The only surprise about Germany legalising recreational cannabis is that it took so long for the penny to drop.
According to research group Prohibition Partners, the move could create an additional GBP4bn for the country’s equivalent of HMRC, while creating 27,000 new jobs.
Obviously, it’s a nice little earner, though unlikely to fill the hole in the public finances left by the pandemic.
So, will the UK follow suit?
Plenty of obstacles
Possibly, but there are a number of obstacles to negotiate first.
This has been a five-year journey for the Germans from medicinal use ratification of the substance to where we are today – at the start of a legislative journey.
If we use Germany as a rule of thumb, then we are around two years away from the UK following suit. But, actually, one could reasonably argue it could take a further five or even ten years from this point before Britain’s eschews its puritanism. If it ever does.
Why? Well, take the case of Billy Caldwell, the severely epileptic child at the centre of the campaign to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis here in the UK in 2018.
According to reports, it was only last year after yet another legal battle that Billy was finally able to get a prescription for his treatment on the NHS.
Cannabis is not available through your GP and can only be prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor.
Convincing doctors is the key
So, the constraining factor is the healthcare system and those prescribing doctors.
Yet there are an estimated 1.4 million people with conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, sickness or severe epilepsy that might benefit from plant-based relief.
Companies such as Grow Group are being proactive in their approach through a process of educating the medical community.
A sceptical prescribing audience is also clamouring for real scientific evidence of efficacy too.
CBD Science Group, very aware of the direction of travel, plans to use evidence-based trials similar to the ones that brought Covid drugs in super-fast time to fast-track the process.
And while the regulators are open to this, we are still at the very early stages of the process.
In other words, it will take a while
A closer look at the industry reveals a haziness as to how the medicinal market is and will be policed.
Taking all of the above into account, the idea that the UK will be ready in two years to accept wholesale legalisation of the drug a la Germany, or Canada, is frankly, laughable at the current pace of change.
That the UK capital markets are getting their heads around funding the medicinal sector, suggests enterprising City types are starting to become comfortable with the legalities of investing in cultivation, extraction, production and sale of cannabis-based drugs.
However, it will require an entire paradigm shift, not to mention watertight new legislation, to light up funding for the recreational market.
There is a desire to legalise. According to a YouGov poll earlier this year, 52% would support the drug’s legalisation, with 32% firmly against the proposal (presumably the remainder are undecided).
However, the opponents to decriminalisation are very well marshalled.
Case for the prosecution
The Centre for Social Justice set out its stall when London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to look at decriminalising cannabis in April ahead of his re-election.
The CSJ’s policy director, Edward Davies, told the Mirror newspaper: “Those who advocate legalisation argue regulation will undermine crime, deliver quality control, raise revenue for the state and reduce the prospect of predominantly young people being criminalised.
“None of these arguments hold up. In places where cannabis has been legalised, criminals have largely diversified. In Canada, the illicit market has remained strong, while US states such as Colorado and Oregon have seen dealers simply adapt to the changes.”
And these pressure groups aren’t alone.
Bear this in mind along with all the other obstacles mentioned above when some bright spark suggests we may be about to follow Germany’s cannabis lead.