Canada legalising the use of recreational Cannabis could be a “pioneering move” that other countries could “follow through on” says an internationally recognised drugs commentator.
The North American country became the second in the world, behind Uruguay, to legalise the use of recreational cannabis.
While it brings the production of cannabis under the regulation of the government, it has led to concerns about policing drivers under the influence of the drug and if taxation will increase the price leading to more criminal activity.
The UK has recently legalised the use of medicinal cannabis.
Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation joined Matthew Wright on talkRADIO to talk about the landmark law.
“It could be good for all of us,” he said.
“It could be a pioneering move that other countries could follow through on.
“While there are some problems, there may be problems that develop of a result of moving to a legally regulated system, what we’re looking at here is a multi-billion dollar business that was previously gifted to organised criminals and unregulated suppliers, has just been brought under government control, and that isn’t just cause of celebrations for liberals.”
Fears have been raised that the government increasing tax on the product may see people turn to illegal suppliers for cheaper alternatives.
“The issue of pricing is key, and its key for any legally regulated drug,” added Mr Kushlick.
“If the tax on alcohol became so high that people thought it was in their interest to brew it or distil it for a demand led market then you’d move in; that’s something that the government keep under review and the same goes for cannabis.
“You wouldn’t want to raise the price so high as a result of taxation that you create a criminal opportunity, the whole point of regulating is that you can then begin to determine what that rate of tax is which you can’t do under prohibition.”
It’s still not fully clear how the law will work when it comes to those driving under the influence of the drug. However, Mr Kushlick suggested introducing a test to determine a driver’s impairment.
“It’s a complex one what we would like to see in place is a system where you can actually test driver impairment as opposed to blood drug levels.
“It’s a much better way of determining whether somebody can control their car because you’ll catch people who are tired, people who are mentally ill, people who are demented or whatever, let’s not over focus on that because a lot of people are smoking a lot of cannabis in Canada some of them choose to drive and some of them don’t.
“I think the whole issue isn’t likely the change that much and we’re not likely to see a huge increase in people driving under the influence because most people are well aware that they are a danger to other road users.”
'5 years' until the UK follows suit
Co-host Kevin Sullivan asked whether the UK would follow suit, and if so how far into the future would that happen.
“I guess at something around 5 years,” he replied.
- Read more: Full legalisation of cannabis in UK could take 'turbulent five to ten years', says cannabis retailer
“So far the government has been running a policy since 1971, when the misuse of drugs act came in, which has massively increased the amount of crime that goes on here.
“The current drug market in the UK is valued at an estimated £5bn a year. We’re looking at a situation where we currently have the highest drug related death-rate in Western Europe, we lose 3,500 a year, 280 a month, 70 a week, 10 a day.”