We need to licence, regulate and tax cannabis like tobacco if we are to have any chance of controlling drugs and crime on the streets of Liverpool
“Liberal Democrats will take back control from criminal gangs, take ‘skunk’ off the streets, and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis”.
Hearing this statement last week was music to my ears. For many years I have been aware that ‘fighting the drugs war’ in the way that we have been doing has been totally useless. Large amounts of police time taken up with arresting minor users and minor dealers. The small fry getting caught while the big boys (and it is usually boys) getting away with it scot free.
We see this failure on all our streets on a regular basis. At the moment one part of my ward in Liverpool has been subjected to a range of break-ins. These are petty but damaging crimes. Small objects which can easily be fenced are stolen, only a couple of hundred pounds in most cases. BUT the break in can cost £100s to put right. What is more difficult to assess is the effect that it has on people who no longer feel safe in their own home. It can take years to recover confidence particularly amongst the elderly.
The Lib Dems have unveiled a manifesto commitment to bring the sale of cannabis under a system of strict legal regulation.
We know that cannabis is freely available and widely used. It generates significant health problems and vast profits for organised crime. The current approach is a disaster for young people, whose mental and physical health is being harmed by an increasingly potent product. There are no age checks, and no controls on quality or strength. ‘Skunk’ is widespread and the only ID you need to buy it is a £20 note.
Successive governments have ceded total control of a significant public health problem to organised crime. The honest and pragmatic response is to take responsibility for this situation and regulate the market. Liberal Democrats will take back control from the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis.
We will restrict the market to over-18s. We will make cannabis safer by limiting THC content and requiring all products to contain CBD, which has been bred out of ‘skunk’ and counteracts the harmful effects of THC.
But the benefits will not just be for cannabis users but will act in a major way to stop people progressing from this to more serious drugs. Just as we can detect people who are drunk and in danger of becoming alcoholics because they buy their product in places that are licensed and controlled the same would happen if people were buying their product in somewhere similarly licensed and regulated.
The public health benefits of this are obvious, and we will invest the tax revenues of up to £1bn in education and treatment. The community benefits of this are also obvious – less petty crime leading to less serious crime. The economic benefits of this can be discerned with a reduction in days off and illness. We need our young people to be safe and our streets to be safe and gun free. After much thought and much outside advice Lib Dems have ‘bitten the bullet’ and come up with a practical, fundable policy. Those that don’t like it either have to pretend that current policies are working or come up with solutions that they think are better.
Doing nothing is not a tenable or sustainable position. This is a debate that we must all get involved with and I am proud that the Liberal Democrats have started it.
The precise wording that will appear in the Lib Dem manifesto is:
“We will break the grip of the criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. We would introduce limits on potency and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed outlets to adults over the age of 18.”