By Roland Sebestyén
What if London allowed regulated cannabis shops and cafés like Amsterdam did? What if the UK government realised that after Brexit and Covid, the tax revenue that cannabis sales could bring in would be able to help the recovery and the UK economy, first and foremost?
Without a doubt, London has the potential to lead the legal, recreational cannabis industry in Europe. London has everything to run the new, even better and more sustainable cannabis capital city on the continent.
It’s a fantasy but imagine the city, full of tourists and regulated, licenced cannabis shops.
For example, it is reported that over 20 million tourists visited Amsterdam in 2019 and 58% of these tourists were visiting mainly to consume cannabis.
With all the challenges that often come along with tourism, the money that the industry contributes is vital for the economy.
What do we have now instead? The black market is booming – the streets are full of illicit, low quality cannabis which is mostly smoked by youngsters with a low budget.
Whereas cannabis is not even decriminalised – although Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to look into it –, you can smell it on the tube, in the streets or even in the supermarket. Basically, it is everywhere.
Everyone’s smoking it, the summer is here, the parks are full of cannbis users. There is no way you can stop those people, then why don’t you force them into safe, regulated and profitable shops across the city?
According to the most conservative estimates, cannabis shops bring around €400 million for the Dutch economy. Amsterdam has shown us that with a real plan and a lot of hard work, cannabis can be worth it for the whole country.
Yes, recent reports claim that the city wants to ban tourists from cannabis cafés but this is also a lesson to be learnt.
London, hypothetically the new cannabis capital of Europe, won’t be making the same mistakes. London could look at Amsterdam as a guinea pig. Decades of data is available and with the right approach, we could get to a win-win situation.
A win-win situation as in a legal cannabis market would help to erode the illicit market while the licenced products could offer a safer option for those wanting to smoke the plant in a safer environment.
“One study found that people who use cannabis in Amsterdam are less likely to use cocaine than are cannabis users in the US. It said: “Only 22% of those [in Amsterdam] aged 12 and over who have ever used cannabis have also used cocaine.
“This compares to a figure of 33% for the United States.”
It is really important to have this conversation as delaying the inevitable (cannabis legalisation) could have a massive, irreversible impact on our youth and the public in general.
We’re not saying that cannabis legalisation doesn’t have its challenges. It would require a lot of work and thinking but the British are so proud of our innovation.
I know that for sure with the cannabis cafés, London and the whole country would win the cannabis game in Europe for the foreseeable future.
There is no other place like London. You know that. Let it be the new cannabis capital of Europe.
The first move is that of Mr Sadiq Khan. It all starts with decriminalisation. If you stop pursuing cannabis users, legal shops are only a few steps ahead.