This week has witnessed another giant stride towards the realisation of Orwell’s dystopian society depicted in his novel, ‘1984’.
David Cameron’s rash decision to force through legislation that will introduce a minimum floor price for alcohol is the kind of punitive government action one would expect of a one party state such as China or the former Soviet Union.
Some might interpret an overreaction on my part, but, for us who have enjoyed and continue to enjoy such freedoms taken for granted in our society, any mooted erosion of such privilege is, and should be, voraciously opposed. People often forget that the liberties we hold so dearly did not come without a price. One cannot be blamed for harbouring feelings of trepidation when the insipid tendrils of government extend their reach ever further. The point is: with a minimum price legislated now, how long is it before alcohol is restricted to a maximum personal consumption quota? The Nanny State did not arrive overnight; it crept unnoticed and unannounced.
The apparent virtues of minimum pricing are largely health related. Top doctors, health professionals and government busybodies all extol curious facts and figures to argue their point. In brief, raising the minimum price of a unit of alcohol to 45p will, apparently, save 900 lives per year. This data comes from ONE place; in fact, it comes from a single computer model – the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model – the data gathering techniques of which leave much to be desired.
What is true is that alcohol kills around 9000 people per year in the UK alone and drains the NHS to the tune of billions in treatment costs. It is hoped that the minimum pricing legislation will go some way to remedying this. What this also means is an extra £600 million in revenue going directly to an avaricious government’s coffers. Considering that £600 million is sofa-change to a government devouring that amount in a few days, the motivations for such legislation are largely paternalistic. Big Brother knows best.
Despite booze-related deaths exceeding 9000 per year, we are free to use and abuse the Great Plonk at our will. Any adult should enjoy this right; what you choose to pay for and consume should have nothing to do with anyone but yourself. All adults should be free to choose what goes into their bodies and what their money buys them.
Despite its illegality, Cannabis has a recorded death toll of zero. It is also the most popular recreational drug on the planet and despite prohibition and the best efforts of the law, consumption has increased since the Seventies.
With a well established and lucrative market already in place, the legalisation of Cannabis would be a significant revenue source much the same as alcohol. Not only would the financial aspect be rather appealing but so would increasing the freedom of a responsible population who have a right to choose what goes into their bodies.
In the UK alone there is estimated to be 2.4 million people smoking Cannabis on a daily basis. Those who confess to the more occasional dooby amounts to an additional 1.2 million people. That’s 3.6 million people burning up 1407 tonnes of Cannabis each and every year. Also bear in mind that these figures are conservative estimates, the actual figure is likely to be higher.
Let’s say we proposed a flat-rate levy of £1 per gram on all Cannabis varieties legally bought and consumed in the UK, at current usage levels this levy would yield £1.7 billion per year on average.
We could get a little more complicated and tax depending on potency. With a £1 levy per 5% THC (the active ingredient) the revenue expected would be £4.9 billion on average.
Combine either of these measures with VAT at 20% and a further £1.7 billion will find its way into the welcoming arms of George Osborne.
We could do more.
Allowing users to cultivate their crop at home, say a maximum of six plants, charging them £200 per year in the form of a cultivation licence would yield another £40 million from the 200,000 Cannabis farmers already operating here in the UK.
The cries from the socially-conservative can be heard already. The common argument is what it’ll cost the society and the NHS, usually from people who plan to privatise that very institution, I might add.
By taking Cannabis users out of the Criminal Justice System would save the taxpayer an estimated £512 million on average. This cost factors in savings made by the CPS, Legal Aid bills, both Crown and Magistrate courts and the Prison and Probation Services.
Overall, a legalised and regulated Cannabis market would be £9.5 billion net at pre-recession consumption levels.
Isn’t it about time we looked for real and workable, not to mention lucrative, alternatives to the prohibition fallacy?
With kindest regards to Cannabis Law Reform UK for their report which was used extensively within this article.