The majority of Brits are in favour of legalising cannabis, as data reveals that £13.5million of taxpayers money was spent on locking people up for possession of the class B drug.
The Liberal Democrats have been in favour of legalising cannabis since March 2016, and have recently revealed some shocking statistics about what the enforcement of cannabis laws cost the taxpayer. So is Britain close to legalising weed?
What does enforcing cannabis laws cost us?
The Liberal Democrats have used a freedom of information request to reveal that locking people up for cannabis possession cost the taxpayer at least £13.5 million last year. They also have also shown that enforcing the law against smoking cannabis takes up a million hours of police time every year.
Does the British public want to legalise weed?
A 2016 poll found that 47% of people are in favour of legalising the sale of cannabis through licensed shops, 14% did not know whether they did, and 39% were opposed to the idea.
Is cannabis legalisation sweeping the globe?
Not exactly. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first US states to legalise the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, followed by Alaska and Oregon in 2015 and California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts in 2016. Cannabis laws are somewhat more of a political live wire in the US than in Britain. In America there are more arrests for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined. Black and white people use cannabis at a similar rate but black people are two and a half times more likely to get arrested. On any given day roughly 137,000 people are behind bars for cannabis possession in the US. The majority of them have not been convicted but cannot afford bail and may have to wait months or even years for a court appearance. Some states have habitual offender laws which worsen prison sentences. For example in Texas there are currently 7 people serving life sentences for drug possession of between 1g and 4g. A recent poll found that 64% of Americans now support cannabis legalisation
But there is not much evidence that this legalisation trend is leading to change in Europe.
In many countries such as Spain, The Netherlands and Australia personal use of marijuana is decriminalised, which means that while it is not technically legal, people are not prosecuted for it, and cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in some places in Europe. Laws like these are also increasingly being introduced in other US states.
But in Britain, a person can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison for possession and up to 14 years for sale, and the Home Office has said it has ‘no plans’ for legalisation.
Complete list of cannabis laws by country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_country
What effects have there been from legalising the sale of cannabis in the US?
A report by the Drug Policy Alliance in 2016 which investigated the effects of legalising weed found that although the number of arrests plummeted, the enforcement of remaining marijuana laws (underage possession etc.) still affected black people disproportionately. But other than that their findings were very positive. Teen cannabis use did not significantly increase. This is considered an important issue since teen users are more likely to become addicted and suffer mental and physical harm as a result. Traffic accidents also did not become more common.Tax revenue from sales exceeded expectations, with Colorado, Washington and Oregon bringing $552 million in total.
Will Britain legalise weed?
Despite the Liberal Democrats’ support, it doesn’t seem likely to happen in the near future. But the impressive evidence showing that legalising weed has not caused undue harm to the US states which have chosen it will potentially lead to relaxation of cannabis laws at some point
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Photo source: The Sun