Think tanks have today called on the government to radically rethink its drug policy, as it was revealed that taxpayers could save nearly £900m a year if cannabis was legalised.
A report by the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) argued that legalising the drug would reduce spending by police, prisons, courts and the NHS and put a huge amount of money back in taxpayers' pockets.
The health service would gain the most from such a move, making back £132.6m from not prescribing sleeping tablets, pain-relief medicine and anti-depressants which had been given out as a result of patients smoking higher-potency 'skunk'.
But £50m of savings would also be made as police saved time on enforcing the cannabis ban, while it would lead to the probation service saving £141m a year.
"It is clear that the current attempts to prevent cannabis use are an enormous burden on taxpayers that mean their money isn't spent on other priorities," said writer of the report Ben Ramanauskas as he called for the UK to rethink its "heavy-handed" policies.
A number of leading think tanks agreed with TPA's conclusions. Daniel Pryor, head of programmes at the Adam Smith Institute said the government's approach to cannabis had been an "expensive failure."
"We’ve handed control of the market over to criminal gangs, criminalised adults for using a low-harm consumer product and punished the minority of users who do need support," he argued.
"The potential savings detailed in this report could be used to fund support services for problem cannabis users and put money back in the pockets of taxpayers," he added. "It’s time to take back control from the gangs by legalising and regulating cannabis."
The Institute for Economic Affairs' head of Lifestyle Economics Chris Snowdon had similarly disparaging words to say on the government's policy towards cannabis.
"The war on drugs is a war on people. It has only succeeded in making cannabis more dangerous than it ought to be," he stated.
"Thanks to the rise of ‘skunk’, the costs to the NHS are rising despite the number of cannabis users falling. There is no doubt that hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved if we followed the lead of a growing number of US states by legalising, taxing and regulating this product."