It's Time for a New Political Party to Reform the Law on Cannabis

19/02/2015 08:37 GMT | Updated 20/04/2015 10:59 BST

My political party has one extremely modest proposal. It's a concrete manifesto promise: we will convene a Royal Commission to review the government's drug policy, and we will legislate based on the results.

I and my colleagues in CISTA, which is putting forward candidates for the general election in May, believe a Royal Commission would uncover overwhelming evidence in favour of the legalisation of cannabis in the UK.

This is not a controversial suggestion. In 2012, the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended a review of Britain's policies on drugs. This would be best achieved by a Royal Commission, where the full gamut of opinion and research could be reviewed, and the public could have their say.

Over 80 per cent of the population of Britain already believes that the "war on drugs" is failing: innocent people are criminalised, while criminals profit. These are not the hallmarks of a just system. This alone is reason enough to look again at how we treat people who consume cannabis.

There is a simple civil liberties argument for the legalisation of cannabis. As a recreational drug, cannabis has been shown to have less harm to the average user, and others, than alcohol. On that basis alone, why should people be prevented from engaging in a harmless pursuit?

The harm from cannabis stems directly from its current legal status. Recently, the news has been filled with stories of the detrimental effects of so-called "skunk" - high-strength THC, produced for the illegal market. This can of course have detrimental effects: the recent experiment where Channel 4 News journalist Jon Snow took vast amounts of skunk resulting in him feeling "as if his soul had been wrenched from his body" was akin to forcing a teetotaller to down a bottle of illegally distilled moonshine. But in a regulated industry, the risk to consumers can be considerably reduced. Black markets inevitably lead to a race for the most highly potent product, sold regardless of outcome. Cannabis production and consumption in a legal, regulated environment would ensure that products could be regulated, and customers protected from unsavoury practices.

Beyond safe recreational use, cannabis legalisation would be an enormous step forward for people who use cannabis for pain relief and help with symptoms from a variety of conditions, from epilepsy to multiple sclerosis. Currently, the sufferers of such debilitating conditions who find cannabis beneficial can find themselves led into criminal circles merely in order to find some comfort and freedom from pain. Criminalising MS sufferers for a few joints to relieve the pain is regressively Victorian. Legalisation would be a great help to people living in difficult circumstances.

Then there is a cold, hard, financial argument. Currently, enforcement of our archaic laws on cannabis cost us taxpayers £361 million pounds every year. Conversely, the exchequer could benefit from a regulated, legal cannabis industry to the tune of £900 million per year. The state of Colorado, with a population not even ten times that of the UK's, has generated $50 million in extra tax revenue in the year since it legalised cannabis in 2014.

We don't think our views on cannabis are radical: in fact, we think the argument is straightforward: CISTA, we believe, is not a "single issue party", but a simple issue party.

We are confident that the case for legalisation of cannabis is clear. All we need is enough people who are willing to join with us in saying so.

CISTA is looking for Parliamentary candidates, you can sign up to become one here.