Submitted by Rupert Bailie and Adam
1. There is an overwhelming economic and
humanitarian case for introduction of a regulated legal global
market in cannabis in order to remove the cannabis economy from
global criminal syndicates. This will assist initiatives against
terrorism and illegal global trades, while minimising the criminalisation
2. This document sets out principles for
the operation of ethical trading arrangements for the distribution
of cannabis products for medicinal or recreational use. Prohibition
of cannabis has failed both nationally and globally to restrict
the availability of cannabis products. Present arrangements undoubtedly
increase the harm which arises from the products themselves through
a lack of reliable research, health education and product quality
control, compared to what would be possible through a legal market.
Consequential harms to individuals through legal sanctions, to
public finances through the cost of enforcement, and to democracy
and the credibility of government are significant.
3. Piecemeal approaches are no longer appropriate
and will not deliver desirable outcomes. Depenalisation or decriminalisation
of cannabis increases the contradictions in the regulation of
currently illegal drug markets. While problems of individual civil
liberties are reduced along with costs to government agencies,
the resources available to criminal syndicates are increased and
there are no benefits to producers in poor countries. Product
quality control is not enhanced, increasing health costs.
4. The experience of the harmful effects
of the legal trade in tobacco is an important consideration in
devising a robust regulatory system for cannabis. As an alternative,
fair trade and organic registration standards can be established
along with rigorous quality control systems and effective regulation
5. It is proposed that the UK Government
issues a limited number of licences to credible "fair trade"
companies to import to and distribute cannabis products within
the UK, and possibly within certain EU countries. Bilateral agreements
with producing nations would be entered into only where it is
clear that strict criteria can be met. Initially a small number
of island states might offer a safe and controllable context for
6. Fair trade companies ensure that a high
proportion of the retail price (including any tax) of a product
is paid to the producers. In the case of cannabis, this would
result in a very significant transfer of resources away from criminal
syndicates to the poor of the developing world reducing global
inequality and the resources available for terrorism.
7. Licence holders would require partnerships
with governmental and non-governmental organisations in producer
countries to ensure appropriate application of resources. In the
short term industrial use of hemp products for food, fuel, textiles,
paper and building are already viable and environmentally beneficial.
Health education, the provision of safe water supplies and investment
in sustainable agriculture may be appropriate for funding in the
8. Inequalities in access to health care
are an acute issue globally. The fact that cannabis has medicinal
value and can be produced by almost anyone almost anywhere offers
the opportunity for research and education on a global scale as
to the benefits of "home produced" medicinal products
for a variety of acute and chronic medical conditions.
9. The development of the UK retail sector
would also need tight regulation. It is proposed that the UK Government
legislates to prohibit the advertising of any cannabis product
for medical or recreational use. Approved information on the health
risks of products must be available at the point of sale. Advice
on harm reduction for users, including the preparation of food
products and herbal infusions must be available. Approved retailers
should not be allowed to sell tobacco, alcohol or a range of other
10. A significant number of low-level UK
cannabis retailers who currently claim state benefits would have
the opportunity to be brought into the mainstream economy, reducing
costs to government and social exclusion.
11. It is further proposed that the UK Government
permits the cultivation of cannabis in the UK by individuals up
to a defined number of adult plants. The opportunity to trade
in growing allowances, as in Canada, would generate small scale
local production facilities. Legal commercial production facilities
for medical and research purposes exist.
12. A policy developed along these lines
would significantly change the culture of recreational and addictive
drug use in the UK and may lead to the development of models appropriate
for the regulated supply of other products which may have medicinal
or recreational uses.
13. The political benefits of reducing poverty
and social exclusion, of making globalisation work for the world's
poor, and of motivation for the young to re-engage with the democratic
process in the UK in the context of the above arguments and of
the events of 11 September in our view represent an overwhelming
argument for the legislation of cannabis.
Rupert Baillie has worked for 13 years in
the development and provision of harm reduction health and education
services for drug users and workers in the sex industry in South
London. His work includes supporting the implementation of Tackling
drugs to build a better Britain through the development and implementation
of local drug strategies and the provision of drug education services.
Adam Brett has worked at the forefront of
the European Fair Trade movement for the last 10 years developing
ethical businesses in Africa, South America and Asia. In that
time he has been involved in dialogue with and acted as a consultant
for DFID, United Nations, UNCTAD, the European Commission and
Agah Khan Foundation, among others. The trade in cannabis is,
at its root, a trade in a high value horticultural product. Complex
systems already exist to audit and control such trade, and Adam
is a specialist with extensive knowledge in this area.