5% of the UK population smokes cannabis regularly – so why are we criminalising it?

The good people at CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform have updated their plans outlining how a cannabis market in the UK could be regulated and taxed.

It's reasonable, intelligent stuff, which will convince no-one. If the Home Office was basing its decisions on evidence, the law criminalising cannabis would have been scrapped years ago.  In fact, the department is still arguing that cannabis has no medicinal benefits, an opinion with no empirical value whatsoever. They might as well say paint doesn't work for colouring walls.

The report is based on a consultation with doctors, lawyers, policymakers, police officers and medicinal and recreational cannabis users.

Not much has changed since the organisation's last report in 2011, except that it has dropped its proposals for domestic cultivation licences. "It was unpopular and the costs of enforcing such a measure would be counterproductive," CLEAR president Peter Reynolds said. "I think once a regulated market is established, growing your own will become a minority pursuit, much like home wine or beer making."

The most interesting part of CLEAR's research document estimated usage levels in the UK.  The group believes:

  • The UK cannabis market is worth approximately £6 billion per annum

  • More than three tons of cannabis is consumed every day

  • Around three million people use cannabis regularly, at least once per month

  • A tax and regulate policy could benefit the economy by approximately £6.7 billion per annum

It's quite remarkable to consider that three million people use cannabis regularly. That's five per cent of our national population. Whenever you have legislation which criminalises five per cent of your population, you might want to think about whether it's not wiser to regulate, rather than outlaw.

As the serenity prayer says:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.