2.1 million cannabis users and almost all revenue from cannabis goes to illegal and dangerous gangs. This finances other activities (often more harmful) and fuels violence. If the government were to create a regulated market for the cannabis trade, the supply chain would not be in the hands of harmful criminals, but rather in high-street pharmacies. This would also mean the suppliers are legally accountable to the consumers.

2) It’s less harmful than other consumer products

  • This is the heart of the matter. Cannabis is less harmful than many other drugs including tobacco and alcohol. The problems that do arise from cannabis are less likely to arise if it’s a legal product because…

3) Prohibition increases the supply of the strong stuff

  • In the era of prohibition in the US, it didn’t take long for speakeasies to skip the beer and opt for the spirits. Why? Because it was the most concentrated form of delivery. Simple economics, really. As a result, the cannabis on the street today (skunk) is dangerously strong because there’s a blanket restriction on supply. If we had a fully functioning market for cannabis, many users would purchase weaker samples.

4) Tax, tax, and more tax

  • It’s estimated that the legalisation of cannabis could raise up to £1.05bn in tax as well as reduce criminal justice costs. That money could go towards funding the NHS or education programmes. Of course, too high of a tax could incentivise a return to the black market, but the principle is clear nonetheless.