Legalization in UK would raise a billion pounds a year in tax revenue

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A recent study is trying to push the UK to follow in some USA States’ steps and allow the retail selling of cannabis to adults in authorized establishments. This would generate the annual amount of a billion pounds in taxes. But not only that, it would also reduce significantly the damage to both users and general society, according to the same study, the most detailed report to date on drug liberalization in the UK.

The study, produced by a group of experts including scientists, academics and high police officers, urges the UK to follow in the steps of regulations passed in the USA.

The report’s conclusions will be the foundation for the new drug policies put together by the Liberal Democratic Party. The Party is expected to discuss this matter in its spring conference.

According to the plans exposed in said report:

-Adults could buy cannabis in specifically designed shops, shops for that purpose only and inspired in pharmacies, as is the case in Oregon and Colorado, USA.

-Home growing would also be legal in reduced scale and only for personal consumption. The existence of social cannabis clubs would be allowed, also in a reduced scale and only after obtaining a license.

-The price, strength and packaging of all cannabis for sale would be supervised by the Government, with a new regulation mechanism that would monitor the market. The price of the strongest varieties would be raised out of proportion in order to reduce consumption of the most harmful marijuana varieties.

-Both production and selling of cannabis would be taxed. The revenue for the State would reach a figure between 500 and 1000 thousands of pounds, according to the report. Furthermore, as opposed as many countries that have already legalized cannabis, it would not be mandatory to destine the money to drug dependence therapies or prevention and damage control.

-A new organism of control would be created, following in the steps of the Ofgem or the Ofwat (the organisms that control the British Gas and Electricity market and the Water and Sewers market).

The experts responsible for the study claim that legalization would reduce the amount of drug related crimes, and would also minimize the damaging effects of drugs in consumers.

The experts group was selected by the former Secretary of State for Health of the Liberal Democrats, Norman Lamb, and has been directed by Steve Rolles, from Transform Drug policies Foundation. Other members of the expert group are Mike Barton (Durham Police Chief), professor David Nutt (former president of Advisory Committee on Misuse of Drugs) and Niamh Eastwood (executive director of the charity Release).

In the report, authors claim that even though they don’t deny that cannabis consumption is damaging, legalization and regulation are the best options to minimize the risks associated with its consumption.

To this date, most drug policies have been guided by political and ideological motivations, ignoring science, public health and social politics rules”, they write in the report.

We are totally aware of the perils associated to cannabis consumption, but we claim that a rational policy should manage the reality of the current consumption in a pragmatic way instead of trying to eradicate said consumption with the use of punishing measures”. This one, they claim, is a take on the problem that “has been historically proven inefficient and counterproductive, regardless of its good intentions”.

Rolles said the reality is that millions of people consume cannabis, and there is an “urgent need for the Government to take control of the market out the hands of mobs and unregulated sellers”.

“Regulation is working in Colorado and Washington, regardless of unfounded fears, and will spread over the USA in coming years”, he claimed.

But other drug experts were less enthusiastic. Harry Shapiro, from the DrugWise charity, said that alongside decriminalize cannabis and making possession of small amounts of it a minor offence, like a traffic offence, other steps should be taken.

“We must be very cautious and see what happens in other places before we make decisions in our country”, he said.

Be that as it may, this document will make the Liberal Party the first British political party that commits to legalization.

In the last elections, the Green Party proposed the creation of a commission to review certain drugs classifications, in the context of a legalization of drug consumption.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats leader, said that he was now convinced that cannabis prohibition had “failed”. “We need a new approach, a smarter one, and I welcome this report that will be presented in the next spring conference”, he said.

“It is a waste of time when the police are chasing young cannabis consumers, and it is ridiculous to punish them with criminal sentences that could ruin their future. A legal market would allow us to have a greater control over what is being sold. It would also mean a great improvement in tax revenue. I have always said that we should tackle the drug law reform focusing in the facts, and this report should be taken very seriously. The United Kingdom must end the failed war on drugs. The current situation causes great harm and we need an urgent change”.