UK Cannabis Legalization Could Raise £1 Billion In Tax Revenue, Says Think Tank

(Editor’s Note: This story was contributed by

A free-market think tank has estimated that the legalization of cannabis in the United Kingdom could raise £1 billion (roughly $1.3 billion) annually in tax revenue and provide several other benefits for the country.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) report, written by Christopher Snowdon, argues that criminalizing cannabis has failed in the UK, with the black market for the herb valued at £2.6 billion. Bringing in legislation for a regulated market would “virtually eradicate” the cannabis market, the report stated.

The IEA reached the £1 billion figure by considering the excise duty, VAT, and money that would be raised through business and income taxes.

Cannabis has been a hot topic in the British media in 2018, with the case of child epilepsy patient Billy Caldwell hitting the headlines after his medication, which contained THC (a banned substance in the UK) was confiscated by law enforcement at Heathrow Airport in London after his mother attempted to bring it in from Canada.

After Billy’s medication ran out, he experienced his first seizure in many months, and the combination of Billy being in a life-threatening situation and the intense media pressure left the UK government with no choice but to make an exception for Billy’s case.

However, by permitting cannabis oil as a medication, the government essentially admitted that cannabis was a medicine, in stark contrast to their long-held position that the herb has no medicinal value. At present, the only legal cannabis-based drug in Britain is multiple sclerosis treatment Sativex, which is manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals. Both THC and CBD are present in Sativex.

Billy’s case has received the most media attention in the UK, but he isn’t alone – and now the government is in the process of reviewing medicinal cannabis, with a view on introducing medical legislation by late 2018.

Currently, cannabis is a class B drug in the UK, along with amphetamines, codeine, and synthetic cannabinoids. From 2004 to 2009, cannabis was class C, alongside benzodiazepines and anabolic steroids.

Three Million Cannabis Users in UK

The IEA report found that there are approximately three million cannabis users in the UK, who consumed 255 tonnes of the herb in 2017 alone. The average user consumes about 1.6 grams per week.

Legalization may also help Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), the country’s socialized medicine program, saving £300 million a year. The NHS is an ever-present issue in the UK, with the government setting out a new five-year plan to boost funding by £20.5 billion annually.

The IEA report claims that cannabis legalization would be “win-win-win” for the UK, as the move would hurt criminals profiting from the black market, improve the quality and safety of the product, and put less of a strain on the taxpayer. The report also noted that legalization would “create new jobs and businesses” in the legitimate economy.

Non-psychoactive, high-CBD cannabis oil is already legal in the UK, and available on British high streets. Interest in CBD has grown worldwide in recent years, with intrigued Brits turning to CBD e-liquid and other non-intoxicating products that can be bought without a prescription and used to remedy a variety of conditions.

Recreational Legalization Not on UK Agenda – Yet

While the UK is softening its stance on cannabis for an extraordinary medical situation such as intractable epilepsy, the country’s Conservative government has no current plans for recreational legalization. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that the new medical laws were in “no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.”

And support for just that will not be found at 10 Downing Street either, with Prime Minister Theresa May’s opposition to cannabis well-known. She also balked at the idea of a comprehensive review of the UK’s medical cannabis laws, which cabinet ministers, including health secretary Jeremy Hunt, had suggested.

Lord William Hague, who led the Conservatives from 1997 to 2001, called for recreational legalization in June 2018, arguing that the war on cannabis had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost.”

The Labour Party, the official opposition in the UK, supports medical but not recreational legalization. However, the Liberal Democrats, who formed part of a coalition government with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015, backed full legalization in their manifesto for the 2017 general election.

A poll by BMG Research released in July 2018 put support for legal cannabis in a government-regulated market at 51 percent (22 percent strongly supported the move, with 29 percent somewhat supporting it).

One comment

  • hemp oil

    December 19, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Your statistics on cannabis is in huge $$$…


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