What’s The UK Government’s Current Position On Cannabis? – October 2018

Current UK Position On Cannabis

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Current UK Position On Cannabis

The UK government has maintained a hard line on the use of cannabis for several decades and under varying political parties.

Even though there are countless advisory bodies who make a strong case for decriminalisation, cannabis remains a Class B drug. In theory, even possessing a small amount clearly for just personal use can land anyone with up to 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

In reality, of course, such legislation is only used against those caught with enormous operations, and typically a considerable amount of assets that cannot be accounted for by conventional paper trails.

More often than not, someone caught with a few joints worth of marijuana will face a statutory fine (usually less than £100) unless they are a ‘repeat offender’. It’s not unheard of for more “open-minded” police officers to just issue a warning while they throw a stash down a drainpipe.

So this leaves the current UK governmental view on cannabis very tricky to ascertain.

There’s never been a wider body of people calling for a much more relaxed take, especially given the thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens who take marijuana for therapeutic reasons.

Taxation Is Key

Cannabis Tax UK

Is the UK Treasury potentially missing out on billions?

A common argument made against tobacco and alcohol manufacturers is that they are overwhelmingly more dangerous drugs than marijuana. This is a documented fact, and one of the reasons why they are so heavily taxed.

Even the cost of a bottle of wine is accounted for by around a 57% tax excise – with tobacco being not far shy of 85%. All of that contributes a staggering amount of tax revenue, with booze raking in well over £10bn a year (2016-17 figures). In layperson’s terms, that’s just one year to pay for the nuclear deterrent outright!

If marijuana were taxed on similar levels, conservative estimates suggest it’d be worth between £1bn to £3.2bn per year in tax revenues. That needs a little adjusting because obviously, people would use less booze and cigarettes for recreational purposes.

Yet it would represent a huge boost to the public coffers on sales that are currently untaxed due to being restricted to the black market.

This has been the case for decades – so why hasn’t it been legalised?

Organised Crime

As much as we’d like to think how wonderful it would be if your local allotment had a friendly old fella cultivating beautiful organic marijuana, that’s simply not the case.

Cannabis Farm UK

Cannabis farms such as this one are being uncovered by British police on a weekly basis.

Organised crime plays a very large role in the underground marijuana market, and if there’s one absolute fact about drug dealers it’s that they are always looking to diversify.

A good proportion will also trade/import far more harmful drugs, as well as be expert money launderers.

Combine this with the shadier aspects of dealing in an illegal commodity, and this presents a very tricky problem.

Back in the early 2000’s, there was serious optimism that cannabis could be rescheduled or even decriminalised.

This led to a flurry of massive alcohol companies buying hundreds of defunct community cafes on the belief that it would happen, and the UK would have a Dutch-style approach to cannabis culture. One that they could invest in right away.

It never happened because while there are legal cannabis farms operating across Europe for medicinal purposes, there simply would be issues with supply and demand.

So who has enormous UK grow operations that could flood the UK market instantly? Organised crime, and there’s no chance that even the most progressive government could allow that to happen.

It would legitimise their wealth and basically say that it’s fine to break the laws of the land and profit.

Combine that with assuming existing growers/dealers would be happy to forgo a huge amount of taxation on their current income, and that’s why decriminalisation simply has not yet happened.

Are There Signs Of Progress?

Billy Caldwell

The Billy Caldwell case instigated a review into the medical use of cannabis.

Yes, there are!

Just this year (2018) the Home Office allocated funding to the biggest evaluation of the medical use of marijuana the UK has ever seen.

Supported by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, their initial findings have already started to bear some fruit.

In a recent landmark case, an epileptic boy was finally allowed to be prescribed medicinal cannabis oil to help reduce his proneness to seizures.

Despite being initially refused by the medical authorities, it took the influence of the Home Secretary to over-rule the decision.

Whilst this does not set a formal legal precedent, it will most certainly be referred to for potentially tens of thousands of similar cases in the very near future. Recreational users may still be waiting a fair while though.

Besides there being some motions regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes, don’t expect to see it stocked at Sainsbury’s any time soon.

On 11 October 2018, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that doctors in England, Wales and Scotland will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived medicine from 1 November 2018. This announcement has been widely welcomed.

I’m Thomas Jones. I graduated from The University of Aberdeen in 2016 with an MSc in Industrial Biotechnology. I’m currently reading for a PhD at The University of Glasgow. I started using CBD in 2017 as a result of finding it in my local vape shop. My experiences in using these products inspired me to undertake my current doctoral research. You can find out more about me and this site here.