19 November 2021

Cannabis legalisation is a huge opportunity – we mustn’t let it go to pot


Germany has announced it will be ending its ban on the recreational use of cannabis. In doing so it follows in the footsteps of the Netherlands, Canada, 18 US states and Washington DC.

The developed world is moving in one direction on this issue. No part of it that has shifted cannabis from a criminal issue to one of personal responsibility is considering undoing their liberalisation.

The trajectory is clear, the UK will soon become one of the only large, developed countries that maintains its costly and harmful prohibition.

And what a crying shame that would be.

Many of our politicians understand that ending prohibition would reduce harms, increase freedom, and generate huge amounts of tax revenue all in one go.

Yet too many are afraid to say so.

There’s a long and distinguished list of senior British politicians past and present who have admitted to smoking weed. Yet despite their own histories, hypocritical politicians persist with the current system. Allowing people like them to get away with impunity, while often working class Brits are targeted by the state.

It isn’t until after they leave office that politicians tend to see the light on legalisation. This summer William Hague announced he was in favour of it. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has campaigned for it. No doubt sometime liberal Tory Boris Johnson favours it too, despite his apparent miscalculation that it would be too unpopular to admit it.

Keir Starmer has been similarly disappointing, taking a view that is both more reactionary view than his party members’ and, indeed, out of step with the country at large.

It’s been striking to see how public attitudes have shifted over the last decade, no doubt influenced by what is happening in English-speaking countries overseas. Recent polls reveal there is now a large majority who favour legalising cannabis. In April this year YouGov found that just 32% of Brits opposed legalisation, whereas a stonking 52% support it, a twenty point lead.

And, as we all know, 52% of the British population is rarely wrong.

Remarkably, the UK is already one of the largest producers and exporters of legal cannabis. In 2018 the UN revealed that Britain was among the world’s largest producers, with 95 tons of the stuff being grown for medicinal and scientific use – 45% of the world’s total.

Why we would want to abandon our lead in a growing market is hard to understand. Currently the industry is flourishing in Canada, and raising badly needed tax revenue in the wake of the pandemic.

In Germany the conservative estimate is a legal cannabis market could raise an additional €1 billion every year for the Government to spend, or indeed pay off its debts.

Turning down such a windfall ourselves is nothing short of moronic.

Politicians should start to show the courage of their convictions. The gap between those who in private say ‘of course cannabis prohibition should end’, and those who say so in public remains vast.

It’s time to get a move on. Before the rest of the world leaves us behind.

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Tom Harwood is Political Correspondent at GB News, where he presents The Briefing.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.