There are unimaginable amounts of money to be made through covertly manufacturing and transporting drugs. When that takes place in the shadows, outside civilised society and free of law and order, it inevitably results in brutality and tragedy.
Much to the chagrin of ‘project fear’ prohibitionists, yet another study has found that legalising cannabis has no effect whatsoever on the number of young people who use it.
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study looked at state-level cannabis prohibition laws between 1999 and 2017, and found no association between cannabis legalisation and increases in levels of usage amongst young people.
A new YouGov poll reveals widespread support for London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposed new pilot cannabis education scheme. A whopping 63% of Londoners say they support the Mayor’s plan to offer classes and counselling to under-25s caught with small quantities of cannabis instead of arresting them, with fewer than one in five opposed. The breadth of backing for the scheme among London’s voters is striking.
Last month, the British electorate sent a strongly worded message to Westminster — we are fed up with Brexit. Move on. Please. This leaves the Liberal Democrats in a very awkward position indeed.
The Lib Dems made their election campaign about two things, Jo Swinson and stopping Brexit, both of which have been heartily rejected. Electing a new leader is easy. The other issue will be harder to tackle.
The Lib Dems have spent years talking about their determination to stop Brexit. But now it’s happening and they can’t do anything to stop it.
At the same time, their voters would feel intensely betrayed if, having voted for the only clear Remain option, they found their Lib Dem MP condoning Britain’s departure from the EU. It is difficult to see how the party can offer anything other than staunchly pro-EU representation in parliament.
The best course of action for the Lib Dems might be to do what Labour tried — and failed to do — in the election campaign and take no position on Brexit at all. The party could appease its base by continuing to support the EU and vote against the government at every opportunity while refusing to make policy commitments on the EU.
The ideal person to execute this plan might be Daisy Cooper, who publicly mooted the possibility of taking over as leader just four days after becoming an MP. Cooper is well-liked among the Lib Dem grassroots. Having a leader who is new to Westminster and whose ties to the Remain campaign are looser would help draw a line under Brexit.
The new leader, whoever that may be, will need a Europe policy — perhaps simply “Re-join”. But this overlooks public exhaustion over Brexit. Calling for us to restart the debate all over again will invite howls of protest.
The Lib Dems are better off accepting that Brexit is going to happen (though never using that phrasing publicly) and calling for tight relations with the EU, such as remaining within, or as closely aligned as possible to, the single market and customs union.
The Liberal Leave group — which opposed the party’s no-holds-barred Remain stance from within and has, since the election, rebranded as Liberals for EFTA — is already campaigning for this, and the new leadership would do well to listen to it. The party will have to accept a compromise on Brexit in order to move on from it and remain relevant.
The supplanting of Remain as the centrepiece of the Lib Dems’ campaign efforts will leave an enormous policy vacuum, which will have to be filled. The party should consider shifting from Europhilia to liberalism, thereby returning to its roots and moving on at the same time. It might achieve this by making the regulation of sex work one of its flagship policies; a woefully under-discussed issue on which to take an explicitly liberal stance.
Another policy to shove onto centre-stage might be the legalisation of marijuana, which has gained extraordinary public and cross-party support but has failed to penetrate the public discourse. The party would also do well to make the climate crisis a key part of its new agenda, proposing market-friendly alternatives to Labour’s socialist Green New Deal, such as a carbon tax.
Practically every senior Lib Dem has conceded that making both the revocation of Article 50 and the outright cancellation of Brexit into party policies was a bad idea. But with a handful of eye-catching and genuinely important social policies, the Lib Dems could reframe their party’s image. They could detach it from the Brexit debate, where its policy was extreme, and restore its position in the public eye as the voice of centrism, liberalism and general common sense. They could become electorally palatable once again.
It is less than three years since the Adam Smith Institute and Volteface jointly published The Tide Effect, making the argument that the UK should follow the path set down by its Atlantic cousins in taking steps to legalise cannabis. Since then, there has been a tectonic shift in public opinion on the issue. As of October 2018, support among Brits for the legalisation of the sale and possession of cannabis had leapt to nearly six in ten of all Brits, and over two thirds of those between those aged 18 to 24.
This week, the Adam Smith Institute joined forces with Volteface once again on a new paper, entitled The Green Light: How legalising and regulating cannabis will reduce crime, protect children and improve safety. As featured by the Evening Standard, the paper outlines in detail the compelling and growing body of evidence in favour of cannabis legalisation and sets out a series of policy proposals to guide a pro-cannabis government initiative, with reference to existing systems in Canada, Uruguay and the ten US states who have already legalised.
The resounding conclusion from the available evidence is that cannabis legalisation in the UK would be a wholly positive move. Regulation and taxation would reduce underage usage and increase revenue. Staggered taxes would also allow for a passive crackdown on higher potency, potentially more dangerous strains of cannabis, making it safer for everyone. Perhaps most pertinently of all, the report finds that the presence of a robust legal cannabis market would bring about a substantial reduction in criminal violence.
The entire British cannabis sector has been pushed underground by prohibition, which means its illegal profits tend to finance all manner of violent crime. A University College London study estimated the size of the existing illicit cannabis market at around £3 billion, the vast majority of which is likely to feed directly back into criminal activity of various kinds.
Legalisation would reduce significantly the funds criminals are able to draw from cannabis trade. In Colorado, the black market for cannabis had shrunk by over two thirds just five years after its legalisation. Comparable levels of success are easily attainable in the UK, if the government takes a similar route to legalisation. There is no good reason to continue allowing billions in illicit profits to swill around in criminal circles.
In addition to interrupting illegal income streams, cannabis legalisation has been shown to directly affect rates of various violent crimes. A 2013 study conducted by Norwegian academics in US states in which cannabis has been legalised found a strong correlation between the liberalisation of cannabis legislation and reductions in violent crime. This was especially true of homicides, assaults and robberies, with researchers able to draw causal links between the rapidly diminishing illegal drug market and these kinds of violent criminal activity. Those findings have since been corroborated by another study, this time from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in 2017.
By following the Six Point Plan laid out in the Adam Smith Institute’s latest paper, the government can replicate those outcomes here in the UK. This policy is not a stab in the dark; these outcomes are not hypothetical guesswork. Since the British government would be far from the first to legalise cannabis, we can rest assured that major unforeseen catastrophes are unlikely to spring up in the immediate aftermath of the implementation of this policy.
Legalising cannabis is a common-sense decision. Politicians from across the political spectrum have coalesced behind calls for reform to our antiquated drug laws; from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats to the Green Party, the number of people who see the harm that the current system of prohibition is inflicting on some of the most vulnerable within our society is growing at an unprecedented rate. Now is the time to act.