Drink and Drugs News December 2016 - Page 4

News LEGAL CANNABIS TAX COULD BE WORTH £1BN A ‘ROOT AND BRANCH’ REFORM of UK cannabis policy is ‘long overdue’, says a new report from Volteface and free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute. A legal cannabis market in the UK could be worth £6.8bn a year and produce annual benefits to the government of up to around £1bn in tax revenue and reduced criminal justice costs, says The tide effect: how the world is changing its mind on cannabis legalisation. Current policy is a ‘messy patchwork’, it says, with enforcement intermittent and dependent on each regional police force. The government ‘must acknowledge’ that legalisation is the only workable solution, the document states. The report, which has the backing of cross-party MPs including Caroline Lucas, Nick Clegg, Paul Flynn, Peter Lilley and Michael Fabricant, comes after four more US states, including California, have voted to legalise the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis (see story this page). A regulation model is ‘substantially more desirable’ than either decriminalisation or unregulated legalisation as it is the only way to ensure that the product meets acceptable standards of quality and purity, it says, as well as removing criminal gangs from the equation ‘as far as possible’, raising revenue for the Treasury through pointof-sale taxation and protecting public health. The document also echoes previous calls for the responsibility for cannabis policy to be moved to the Department of Health, with the Home Office’s role changing from ‘enforcement of prohibition to enforcement of regulation and licensing’. Jailing people for cannabis-related offences in England and Wales costs around £50m per year, the document adds. ‘The global movement towards legalisation, regulation and taxation of cannabis is now inexorable,’ said Volteface’s director, Steve Moore. ‘Today in the UK there is capricious policing of cannabis and no regulation of its sales and distribution. This quasi-decriminalisation of cannabis leaves criminals running a multi-billion dollar racket and exposes teenage kids to criminality. The evidence is now clear that regulated markets for cannabis cut crime and protect vulnerable children. The government's current policy vacuum is untenable in the face of this evidence.’ Report available at www.adamsmith.org the report has the backing of cross-party MPs including Caroline Lucas, Nick Clegg, Paul flynn, Peter Lilley (above) and Michael fabricant. WORRYING PREDICTIONS ALCOHOL IS EXPECTED TO CAUSE AROUND 135,000 CANCER DEATHS over the next 20 years, costing the NHS an estimated £2bn, according to a new Sheffield University report. Oesophageal cancer is expected to see the largest increase, followed by bowel cancer, mouth and throat cancer and liver cancer. ‘These new figures reveal the devastating impact alcohol will have over the coming years,’ said Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, Alison Cox. ‘That’s why it’s hugely important the public are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer.’ Alcohol and cancer trends: intervention scenarios at www.cancerresearchuk.org 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | December 2016 RISK MANAGEMENT HIV LEVELS IN THE UK REMAIN LOW but there are continuing risks among people who inject drugs and ‘outbreaks still occur’, according to PHE’s updated Shooting up: infections among people who injected drugs in the UK report. Diagnostic testing for HIV should be offered to all those at risk, it says, while ‘new patterns of injecting drug use among some groups of MSM’ is also a concern. Only 1 per cent of people who inject drugs in the UK are infected, although 17 per cent reported sharing injecting equipment and around half have been infected with hepatitis C, often without being aware. Bacterial infections also remain common, it states, some of which can lead to severe illnesses. Report at www.gov.uk UNAPPEALING DEVELOPMENTS THE SCOTCH WHISKY ASSOCIATION (SWA) has said it intends to appeal the Scottish Court of Session’s ruling on minimum unit pricing (MUP) (DDN, November, page 5). The decision to appeal to the UK Supreme Court – and so extend the seemingly endless MUP saga – is not one the organisation has ‘taken lightly’, said its acting chief executive, Julie Hesketh-Laird. ‘It comes after wide consultation with our member companies and other parties to the case to see whether there is an alternative way forward. However, given our strong view that minimum pricing is incompatible with EU law and likely to be ineffective, we now hope that our appeal can be heard quickly in the UK Supreme Court.’ SHAAP director Eric Carlin said the decision ‘beggared belief’, while Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive Alison Douglas called it ‘truly shocking and saddening news’ and accused SWA members of putting shareholder profits ‘above the public interest’. HIGH VOTER TURNOUT ‘It is time to highlight the benefits of welldesigned... drug policies.’ Ruth DReIfuss LAST MONTH’S US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS also saw citizens vote on commercial models of recreational cannabis supply in five more states. Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and, significantly, California – which has a population of nearly 40m – all voted in favour of legalising the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis, while Arizona voted against. Meanwhile, a new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy calls for UN member states to explore regulatory models for illicit drugs and end all penalties for possession for personal use. ‘It is time to highlight the benefits of well-designed and wellimplemented people-centred drug policies,’ said commission chair Ruth Dreifuss. Advancing drug policy reform available at www.globalcommissionondrugs.org www.drinkanddrugsnews.com