DEBATE: Is Britain missing out by not having a legal cannabis market?

Israel Pioneers Use Of Medical Marijuana
Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in North America (Source: Getty)

Is Britain missing out by not having a legal cannabis market?

George McBride, co-founder of Cannabis Europa, says YES.

The UK economy is missing out – but not the drug dealers. They’ve been gifted a monopoly over a plant with a mind-boggling range of commercial, recreational, and medical applications.

Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in North America. Extracts from the flower provide comfort and reprieve to those undergoing chemotherapy, while fibres from the stem can provide a sustainable source of biodegradable plastics.

The UK remains rooted in the past. Businesses, the state, and UK citizens lose out. What would be a safe product is made dangerous through lack of regulation. In failing to regulate the industry the state wastes £900m, according to a recent report by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Businesses miss out on a market which Prohibition Partners estimates to be worth £9.9bn.

The legal status of cannabis in the UK denies patients access to safe and effective medicines. Consumers are driven to less effective pharmaceuticals, more dangerous recreational drugs, or black market products of unknown purity, potency and provenance. So yes, Britain is missing out.

Read more: It’s high time archaic cannabis prohibition went up in smoke

Edward Boyd, managing director of the Centre for Social Justice, says NO.

A legal cannabis market would open the floodgates to addiction, with the poorest paying the cost.

We know that legalising cannabis would increase use – just under a third of young people who have never taken illegal drugs say they would consider taking them if they were decriminalised.

And this isn’t just polling, it is playing out in reality. In the US, cannabis legalisation is increasing consumption by 10 per cent a year. It is a booming, innovative industry, but it makes its money off the backs of the poor.

The social costs are simply too high to pay for any economic benefit, as more drug consumption is directly linked to more addiction and misery. A tenth of those who ever try cannabis become addicted. And, following a sharp reduction in government funding over the past six years, unless you have private money to pay for it, it is almost impossible for someone to get good treatment to help beat their addiction.

Legalisation may sound progressive, but the reality is it would lead to more lives being blighted by addiction, and would entrench people in poverty.

Read more: Is the increase in ‘super strength skunk’ a reason to legalise cannabis?

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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