Think tanks are calling on the government to review its position on cannabis, after the former Conservative leader William Hague called for a “decisive change” in the law.
This issue has come to the fore after it emerged that home secretary Sajid Javid had repeatedly attempted to raise the issue of medicinal cannabis during Cabinet yesterday, following the case of Billy Caldwell, the young boy with severe epilepsy, who was hospitalised after his cannabis oil was confiscated.
It is expected Javid will today announce a review of the legal status of medicinal cannabis in light of the case.
But writing in the Daily Telegraph today Lord Hague went further, calling for the law on recreational use to be changed, saying “any war” on the drug had been “irreversibly lost”.
His comments have been backed by think tankers who see it as a potentially lucrative move for the government.
Sam Dumitriu, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute said: “We estimate that legalisation would raise at least £1bn a year for the Treasury, on top of reduced policing and prosecuting costs. The ‘cannabis dividend’ could be spent on expanding access to addiction treatment centres and reducing wait-times for mental health services on the NHS.
“Just as the prohibition of alcohol failed in the US, the prohibition of cannabis has failed here. Ensuring that licensed shops, not criminal gangs, are able to sell cannabis for recreational use will prevent sales to minors and ensure users are informed through product labelling.”
In a recent report, The TaxPayers’ Alliance estimated the UK could save at least £890m a year in reduced spending by police, prisons, courts and the NHS through pain relief treatments by legalising the drug.
Policy analyst and author of the report Ben Ramanauskas said: “The current prohibition of cannabis costs hard-pressed families hundreds of millions every year. Aside from any moral arguments, it is clear that the current attempts to prevent cannabis use are an enormous burden on taxpayers that mean their money isn’t spent on other priorities. Given the changes happening in the US, Canada, and elsewhere, it’s an important time to consider whether heavy-handed policies are worthwhile, especially given the significant savings that could be made.”
However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted the government’s position would not be changing.
“The harmful effects of cannabis are well known, and there are no plans to legalise it,” he said.