News Release: New Report Shows MPs Should Back Cannabis Legalisation

News Release: 8 October 2015, no embargo

MPs Should Back Cannabis Legalisation, New Report Shows it’s Working Fine in Colorado

As MPs prepare to debate cannabis legalisation on Monday, a new report on Colorado, which became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise cannabis in 2012, demonstrates the benefits of ending the criminalisation of users, and putting government in control of the trade. 

Despite dire predictions, early evidence analysed by Transform Drug Policy Foundation shows that legalisation in Colorado has had the following outcomes:

  • No spike in cannabis use among young people
  • No increase in road fatalities
  • Significant reduction in the size of the criminal market, as the state now controls 60% of supply
  • A $125 million predicted tax take for 2015, with $40 million allocated for school building programmes
  • Thousands no longer receiving criminal records
  • Regulatory system able to adapt quickly to emerging concerns about cannabis edibles
  • Public support for legal regulation remains strong

On Monday 12 October MPs will debate whether the production, sale and use of cannabis should be made legal in the UK. It arose from an e-petition that has now received over 220 000 signatures.

In the absence of Government research, the best academic cost-benefit analysis of cannabis legalisation by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex (in 2013) estimated:

  • Net savings of between £0.5 billion and £1.25 billion
  • Tax revenue from licensed cannabis supply in England and Wales between £0.4 and £0.9 billion
  • Net costs of the impact on physical and mental health to range from zero to around £85m. Even in the worst case, these costs are modest in relation to projected savings on policing and criminal justice costs
  • Weak evidence for a large ‘gateway effect’ among cannabis consumers

A Transform spokesperson said:

“The emerging evidence from Colorado shows that the doom-mongers were wrong. Use hasn’t skyrocketed and the roads are not filled with drivers under the influence. Instead, it has led to more control, more revenue, less unnecessary crime, less money for organised criminals, and more efficient use of public money.

“Young people are better protected – people have to show ID to buy cannabis now, and without the fear of arrest, are more likely to seek help if they need it. Polling shows that a majority in the UK support decriminalisation or legal regulation of cannabis across the political spectrum, with Daily Mail readers almost as supportive as the general population.”

David Cameron said in 2002: "We found some of the arguments of the legalisers quite persuasive; we are acknowledging that there may be a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalisation, and basically we wanted to have a genuinely open-mind about this."

Transform concluded:

“In 2002 David Cameron and Tom Watson both called on the UK Government to lead a debate at the UN on legalising and regulating drugs. Thirteen years later they are in roles where they can take a lead. We call on them to legalise and regulate cannabis, to put the government in control, to protect young people, reduce crime, improve health and save money.”



Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs, 07970 174 747
Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, 07980 213 943
Martin Powell, Head of Campaigns, 07875 679 301

Notes for editors

1. Cannabis regulation in Colorado: early evidence defies the critics

2. Report on cost-benefit analysis of cannabis legalisation -

3. Ipsos-MORI data on public support for reform -

4. David Cameron and Tom Watson were both members of the Home Affairs Select Committee enquiry team that recommended that the UK lead a debate at the UN on alternatives to prohibition, including legal regulation

5. ​David Cameron interview with Users Voice, 2002:

6. How to regulate cannabis: a practical guide

7. See for briefings on cannabis reforms in Spain and Netherlands