The word 'TAX' with cannabis buds imposed on the background.

The word 'TAX' with cannabis buds imposed on the background.

By Akash Hashmi

The regulation of cannabis has the power to save our underfunded local authorities.

The debate surrounding cannabis legislation in the UK is messy, marred by so much in-fighting and disagreement that often either side of the debate don’t come across well enough to convince a four-year-old of anything, let alone a country.

One thing experts can agree on is that prohibition doesn’t do the UK’s citizens or business interests many favours.

Many MPs often cite the legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis as jumping into the abyss, with untold and unforeseen consequences.

The Colorado Example

I invite them to take a look at Colorado.

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, up to this month, legal cannabis from dispensaries has yielded over a billion dollars’ worth of tax revenue.

The extra cash goes towards public services such as health and wellbeing, the building of public schools and preventing youth consumption of cannabis.

In fact, youth usage has seen a significant drop in Colorado since regulation, with the added bonus of lower crime rates too.

Whilst I can’t confirm that these variables have a causative relationship, the numbers look great overall for Colorado’s public services.

In the UK, our local authorities are starving, often taking the hit for budget cuts from central government.

The he-said she-said bickering and blaming between councils and central government has gone on for far longer than I’ve had years on this planet.

Councils blaming a lack of provision on the government and governments blaming a lack of provision on councils is an age-old tale that I fear won’t ever cease to play out.

Tax and regulate

How could regulation of Cannabis in the UK help I hear you ask?

The UK has over eleven times the population of Colorado, which would lead one to expect around £9 billion in taxes for cannabis.

Of course, it’s important to understand that multiplying Colorado’s population and tax revenues by eleven might not necessarily be representative of the UK population’s cannabis habits, but even half of £9 billion could give around a 12% boost to our police budget or be used towards public health.

Doing this simultaneously takes money out of the black market, with cannabis farms no longer contributing as much to more serious organised crimes. It would also allow the police and the courts to divert some of their limited recourses to more serious issues.

Tory hypocrisy

The very politicians peddling prohibition are nothing short of hypocrites, happy to stain the record of a young person found with cannabis, whilst simultaneously admitting to snorting drugs which hold far greater criminal consequences with no repercussions.

The Home Office has been at odds with the policy that it enforces in many cases recently, namely last year when both cocaine and methamphetamine was found in their headquarters on separate occasions.

You’d think that by now with so much out in the air surrounding drug use under the public eye that we would see some progress with our drug laws, but unfortunately the opposite seems to be the case.

Photo of Niahm Eastwood, Executive Director of Release.

Drug policy expert, Niahm Eastwood, was denied a place on the Government’s own expert advisory panel on drugs, because she had been critical of the Government in the past.

Mattha Busby’s Guardian article details the trials faced by Niamh Eastwood, an established expert in the field of drugs and drug laws.

Niamh was vetoed from joining the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) by the Crime Minister Victoria Atkins, whose husband runs a huge UK cannabis farm (as you’ve all heard a thousand times).

Despite her expertise, which was acknowledged in her application, she was denied on the basis of tweets she previously made based on Home Office policy, the Windrush scandal and on Brexit.

Her tweets on Home Office policy were abrasive and well deserved on part of the Home Office and their statement on drug consumption rooms (DCRs), which featured hugely blatant misrepresentations of evidence and ridiculous leaps between logic despite the proven efficacy of DCRs.

The Home Office claims their work is based on expert recommendations, failing to mention that you have to be ‘the right type of expert’, one that’ll help reinforce political standpoints whilst suffocating dissenting and often the most harm reducing opinion.

We’ve seen it here with Niamh under a Conservative government, and we’ve seen it with David Nutt who was fired under a Labour government for not having the ‘correct’ opinion on drugs.

If the government doesn’t agree with your expert opinion, they’ll just find someone else to qualify their stance.

Photo of Akash Hashmi, journalist.

Akash Hashmi is a Journalism MA student from Sheffield with an undergraduate in Forensic Science. You can follow him on Twitter: @Akashmash.

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