First Wednesdays Launch ‘The Social Impact of Cannabis Legalisation’ Report

Their latest report examines how cannabis reform can shape lives, livelihoods and the law

by Katya Kowalski

First Wednesdays have launched their latest report: ‘The Social Impact of Cannabis Legalisation: How cannabis reform can shape lives, livelihoods and the law’.

European cannabis reform is happening right in front of us, with seven countries currently in the process of some kind of policy change. Cannabis is currently the most widely consumed illicit drug in Europe, with 7.7% of the EU population having consumed cannabis in the last year.

The report is a timely piece examining the impact of social justice and equity for minority groups being overlooked in Europe, a worrying trend given the tidal wave of reform we are seeing across the continent. The report explores the harms of existing cannabis laws, how to reduce the harms of prohibition, where Europe’s blindspot currently lies and the impact this is having.

The piece sheds light on Europe’s failure to capture data relating to race and ethnicity, risks disproportionate outcomes for minorities when it comes to policing cannabis. Where data is available, there is clear racial disproportionality around cannabis policing.

Europe’s lacking ability to analyse the extent to which racial discrimination is taking place from a whole host of outcomes is problematic. When building legal, regulated cannabis markets, policymakers need to fully understand the extent of racial discrimination and harms, to properly mitigate against them.

Out of 28 European countries in the OECD, only 10 collect policing data aggregated by ethnicity and only 2 collect data aggregated by race. Where data does exist, there are patterns of discrimination with Black individuals being significantly more likely to be stopped and searched than White people.

European proposals for legalisation to date have lacked a social equity focus. The report suggests that there is a significant amount that can be learnt from US social equity schemes in order to support individuals from a range of backgrounds entering the legal cannabis industry.

In my opinion, the report offers a series of sensible recommendations with a nuanced and balanced depiction of what the social impact of cannabis reform looks like. It is an important piece for the industry going forward – there has been lots of work done around social equity but it’s definitely become a bit of a buzzword with schemes not always being as equitable as they should be. I also think that to date, commentary and analysis on this topic has remained angry, finger-pointing and one-sided. Whereas First Wednesday’s have laid out a middle ground, approaching the topic in a kind, considered way which is digestible to both advocates and the industry. 

The research offers a lot of food for thought and should serve as a reminder to everyone in the sector that there are a lot of factors we need to address when it comes to legalising cannabis. To truly have an impact, we need to go beyond just legalising to truly make an impact.

The report is sponsored by Artemis Growth Partners, and authored by Hanway Associates in collaboration with Pagefield communications and Loveblood creative. We have published this report for members of the European cannabis industry, bringing local context to discussions that are often dominated by a North American centric framing. To amplify its message we have launched in partnership with key influencers Volteface (UK), Cannavigia (Switzerland), Prohibition Partners (UK & US) and Krautinvest (Germany). Access the report for free.

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