Legal cannabis market could save £1.25bn for England and Wales
New research published this week suggests that up to £1.25bn could be saved if a regulated and taxed cannabis market was established in England and Wales. This comes at an important time for the UK’s recovering economy and points the Government toward a well-needed and advantageous move.
The study, which was carried out by the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Essex, along with the Beckley Foundation, suggests £100-415m could be made through taxation alone. Furthermore, a regulated market could save £0.5-1.25bn through the eradication of criminal proceedings concerned with cannabis use and production – a huge and largely unjustified drain on our justice system.
We spoke to Amanda Feilding, head of the Beckley Foundation, who explained that this is the first ever academic study providing a cost analysis: “I commissioned this report three years ago in an attempt to deliver to government an academic cost analysis on the current drug policies. This is the first step and I look forward to speaking to government further about this.”
Overall, the report shows that the move to a regulated cannabis market would produce clear social benefits and the associated additional tax revenue would significantly reduce the government’s current budget deficit. It is hoped by the Beckley Foundation, a leading global advocate for drug policy reform, that this report will pave the way for a broader, more evidence-based debate on this topic.
According to Feilding: “In these times of economic crisis, it is essential to examine the possibilities of more cost effective drug policy. Our present policies based on prohibition, have proved to be a failure at every level. Users are not protected, it puts one of the biggest industries in the world in the hands of criminal cartels, it criminalises millions of users, casting a shadow over their future.”
The report also suggests that by dropping enforcement costs, including policing, court procedures, custodial sentences and community sentences, a net benefit of at least £300m could be made. The paper, however, also balances revenues against potential costs incurred including regulatory costs, increased health promotion initiatives, and others.
Furthermore, recent coverage of cannabis reform in Colorado and Washington in the United States by the mainstream news channels has gone some way to showing the benefits of regulation to the wider voting population. Demonstrating that legal access to cannabis, along with good information, and safe places to consume the plant, does not lead to socio-economic degeneration—indeed, quite the opposite.
We await to see whether the government will see the sense of moving towards a regulated cannabis market in the UK.