Are the Adverse Effects of Cannabis Law Reform to Be Weighed Against the Benefits?
Legalization of cannabis could give UK, and other countries, an added competitive edge over their cannabis-producing neighbours, according to a new think tank report. The study warns that the short-term effect on criminals in terms of reducing the number of cannabis grow-ops could undermine the long-term goal of cannabis law reform.
“Cannabis law reform should be supported at all costs, but the short-term impact of changes to the legislation may lead to the unintended consequences of increasing crime in both legal and illegal cannabis markets,” it says. “If legal cannabis businesses focus on their core activities, those products that are most lucrative, then demand is likely to reduce for the most high street prices. This could mean some consumers have increased opportunities to buy directly from growers, or through black-market dealers.
“In an economy facing very low consumer confidence and rising unemployment, legal cannabis businesses can be seen as an alternative to providing jobs. However, these jobs can also become a victim of the downward pressure on prices.
“Legalisation could then be viewed as having created a ‘supply’ problem, forcing more traffickers to deal with the ‘demand’ of cannabis that can only be met through the criminal trade.” The think tank concludes that the current system of cannabis law reform cannot be the best way forward because there are so many other things to worry about.
“Prohibition creates very few direct benefits to the individual – just as the situation with alcohol – and increases social harms, such as drug addiction, crime and violence. Moreover, the idea that cannabis is mainly used by teenagers in social settings is wrong,” it says. It says that psychoactive substances are normally used by adults in social settings such as parties and nightclubs and by young people in their spare time – and that use should not be penalised.
“Whatever the reasoning behind cannabis law reform, one thing is certain – criminalisation has failed.” There is a need to tackle the drug problem from the source, the report says. “Ultimately, all that cannabis law reform can do is to allow individuals to make their own choices about their use of cannabis without the threat of criminal sanction.”
However, critics point out that legalising cannabis is not the perfect solution to this problem. There are several problems, they say, from maintaining public order to ensure that the drug is not diverted to children and the vulnerable.
One of the biggest criticisms of any move towards legalisation is that the drugs could be easily procured in the United Kingdom. Once the plants have been grown, they would simply be flown into the country from overseas via customs, then the cannabis processed and distributed. Another problem is that the production and supply of cannabis could be easily overtaken by the organised crime gangs in the country.
One of the main criticisms of legalization is that it can have unintended consequences for the legal cannabis industry. For example, the industry would be required to charge high wholesale prices to stay in business and thus drive up prices for consumers. Similarly, any move towards reform could have knock-on effects for the thousands of British citizens who currently take the drug illegally.
Once a cannabis law reform had been introduced, the criminals who were associated with the drug trade would begin to migrate from the UK to neighbouring countries where the laws were more relaxed and the profits were higher. This could result in an increase in crime in Britain, raising concerns about how the new law could affect the general public.
If cannabis law reform was not implemented, many of the fears about crime being increased might not materialise. However, there were concerns that it could have other effects on society and on individual lives that would not materialise.
This is the reason why there has been a call for a debate on the benefits and risks of cannabis law reform before any policy was implemented. For example, there have been suggestions that legalisation would be a good thing because it would act as a step towards reducing criminal behaviour associated with cannabis, while also deterring adults from taking the drug illegally.