Should the next Prime Minister legalise recreational cannabis?
Morgan Schondelmeier, head of development at the Adam Smith Institute, which this week published a new paper on cannabis legalisation, says YES.
The next Prime Minister must give the green light to legalising cannabis. We’ve seen the push in the UK towards relaxing the rules around medicinal cannabis for sufferers of illnesses like epilepsy, but there are massive social and economic benefits to be gained by legalisation for recreational use as well.
The prohibition of cannabis has succeeded only in giving power to criminals and producing an unsafe product – think mafias and moonshine in the US prohibition era. By legalising the drug and moving sales into the regulated economy, you remove power from drug gangs and ensure quality control of the product.
If properly implemented, legalisation would see the collapse of the black market and the reduction of drug-related crime and underage use. Drug dealers don’t ask for age verification or care about quality control – licensed retailers do.
Taking back control of the criminal drug market would cut crime, boost the Treasury’s coffers through taxation, and free up valuable police time. We must seize the opportunity.
Edward Davies, director of policy at the Centre for Social Justice, says NO.
When you spend time with people whose lives have been devastated by cannabis – developing addictions, being excluded from school, losing their job, developing mental ill-health, or suffering family breakdown – it’s hard to reach any other conclusion than that legalising cannabis isn’t the silver bullet advocates hope for.
Research carried out by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) last year showed that legalisation would mean millions of new users, a sharp uptick in frequency among existing users, and hundreds of thousands of people gripped by addiction.
This is despite a compelling and growing body of evidence of the dangerous relationship between cannabis use, psychosis, diminished brain function, and other mental health problems.
Former drug dealers have told the CSJ directly that any hope of a regulated market reducing wider criminal activity or controlling the problem is also misguided, as it has proved to be in other countries.
Instead, we must refocus the cannabis debate on educating about the harms and investing in treatment.
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