During an Adam Smith Institute fringe event in partnership with Volteface at this year’s Conservative Party Conference, MP and former Minister for Prisons and Youth Justice Crispin Blunt came out in favour of legalising cannabis to tackle the negative effects of its prohibition on British society.
MP Blunt put it bluntly in his speech: “Only by legalising and regulating cannabis supply and decriminalising possession can we actually stamp out street cannabis, destroy the criminal business model and ensure consumers the information and access to a regulated product”.
The current prohibition of cannabis pushes consumers to get their supply on the black market. Street dealers offer products whose origins can’t be traced and quality can’t be qualified. The current state of affairs poses a risk to consumers. MP Blunt said “street cannabis is often highly potent, the consumers often have little choice to choose from, they cannot be sure of the quality or strength of the product, they are unable to make informed choices”. You will be able to learn more about it in a soon-to-be-published Volteface report by our very own Paul North, where he looks at street cannabis and the implication of its potency on mental health.
MP Crispin Blunt continued: “Regulated supply would allow consumers to access less harmful forms of cannabis with lower level of THC and higher levels of CBD but still giving the desired high”.
Conscious of the liability of the product, MP Blunt acknowledged that “the product will never be safe, just like drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco.” But he used the comparison to show that this is not the only factor that decides whether a substance should be prohibited or not. He remarked that “risks can be highlighted, age limits can be introduced, so the consumer can be sure what they are buying and what its potency is.”
Regarding criminality, he mentioned that “above all by permitting a legal market we can decouple thousands of consumers from funding and facilitating a world of criminality and suffering.”
Appealing to the youth vote?
As a Tory MP, Crispin Blunt has inevitably been involved in the debate on how to win back young voters’ trust after the 2017 General Election, which weakened the Tories’ position of power. During the conference, he cited the legalisation and regulation of cannabis as one way to appeal to British youth: “I think our leadership is now seized of the fact that we have a problem with the youth vote and it might be an idea to get into an intelligent place, both in policy- making and in terms of the presentation of our values around freedom and responsibility.”
Even though I have to agree that it would be an effective strategic move from the Conservatives to make the legalisation of cannabis a priority on their agenda to appeal to young voters, they must keep in mind that there are a plethora of issues to consider when it comes to regulation and mustn’t be taken lightly. When considering legalising cannabis, policy-makers – who happen to be the same people chasing votes when the time for elections comes – need not forget that regulation must be handled according to health and security issues rather than the political agenda.
Pierre-Yves Galléty is a staff writer and communications officer at Volteface. Tweets @PYGallety