Legalisation would help take power away from criminal gangs – but at what cost?
The Liberal Democrats have a pledge to legalise cannabis in their manifesto.
They are promising to create a regulated market for the drug in order for the government to control distribution and tax the sales to raise new revenues.
Labour and the Tories are not eager to push for legalisation but will the issue be one the UK creeps ever closer towards?
The Lib Dems say the manifesto pledge could raise an additional £1.5billion to spend on tackling crime, while police efforts to crack down on cannabis use could also be redeployed.
They say they are following evidence from different legalisation models in Canada and the US. Canada was the first G7 country to legalise cannabis while some US states have made the drug legal. A cross-party group of MPs who went to Canada on a fact-finding mission predict cannabis will be legal in the UK within the next five to 10 years.
Legalisation would help take power away from criminal gangs. Illegal smugglers and dealers will struggle to compete with a legal and regulated trade controlled by the government.
Perhaps more important than legalisation is decriminalisation. Substance addiction leads people into serious problems like homelessness and they are afraid of seeking help because they might face criminal charges.
It will take a lot of effort to break down the prohibitionist stance from many politicians in the UK but several countries have seen benefits from legalisation.
The Counter Claim
However, Clare Foges of The Times says the legalisation of cannabis is a “fool’s crusade”.
Progress is being made and last year parliament passed a law allowing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, while public support is growing for a policy of legalisation. So far, so encouraging for those who want the drug to be legal.
Foges argues that cannabis has become more dangerous in recent years, with newer crops of the green leaf containing higher quantities of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia and psychosis.