It is encouraging to see Sadiq Khan calling for an evidence-based review of our drug laws during his visit to LA. He won’t have the power to change the rules himself, but having a change advocate who recognizes the benefits legalizing cannabis can bring is a step in the right direction – towards facts and away from fear mongering .
Legal for recreational and medicinal use in California since 2016 and in New York since 2021, the cannabis story in the US provides solid evidence that we should be doing the same in the UK.
The arguments for legalizing recreational cannabis are factual and clear: it deprives criminal gangs of power and money, creates a safer and regulated product for consumers, and generates a reliable stream of tax revenue for the treasury.
First, we know that legalization can trigger gang activity in the kneecap. You won’t find many consumers risking black market goods if they can legally access a product in a store. By taking the market out of the hands of gangs, the associated crime and exploitation of young Londoners will begin to dry up. Nor does it make criminals out of ordinary people who occasionally choose to use a substance that is no longer relatively dangerous than alcohol.
By taking the cannabis market out of the shadows, you can create appropriate regulations. In fact, two of the main arguments against legalization – concerns about the power of street “skunk” and youth access – would be called into question. If it’s mandatory that a product’s strength and composition be clearly marked and buyers must be over the age of 18, we’re all safer.
In addition to the benefits to consumers and the wider community, there is the potential for the Treasury to generate a steady stream of revenue by raising revenues from the sale of legal cannabis, rather than the profits filling the pockets of professional drug cartels. I’m sure Khan will hear about California’s nearly $1 billion in cannabis tax revenue in the first three quarters of 2021.
Reducing crime, protecting consumers and generating revenue are all top priorities for London and the UK in general. Legalizing cannabis is a moral and economic way to achieve all these goals in one fell swoop.
Morgan Schondelmeier is director of operations at the Adam Smith Institute