Recent estimates put the street value of annual cannabis sales in the UK at pounds 4bn. As with post-prohibition alcohol sales in the US, it would be realistic to expect a large increase in cannabis sales after decriminalisation. If taxes were set at about the same level as for spirits, total tax revenues could exceed pounds 5bn a year. This is more than either capital gains tax or inheritance tax yields to the Treasury, and four times what extending VAT to newspapers and books would raise.
Once social acceptance of cannabis has reached the level it has in our society, maintaining the fiction of criminality is an expensively pointless exercise.
Decriminalisation offers politicians the opportunity to win votes from younger people as well as relieving them of large amounts of extra, voluntary, tax which they will be only too happy to pay.
Unfortunately, none of our political leaders has the imagination to tackle the issue. Perhaps they need an extra ingredient in their tea-time biscuits.
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