Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Legalise Cannabis: End Austerity

Former Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has called for a “grown up evidence based review” of laws prohibiting the production, sale and use of cannabis. His comments follow the release of statistics about cannabis crime in Kent after a freedom of information request to the Police (1).

According to the data, over 6,000 cautions and warnings were issued by Kent Police for possession of cannabis in the five years between 2010 and 2014. During the same period 2,413 penalty notices were issued and 3,565 people were charged for cannabis related offenses.

Medway topped the league of Police actions against cannabis with 1968 warnings, penalty notices and charges issued during the period 2010-14. Maidstone was second with 1,269, Thanet third with 1187 and Tonbridge and Malling fourth with 1173. Dover had the least recorded cannabis related crime with only 478 Police actions between 2010-14.

Said Driver “Between 2010-14 Kent police issued a total of 12,117 warning, penalty notices or charges related to cannabis possession or use.  That’s 7 incidents per day. Assuming the  average cost of dealing with a cannabis related incident, including officer time and associated overheads,  is about £300 then Kent Police have spent  £3.65 million between 2010-14 on policing cannabis use in the county. But that doesn’t take into account the cost of intelligence gathering, surveillance, forensics, planning and executing raids, preparing and submitting evidence to the courts which I estimate will bump up the total cost of policing cannabis in Kent to at least £12 million over the 5 year period”.
“Is this money well spent? Certainly not” argues Driver.  The 2014-15 Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates that 6.7%  of  16-59 years olds used cannabis at least once during this 12 month period (1). Applied to Kent, with an estimated population of 826,100 16-59 year olds (2),  at least 55,000 of the county’s residents would have used cannabis during  the last year. Yet during this period  Kent Police  issued just 1,928 warnings, penalty notices, and charges, often dealing with same person more than once.  This is a detection rate of less than 3% at a cost of more than  £2 million per year. “These figures demonstrate” said Driver, “that despite a massive investment of public money in fighting cannabis use in Kent, and throughout the rest of the country, the war against this drug has most definitely been lost”.

Driver, who was a recreational drug user, argues that the
legalisation of cannabis will raise hundreds of millions of pounds in taxation.  He cites the examples of US state Colorado, which in 2014 raised $52 million in taxes from the production and sale of cannabis for recreational use and the state of Washington which raised $25 million in cannabis related taxes during the same period (4) Cannabis taxation could be a new and important stream income which Driver claims “could eliminate the need for economic austerity and which could be invested in much needed improvements to the NHS, education and social housing.

The production and sale of cannabis through government regulated outlets would also, according to Driver, create thousands of jobs and business opportunities; drive out criminal gangs from the cannabis trade and ensure that the quality and strength of the drug is controlled. There would also be a massive saving in Police budgets which Driver says “could be used on catching real criminals rather than targeting people enjoying a spliff or two with their friends.”

Finally, world opinion is beginning to change about how society deals with cannabis and other illegal drugs. A growing number of senior politicians, police chiefs and policy analysts are coming to the conclusion that a more liberal approach needs to be taken towards laws relating to cannabis and other drugs.  In countries such as Portugal and Uruguay and the US states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska laws have already been introduced which either decriminalise or legalise the cultivation and use of cannabis. Here in the UK a Government E-petition calling for a parliamentary debate about the legalisation of cannabis cultivation and use has just passed the 200,000 (5) mark. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Drugs Policy Reform (6), made up of MPs and Lords from across the political spectrum, has recently published a report arguing for a more relaxed and flexible approach towards drugs laws.  Most importantly of all the United Nations begins work in September on review of its Drugs Conventions which could possibly lead to the development of a much more enlightened and evidenced  based approach towards this issue.

For more information contact Ian Driver 07866588766 or

  2. Crime Survey of England and Wales
  3. Kent population stats

  1. Cannabis tax revenue income for Colorado State

Cannabis tax revenue for Washington State

  2. All Party Parliamentary Group for Drugs Policy Reform


  1. 93% of people don't dmoke dope so hardly a kwy issue. And legalisation would lead to more drugdriving etc plus similar enforcement costs to pubs. A nonissue as the police are targeting few users or probably heavy users or dealers.

    1. Please don't burden yourself with the overwhelming facts and case studies which highlight the widespread failures of ALL prohibition. Comments like yours highlight the profound ignorance that comes with restricted thinking. People like you are destroying lives with your support for sumptuary laws.

  2. Thanks meant for sharing this type of satisfying opinion, written piece is fastidious, that’s why I’ve read it