14th January 2022
By Roland Sebestyén
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A new report launched yesterday argues for “inevitable” cannabis reform in the UK, as advocates and campaigners are joining forces to combat social injustice surrounding the substance.

The report Regulating Right, Repairing Wrongs: Exploring Equity and Social Justice Initiatives within UK Cannabis Reform, proposes 14 guiding social equity principles that should be integrated in the UK.

The report outlines an evidence-based roadmap to prioritise and protect those most vulnerable to the harms of prohibition in legal recreational markets.

Dr Laura Garius, Policy Lead at Release and one of the paper’s authors, said: “The UK Government’s new drug strategy regurgitated a ‘tough on drugs’ rhetoric, despite the Home Office’s own research concluding that the estimated £1.6 billion spend per year on drug law enforcement is not impacting levels of drug use.

“Change is inevitable – cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the UK and the world, and it is simply too lucrative a market for politicians to ignore. However, we must make sure that cannabis will be regulated right.

“The legal renaissance of cannabis is a vital opportunity to address the harm that cannabis prohibition has caused to Black and Brown communities and to people with lived experience of cannabis policing.

“Social equity models of cannabis reform are already being developed around the world while the UK is left faltering behind. We must be prepared to follow in these footsteps and recognise that cannabis reform is not progressive if the harms continue for some.”

A number of US states, in particular, New York and Massachusetts, have paved the way for a social and racial justice model of cannabis reform.

These 14 principles are designed to ensure that the same people who are locked up by punitive drug policies are not locked out of the legal market.

Some of the main principles include:

  • Decriminalisation must go hand in hand with regulation by removing criminal or civil sanctions for the use or possession of cannabis, regardless of its legal or illegal origin.
  • Tax revenue should be invested in communities that have been over-criminalised, and support harm reduction interventions and wider drug treatment initiatives.
  • The non-commercial domestic cultivation of cannabis should be included in the same way that individuals are currently allowed to brew their own beer.
  • The automatic expungement of past cannabis-related convictions.
  • Schemes must be in place which actively support the integration of people who have been criminalised for cannabis-related activities into the legal industry.
  • Cooperative models for the distribution of cannabis (such as social clubs) should be incorporated into any new regulatory system.

This report is uniquely driven by civil society, and to date, 15 organisations have pledged their support for our principles, including support from the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform.

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