By Matthew Bramall

Regulating and legalising cannabis is an idea whose time has come

The so-called ‘war on drugs’ was always built on shaky foundations. Now countries and jurisdictions around the world are dismantling it piece by piece and starting to build a new drug policy architecture that ushers in a new era of health-based policy making fit for the 21st century.

Nowhere are the foundations of this new approach to drugs more obvious than in the global movement towards regulated, legalised cannabis markets. And despite the US being the ostensible leader of the ‘war on drugs’, it has been US states at the forefront of this move. Since Colorado and Washington states legalised cannabis for non-medical use in 2012, and Uruguay became the first country do so in 2013, seven more US states and the District of Columbia have followed in their footsteps.2 The results so far, particularly from the US, are generally positive: confounding critics whilst bringing in additional tax income to fund public services. And this is just the start: in the summer of 2018 Canada will become the first G7 country to legalise cannabis.

Regulating and legalising cannabis is an idea whose time has come. The UK public supports it too: in recent polls 47% of people support selling cannabis in licensed shops. Regulation also has the support of a range of groups from across the political spectrum.

It is time to accept that prohibition is not only ineffective and expensive,but that regulation could – if it is done well – protect vulnerable groups and promote public health. It would also generate both taxes (at least £1 billion annually, but potentially more) and savings, which taken together would mean more resources for health, harm reduction and other public services. It is time for the UK government to catch up with the global shift and take the responsible approach by bringing in a regulated, legal market for cannabis.