By Sixtine Marion
Legalising cannabis in the UK could bring the Treasury £1bn a year in tax revenue, says a report backed by many politicians.
Music credits: Dr. Dre – The Next Episode ft. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Nate Dogg
Adopted, used and venerated, weed is everywhere. The British debt doesn’t stop increasing, especially since Brexit. The government is then seriously considering legalising the drug to boost the British economy. But is this the best solution?
Once, a ‘stoner’ was described as a loser with greasy hair, lack of style and with only a plate of leftovers for company. But pop culture changed this image and toned down this practice that is becoming decriminalised more and more every day. Still, the UK hasn’t legalised it.
A report entitled The Tide Effect published in November 2016 revealed that the UK might need to legalise cannabis just to boost its economy in the aftermath of Brexit. Several MPs from each party are in favour of this idea, which every time it is floated causes controversy. “A legal cannabis market could be worth £6.8bn annually, providing up to £1bn to the Treasury,” says the report, which was carried out by economic think-tank the Adam Smith Institute.
Ben Southwood, the ASI head of research says: “There are two main reasons for why we conducted the report: one, we don’t want to be left behind by the world, and two we are in a kind of worst-of-all-worlds situation. We want to push in the direction of what we think is the best solution: legalising cannabis.”
High-ranking academics are also reconsidering softening drugs policy in the UK. Dr John Collins is an expert in drug policy at the London School of Economics. “I think legalisation of cannabis is looking pretty inevitable in liberal democracies over the next decade,” he says.
He says that regulating the market makes far more sense than the current criminal situation. “Something that is very regulated and supplying markets would be far superior to prohibition and commercialisation,” he says. “I think the UK is far more capable of imposing those kinds of stronger regulations especially – as it would be a nascent industry – than the US would be.”
“Colorado is now a $1bn industry and brings massive amounts of tax revenues. It is not the legalisation of cannabis that is going to solve a country’s fiscal problem”
Following the Autumn Statement, the British population found out about how much the decision to leave the EU will cost. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS), the UK’s net contribution to the EU per week was £199 million in 2015. But by 2020 the UK would have to borrow an extra £290 million per week to pay for the expected economic downturn caused by Brexit.
Legalising cannabis could be a way to lower costs in the criminal justice system. The ASI report says that nearly 1,400 people are currently in prison in England and Wales for cannabis-related crimes. They cost to the taxpayer £49m a year or £35,000 a year per person.
The average salary in the UK is £27,600 per year. If the UK had a softer approach to cannabis, it could raise extra money in tax revenues, thinks Dr Collins. “Colorado is now a $1bn industry and brings massive amounts of tax revenues. It is not the legalisation of cannabis that is going to solve a country’s fiscal problem, but it wouldn’t be unwanted,” he says.
Colorado has seen a massive economic boost since the state legalised the herb in 2013. According to Business Insider UK, taxing and selling weed in Colorado and Washington has been “overwhelmingly successful in generating revenue”. Colorado brought in $129m in the second year of legalisation and Washington raised $220m in taxes from marijuana.