Legalising cannabis brings benefit to both cannabis smokers and society at large.
Society benefits in many different ways. Less people buying cannabis from an illegal market means less money in the hands of criminals and more to spend on hospitals and schools. We spend £1.5 billion on cannabis every year in the UK1. Imagine the tax revenues that could be generated if it was sold through licensed outlets. Not to mention the 70,000 jobs created by coffee shops and their related industries2.
The Josepth Rowntree Foundation reported that reclassifying cannabis as a Class C drug would save police at least £38 million a year and allow 500 police officers to concentrate on more serious crimes3. Surely our stretched police force is better focussed on solving rapes, muggings, murders, burglaries, car crime or vandalism? Rather than on prosecuting people for what is, at it's very worst, a questionable choice.
Take away one very major area of conflict between the police and the community and you create better community relations. Most cannabis smokers are not criminals but engage in a single criminal activity. An activity they will tell you makes them more peaceful, more contemplative, more respectful and more appreciative. Cannabis smokers understandably resent the implication they don't know what's good for them. And they will understandably be more willing participants in a society they feel part of.
This is not theory. Residents of Lambeth, one of the most difficult areas of London to police, actively campaigned for the reinstatement of their police commander. This has *never* happened before and indicates many more benefits than just hours saved not filling out forms. Remove the single most important cause of friction and you make the area easier to police, you get better information about crimes which have taken place, and you create an environment where illegal activity is the exception, not the rule.
One of our greatest philosophers, John Stuart Mill, once wrote "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right."4
The more a culture adheres to this principle the more liberty we all enjoy. The acceptance of cannabis coffee shops is a significant step along the way. Because to recognise others have the right to do what they so like, even if it may do them harm and even if we do not approve, is to create an environment where our tastes are tolerated too.
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