Lib Dems make legal cannabis case

Steve RollesA report setting out what a regulated cannabis market in the UK could look like has been published by the Liberal Democrats. The document is the work of an expert panel commissioned by the party last year, and chaired by Transform’s Steve Rolles (DDN, November 2015, page 4).

The sale of cannabis should be allowed to people aged over 18 from ‘specialist, licensed’ stores, says A framework for a regulated market for cannabis in the UK. Modelled on pharmacies, these would be single-purpose premises with the drug sold over the counter by licensed, trained staff, and with ‘clear health and risk reduction information’ available. The cannabis would be sold in mandatory plain packaging, featuring non-branded designs similar to prescription drugs and with strict guidelines around price and potency.

The market would need to be overseen by a ‘cannabis regulatory agency’, the report states, ‘informed by evidence and best practice’ in tobacco and alcohol regulation. Home cultivation for personal use, as well as small-scale licensed cannabis social clubs, would also be permitted.

The criminalising of cannabis use is an ‘unjust and disproportionate sanction for a consenting adult behaviour’, says the report, as well as being expensive and an ineffective deterrent to use. Instead of ‘fuelling a vast and socially corrosive criminal market’, regulation would also help to manage and minimise the ‘well-documented’ health risks associated with heavy use of the drug, the document claims, and could raise up to £1bn per year in taxes.

‘The reality is that millions of people use cannabis in the UK and there is a pressing need for government to take control of the trade from gangsters and unregulated dealers,’ said panel chair Steve Rolles. ‘Legal regulation is now working well – despite the fear-mongering – in Colorado and Washington and will roll out across the US over the coming years. A regulatory framework is in place in Uruguay and the Canadian government will legally regulate cannabis soon. This is no longer a theoretical debate – and the emerging evidence is only pointing in one direction.’

Report at