Boris, Brexit & Bud – A Case for Cannabis in the UK

Here are some reasons why we think cannabis legalization would be a great move for the post-Brexit Britain under Boris Johnson.

In keeping with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's campaign slogan "get Brexit done," the UK finally left the EU on January 31st, 2020, entering into an 11-month transition period.

It seemed almost impossible for the UK to leave the European Union, after a strenuous process that had been heavily discussed throughout the nation on a daily basis since the referendum took place in 2016. Though upon his election in mid-December, Boris Johnson managed to conclude the Brexit tug-of-war between Brexiteers and remainers by moving forward with the UK's departure.

While the UK lingers in its 11-month limbo prior to its actual departure from the EU, many are deliberating what the economic costs versus benefits may be to Brexit. For many in our neck of the woods, however, a huge focal point for Brexit has been how the movement will affect recreational cannabis legalization in the UK.

For this reason, we're going to cover some of the reasons we think it would be advantageous for the UK to make some moves with regards to cannabis legalization during this tumultuous time.

A Case for Cannabis in a Post-Brexit Britain

It seems, in many respects, that recreational cannabis legalization mightn't occur in the near future for the UK, given the large amount of focus placed upon Brexit, and also the currently problematic medicinal marijuana program which should logically take priority over recreational use cannabis.

As we covered previously, Boris Johnson did mention he would review the current laws on the use of medicinal cannabis for children in the UK, given how appalling the current medicinal framework is operating, though he's been silent on that front since the election.

As it stands, UK doctors are still very uncertain when it comes to the medicinal benefits of cannabis due to a lack of clinical trials. And if doctors were willing to prescribe cannabis? Well, for some patients it meant that they would be looking at a £50,000 per year price tag for products like Sativex. This combination of doctor hesitancy and high prices has since resulted in extremely low prescriptions for medicinal cannabis in the United Kingdom, with less than 160 prescriptions written in total, and many others turning to the black market to procure their cannabis. Clearly, there's a lot to be improved on the medicinal front.

However, there is good news for the UK when it comes to cannabis, namely that cannabis is the country's most widely used illegal drug, with nearly a third of adults aged 16 to 64 that have tried the drug at least once in their lives. Furthermore, approximately 1.4m British people illegally consume cannabis in order to self-diagnose health conditions. In fact, over 200,000 Brits have already signed a petition asking the government to make weed legal, which states that cannabis "could bring in £900 million in taxes every year, save £400 million on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs."

Evidently, there's a large, untapped and untaxed market of cannabis consumers within the UK that could be tapped into upon legalization. Furthermore, as we've seen with US states like Colorado, in states where cannabis is made legal, not only do states generate large amounts of tax revenue, but they also generate a significant amount of jobs.

Both the taxation and the job creation fronts are particularly relevant in the case of Brexit and the uncertainty which accompanies it. As the journal Contemporary Social Science outlines, the UK's reliance on inward investment may be negatively affected by Brexit, and this may involve moderate to severe job losses. This is a view also shared by some UK financiers.

While of course, this is all speculative, and not everyone who would potentially lose a job would simply be able to shift into cannabis, there is definitely a point to be made by counteracting this job loss through job creation via cannabis legalization. On top of this, the taxes generated through cannabis sales could be pushed into retraining programs, or to subsidize the existing medicinal industry and lower prices.

And that's not all.

Not only would cannabis legalisation create jobs in the UK to offset some of the potential losses brought on by Brexit, and not only is there already an existing market of cannabis consumers across Britain, but the country already has an enormous amount of cannabis.

A report from the United Nations found that the United Kingdom was actually the world's largest producer of legal cannabis.

According to the UN's International Narcotics Control Board, the UK accounted for nearly 45% of the world's total cannabis production, totalling ninety-five tonnes of marijuana produced in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use in the UK alone.

The UK is also the home of GW Pharmaceuticals, one of the most groundbreaking biopharma companies in the cannabis space.

GW Pharmaceuticals created Sativex in 2014, a cannabinoid drug designed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) which was the first cannabis derivative to receive market approval in any country. Additionally, in 2018, the company came out with Epidiolex, which remains the only cannabis drug currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Epidiolex is used to treat epilepsy.

Evidently, the UK has both an existing cannabis exportation industry, as well as established, legitimized cannabis products and companies that could be further expanded upon with increased deregulation surrounding cannabis.

In legalizing cannabis, the UK will stimulate job growth, generate tax revenue, and help to remove the stigma which currently prevents many doctors from prescribing the plant to patients. On all these fronts, cannabis legalization is a win, win, win.

Lastly, given that the primary objections to Brexit have been its potential threat to economic growth and capacity for job losses, now may be the most opportune moment for Boris Johnson to move with haste on the cannabis front.

Related Article

Is Weed Legal in the UK?

The UK cannabis market could be on the verge of a multi-billion-pound boom

While the majority of cannabis sold in the UK still comes from the black market, things are rapidly beginning to change.

In fact, a 2016 UN report found that the UK accounted for approximately 45% of global cannabis production, while also being responsible for 70% of the worldwide export market.

However, the UK industry is still in its infancy, which has left investors starved for British pot stocks to add to their portfolio.

And with Prohibition Partners predicting the industry could reach $3 billion in size by 2024, this is one investment opportunity you don't want to miss.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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