The state of cannabis legalization in the UK
Cannabis, or more known locally as hemp, remains illegal in the United Kingdom. In fact, despite several campaigns on its decriminalization, seeing the UK free from hemp prohibition is still farfetched. A handful of petitions has experienced rejection from the government since 2013, and a large fraction of its population believes that the right policies must be laid down first before making it a law.
“According to an Ipsos poll conducted in 2013, 67 percent wanted a comprehensive review of all possible policy options,” writes Lisa Rough of Leafly. “So will the United Kingdom be legalizing cannabis tomorrow? Probably not. The truth of legalization is that it’s a complicated and timely process that requires the utmost attention to detail.” Rough also suggested that a radical change in the country’s political milieu is the only thing that can obliterate the prevailing stigma on hemp, which is essential in transforming campaigns into an actual bill and, eventually, law.
However, pro-marijuana advocates in the country seem to become stronger and more adamant after a series of failures and upon gaining support from like-minded politicians.
“New groups pursuing similar, responsible advocacy have emerged such as the United Patients Alliance (UPA) and most recently End Our Pain (#EndOurPain). In the last three years, in government and Parliament, there has been more liaison between the campaign, ministers, and senior politicians than in the last 50 years,” Independent columnist and hemp campaigner Peter Reynolds writes in his blog.
Indeed, local cannabis advocates have obtained moral backings from two of the largest labour parties from the UK. In 2015, Paul Fynn of the Labour MP said before the parliament that prohibiting a plant that is less harmful than alcohol could just help build empires of criminals like what happened in the US during the ’20s.
“The bad news is that the UK has the worst of all worlds. The criminal, irresponsible black market is being replaced by decriminalised regulated markets that can reduce drugs harm and use and liberate the sick to use the world’s most ancient medicine,” he wrote in the Mirror last year.
Currently, there are 24 states in the US where medical marijuana is legal, while Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Columbia district are the only ones without prohibition on its recreational use. The medical marijuana market in the country has gradually become bigger over the years, paving the way for promising startups such as Bang Medicinal Chocolate, a medicinal chocolate producer from California and Med-X, a staunch advocate of offering only researched-based products to consumers.
Just this March, the Liberal Democrats said that making hemp legal across that country will help significantly reduce drug crimes and increase tax revenue to a staggering £1 billion. The argument, which was presented at the latest spring conference in York, is based on a recently published study commissioned by the party.
The study, led by several scientists, members of the academe, and former chief drugs advisers, was conducted to identify if it’s high-time to finally emulate the US states that allowed cannabis sale in license stores. The party believes that doing such could fundamentally help the country reduce, if not entirely solve, the rising number of drug-related crimes in the UK.
On the other hand, Norman Lamb of Labour MP said that the parties refusing to support marijuana legalization are mere “hypocrites.”
“The frontbenchers of the other parties, I think, are frightened of the issue. The hypocrisy of it is extraordinary. I guess if people in government are anything like the broader population, probably 50 percent of the government has taken cannabis at some stage,” he tells The Independent.
A recent ORB poll commissioned by The Independent also revealed that 47 percent of British voters is in favor of seeing cannabis products in licensed stores while 39 percent believes that it’s not a good idea.
Cannabis supporters must convince other major parties, even the conservatives, to join their side. However, seeing how obdurate other party leaders in opening doors in holding dialogues on marijuana legalization says that the UK is far from imitating the recent feats in the US. Still, two major party backings in the past years also show that it isn’t a lost cause yet.