Why the Conservatives should embrace a green future

By Ollie Marshall

It’s time for the Conservatives to embrace a green future; end prohibition and legalise weed!

The issue of Cannabis legalisation is one that tends to pop up every so often. Most recently it made headlines in the UK after Tim Farron included legalisation in the Lib Dem manifesto. I would argue that it’s time for Conservatives to end the madness of prohibition and adopt a policy of legalisation.

Before we talk about Britain, let us first look at our friends and allies across the pond in the United States. Given that the US has a federal system of government, cannabis issues within the various states is decided by their local jurisdiction. As it stands, the US has legalised recreational cannabis in 8 states: Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Washington DC. Use of the drug is legal, however, currently there is no commercial use allowed.

Along with these 9 legalised states and districts, medical cannabis programs are active in over 30 states in some shape or form, whilst decriminalisation exists in most states. What is clear, is that the US is taking a more lenient approach.

Now, let’s look at what prohibition has led too. The increased use of legal highs, or “synthetic cannabinoids” such as “Spice”, “K2”, “Black Mamba” etc, for example.” These drugs have ruined hundreds of lives and in some cases even proven lethal. The market for legal highs has thrived partly because Cannabis is currently illegal.

Yes, if you have the right connections it’s easy to obtain Cannabis these days, but for some drug users it’s simply more convenient to buy some unknown drug off the internet that was manufactured in some dirty rat-filled factory in China. It’s much like how prohibition of alcohol in America led to the underground trade in “Moonshine”, creating an unregulated black market in dangerous substances. If Cannabis is legal, demand for these legal and potentially lethal alternatives plummets and the market is practically shut down.

I’m not suggesting having every local newsagent stocking cannabis. In the US states in which Cannabis is legal, such as Colorado or Oregon, they have what they call ‘dispensaries’, where customer’s have their ID checked (In Colorado the minimum age to buy Cannabis is 21) before entry is allowed and the customer can buy what they like from the “Budtender”. This system is very professional and ensures that minors are kept away.

If Britain were to replicate this, we can put taxation on Cannabis much like we already have with Tobacco products. In Nevada, the latest US state to open a recreational dispensary, the state is putting aside the tax revenue raised from Cannabis sales into the education system, a plan that is worth millions each year. Colorado introduced a similar policy when they legalised in 2012, the legalisation led to a spike in tourism to the state, a spike in university applications and an entirely new industry for businesses to tap into. Colorado offers “420 Tours”, which are akin to a vineyard tour you may take in France. You get on a bus and get taken round a few dispensaries and possibly a cannabis farm, all the time you can smoke.

Colorado sold 17 million tonnes of Cannabis in the year of November 2014 – 2015 when recreational sales were legal. This massive sale brought in $700,000,000 in tax revenue. The Rocky Mountain State made approximately $300,000,000. Even for those who do not partake, from a business side “Kush Tourism” has created fascinating businesses in Colorado.

Now, there of course there must be restrictions. Quite rightly, it should only be available to adults (21years+) and, yes, there should be limitations like we have on drink-driving. Much like we do with alcohol, we should encourage responsible use of Cannabis such as only allowing it in your own home or licensed premises similar to one of Amsterdam’s famous Coffee Shops. “Enjoy responsibly” must be the mantra.

I think even the most conservative minded person would agree with me in that there is more important crimes for our police to be investigating rather than spending 3 hours arresting and taking in a couple of students enjoying a joint in their flat on a Friday night. I’m sure the local Pizza Shop will be grateful for their business!

What is becoming increasingly clear, is that the western world is getting more lenient on Cannabis. As more US States look into having similar votes on legalisation, Canada is looking to having Cannabis completely legal by 2019. President Trump has even states that he supports Medical Marijuana programs.

The war on Cannabis is lost and we must accept that fact. Legalisation is not only a vote winner, it will open the door to thousands of new jobs, investment and businesses. It will destroy the illegal trade and therefore make it more difficult for youngsters to get their hands on Cannabis. Colorado has reported a 22% drop in the use in high school students in the state. I for one feel that Britain should go down a similar route.

As Conservatives, it is time to embrace Cannabis rather than keep it illegal. It’s easy being green!

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