Generally, people allocate those who voted to leave the EU on the opposite side of the political spectrum to those who support the legalisation of cannabis. We tend to see the two characters as polarising; one has grey hair and likes scampi fries and real ale, the other is young with unwashed hair and an appetite for kale. I, like much of the libertarian-right, exist in a rather awkward limbo. I’m rarely happier than when I’m sipping a pint of Rev. James in a dimly lit pub; and whilst I do wash my hair I have spent a rather blurry long weekend in Amsterdam, I know my Indica from my Sativa. I’m a man who can, and does, ‘do both’; blurring the apparently impassable lines between the traditional left and right.
On the 8th of November 2016, legal marijuana made several bounds forward in the shadows of a rather nasty presidential race. Nevada, California, and Massachusetts voted to legalise recreational marijuana. Even Florida, a state considered to be social conservative in most circles, voted to legalise pot for medicinal use. Ten years ago, these results would have been unprecedented; they would have been even five years ago. Most people point to the success of legalisation in states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon as the source of fuel for the spreading enthusiasm for the devil’s lettuce. The booming ‘green’ economies that have appeared have undercut criminal dealers and slashed violent crime rates. As if that wasn’t enough to tempt legislatures that are less open to pot, State governments in ‘green’ states are making a killing from taxing cannabis. If we as libertarians, or anyone as an admirer of Mary Jane, wish to bring legalised dank to the Land of Hope and Glory; we must blur the traditional lines. We need to present the argument as something financial. Gassing on about liberty and freedom won’t win us the argument. It may be emotive, and I’ve stood on my fair share of soapboxes, but hard cash is tangible; it can be easily trusted. Let’s talk about money.
Israel, our controversial friend on the River Jordan, has decided to get an early jump on the cannabis market. Last year it was announced that Israel had plans to become the premier exporter of medical grade cannabis, taking advantage of a market that is predicted to expand by 37% over the next four years. So, God’s chosen people are once again taking direction from a burning bush. This is a perfectly pragmatic venture for Israel, where recreational marijuana is still illegal. Where’s our initiative? Where’s our distinctly British pragmatism? We’re running the risk of being left behind whilst the world powers on, hesitant to legalise weed, despite the positivity of the economic implications. If we wish to make a success of Brexit, we need to embrace our historic exporting and entrepreneurial prowess once again. By thrusting ourselves early into the export market for cannabis, we could become the market leaders, capitalising on the burgeoning worldwide demand for cannabis. Instead, we are hesitant, caught up on debates about the morality of adults using narcotics. It’s just silly.
It is supposed that the UK Cannabis market as it stands is worth around half the size of the tobacco market at £7 billion a year in sales. Brits consume 36,579,100 ounces of cannabis every year, which is equivalent to 2,194,100,000 joints. Cannabis in the UK has a massive scope due to the demand that is present. Legalisation would provide broad opportunities to the ‘nation of shopkeepers’, as brand new industries are created in a legal and regulated market. Retail, service, research and development, agriculture, specialist law; the list of sectors that would boom ahead from a well-executed legalisation and regulation of cannabis goes on. It has even be suggested that the UK government could raise as much as £2.4 billion a year from taxing cannabis. That’s equal to 10,666,666 nights in an NHS bed, paid for by potheads. This market will continue to grow whether we decide to join it or not. Cannabis is no longer just a Class B drug or a contentious debate at family dinners; it is now an investment opportunity.
The time is ripe for cannabis legalisation in the UK; if we frame the argument correctly. Brexit has awoken in Brits the mercantile and innovative streaks that have served us so well in the past. If Brexit is to be made a success of, we must be dynamic. If we are afraid to pioneer new markets, what chance do we have in the highly competitive global market? Allowing Brits to spark up legally will spark whole new economies into being, and exhale new life into numerous sectors. Britain has a choice: sleep while the rest of the world joins the party, or wake up and take a hit from the bong.