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The health and societal benefits of legalising cannabis – a case for the UK

Regulating the sale of cannabis could have significant health, societal and economic benefits for the UK.



A regulated retail market for cannabis could generate significant tax revenue for the UK economy. Photo: Cova Software/Unsplash

Legalising and regulating the sale of cannabis would have significant health, societal and economic benefits for the UK, writes medicinal cannabis patient, Adam Reilly*.

Cannabis is a highly-debated drug that has cultivated public interest and controversy for decades. While cannabis has been used recreationally and medicinally for centuries, lawmakers in many countries have yet to legalise the drug.

Proponents of drug policy reform advocate for the legalisation of cannabis based on the health and social benefits that it provides. This article will focus on the advantages of cannabis legalisation in the UK, particularly in relation to cerebral palsy and social benefits. 

The potential of cannabis for physical and mental health

Firstly, cannabis has significant medicinal benefits. One of the most prominent is its ability to alleviate chronic pain. Pain relief is essential for individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Cannabis contains two active compounds, THC and CBD, which have been shown to have pain-reducing properties. They work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors located throughout the body that regulate functions such as pain perception, appetite and mood. 

For individuals with cerebral palsy, cannabis can be an alternative solution to traditional medication. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s movement, motor skills and muscle tone. People with cerebral palsy often experience symptoms such as spasticity, muscle spasm and chronic pain. These symptoms can be managed using traditional pharmaceuticals such as muscle relaxants and painkillers, but they have side effects such as weight gain, impaired cognitive function and inadequate hydration.

Cannabis-based medication generally has far fewer side effects than traditional medication and can often effectively treat symptoms such as spasticity, muscle spasms, and chronic pain, which positively impacts a patient’s quality of life.

Apart from managing the symptoms of cerebral palsy, cannabis can also help with mental health conditions. Studies have found that cannabis produces mood-elevating and relaxation effects, which can be instrumental in treating mental health issues.  For example, real-world evidence shows cannabis can help manage symptoms related to anxiety and depression. The cannabinoid CBD has potential as an antidepressant, as it helps to elevate mood and promote feelings of relaxation and calmness. THC also appears to help treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Cannabis-based medication can provide a safer and more natural alternative to psychiatric drugs, which often come with a range of side effects. 

The benefits to the economy and wider society

Secondly, cannabis has several social benefits that can impact individuals in the UK. With the legalisation of cannabis, it can have a positive impact on employment, taxation and crime rates. The cannabis industry creates jobs, helps to boost the economy, and generates significant tax revenue. According to a report by Prohibition Partners, the UK cannabis market could be worth up to £2.31billion by 2024, creating up to 96,000 jobs. A regulated retail market for cannabis has the potential to bring in between £1bn and £3.5bn in tax revenue per year for the UK government. 

The legal distribution of cannabis would take the drug off the streets, restricting access to minors and reducing crime rates associated with the drug trade. Drug-related offences clog up the criminal justice system and often result in substantial fines and even imprisonment. Legalising cannabis would reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and free up resources that would enable law enforcement to focus more on serious crimes. 

The legalisation of cannabis can restore the public’s trust in the government by giving them more control over who accesses the drug and ensuring a safe, controlled supply. 

Legalising cannabis would ensure the end-users are buying safe, potent and accurately labelled products. With the control of the trade, there would be mandatory product testing and minimum quality standards. With the current state of legal enforcement against cannabis, many people perceive it as a poorly-regulated drug with a dangerous reputation. 

In summary, there are numerous health and societal benefits associated with the legalisation of cannabis. From reducing pain to improving the economy, the advantages are endless. 

Policymakers must consider reform and create clear and fair regulations that safeguard the public, ensuring the safe supply and productive use of cannabis, while maintaining accountability amongst producers and retailers.

It’s time for the UK to acknowledge cannabis for what it truly is, a drug with undeniable health benefits and positive social implications.

*Adam’s name has been changed on his request in order to protect his identity.

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