Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by Rupert Bailie and Adam Brett

  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 of populations.

  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 of distribution.

  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 production.

  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 medium term.

  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 products.

  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.

September 2001

  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.

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