Legalizing marijuana in the United Kingdom would generate new tax revenues and savings totaling over half a billion pounds, according to a newly leaked report from the nation’s Treasury.
The analysis finds that ending cannabis prohibition and legalizing sales could “generate noteable tax revenue” somewhere in the range of £397-£871 million per year and says that lessened enforcement would “lead to overall savings to public services” by an estimated £211 annually.
Not having to chase down, arrest and process cannabis users would save approximately 672,000 hours of police time every year, the report indicates.
The analysis was commissioned months ago by then-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg but was kept under wraps until Monday, when it was leaked to the The Independent newspaper and BBC’s Newsnight program.
The document came to light on the same day Members of Parliament convened a debate on marijuana law reform that was spurred by an online government petition that garnered more than 200,000 signatures.
The report also notes that “evidence suggests that alcohol and tobacco – both legal – may cause greater harm” than cannabis. And whereas U.S. states that have ended prohibition have set the age for legal use at 21, the Treasury calculations assume that the U.K.’s legal age would be 18.
In addition to legalization’s economic impact, the report details some additional benefits that ending prohibition would have, such as mandated potency and purity testing on marijuana, sting operations to curtail underage sales and licensing conditions that would help keep the market under control.
Prime Minister David Cameron remains opposed to legalizing marijuana for now, but reform advocates say that the new report could boost the debate further into the mainstream to the point that ending prohibition will eventually become a political reality.
“We have a Conservative government who have not responded to rational argument on drug reform historically — but who are facing a massive deficit and struggling with unpopular cuts to public services,” Steve Rolles, a senior policy analyst with Transform Drug Policy Foundation, told Marijuana.com in an email. “In this context a strong economic argument from a trusted source can change minds where more established social justice arguments have failed. The government is doing its own cost-benefit analysis, but a political one — and a report like this can only helps tip the scales in favour of change.”
Read the leaked report in full here.
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