One plant’s potential to help Britain emerge from chaos
In 2016, Britain engaged in its biggest democratic exercise in history. Contrary to warnings from both sides of the political aisle about potential economic catastrophe, the British people voted for independence from the European Union.
Regardless of your opinions on Brexit, a glimmer of hope came with the promise of investment into British manufacturing industries to recover from the inevitable disruption to our trade policy.
Today, we are shaken by a global pandemic, what some are calling a ‘climate emergency’, and widespread political unrest about racial injustice, calling for greater accountability in policing.
So, what does cannabis have to do with any of this?
Well, however tempting it may be, I’m not suggesting we all spark a cheeky ‘J’ and wait for this to blow over.
Arguably, hemp and cannabis-related industries could have a far more significant role to play in Britain’s road to recovery.
Hope for our Economy
In 2012, Colorado state moved to legalise recreational use of cannabis, and in June 2020 they passed $1 billion in state revenue with a population of only 5.75 million – around one-twelfth the size of ours.
In the UK, a 2018 poll showed that fifty-nine percent of the British public strongly support or tend to support legalisation of cannabis, as opposed to only thirty percent who oppose it.
This presents us with a massive opportunity; not only would we be able to tax an industry which has previously operated on the black market, but it also has the potential to open up a wide range of new jobs for people facing unemployment since COVID-19.
The cannabis plant is a valuable resource which encompasses far more than that which gets you stoned. Uses include but by no means are limited to: cooking oils, cosmetics, animal feed, fabric, paper & packaging, and therapeutic CBD products.
Through heavy investment into cannabis and hemp industries, we could create a wealth of jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, and tourism sectors, with the latter two being the most severely affected by the pandemic.
More jobs equals more money to be spent elsewhere in the economy, giving us a much-needed economic boost which could counterbalance the disruption we are facing from Brexit and COVID-19.
Boris Johnson has already shown that he is motivated to invest in new infrastructure to bring us out of the coming recession, so it could be said that this is a natural progression of that reasoning. Cannabis alone will not fix all our economic woes but could certainly be part of a wider investment strategy to bring our country back to its former glory.
Hope for our Society
Another prominent concern raised in public discourse in recent weeks has been the issue of racial inequality and trust in policing since the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A 2013 report from Release, a drug policy reform foundation, found that more people than ever are going to court for drug possession, and that over fifty percent of these are for cannabis. The same report found that in England and Wales, a person is stopped and searched for drugs every minute, and that ethnic minorities are six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than white people.
In a time where the criminal justice system is coming under intense scrutiny, cannabis legalisation could provide a major first step in improving trust between our police and the communities they serve.
Additionally, we would expect to see a reduction in gang-related violence and antisocial behaviour – problems which are absent in the regulated alcohol and tobacco markets – as well as relieving some of the pressure on our overburdened prison system.
Hope for our Planet
Finally, hemp has been shown to be a sustainable alternative to many materials we have come to rely on in modern society.
For example, hemp grows faster, contains more cellulose, and uses less water than trees, making it a much more environmentally sustainable source of paper and cardboard than wood pulp. Hemp paper can also be recycled up to eight times compared to just three for wood paper.
Hemp stalks can be used for consumer and industrial textiles, such as rope, twine, nets, and apparel, and in agriculture, hemp shows promise in improving soil when used in crop rotation.
I could probably write thousands more words on other uses for hemp, but a quick google search will instantly show you much more than I can explain in one article.
Evidently, the potential for the UK to lead the way in sustainable innovation here is enormous and cannot be ignored.
So how do we successfully integrate cannabis into our economy and society?
I’ll leave it to the policymakers, but some suggestions might include:
1) to fully legalise and regulate cannabis using a similar model to that existing for alcohol,
2) to provide government-guaranteed business loans to would-be cannabis entrepreneurs,
3) to subsidize agricultural businesses who wish to diversify into cannabis cultivation, and
4) to release non-violent cannabis offenders from prison subject to an appeals process.
Britain is on the verge of chaos and cannabis may not be the only answer, but at a time such as this, we need creative solutions. We also need to give the good British people something positive to look forward to after all this doom and gloom.
It is now that we must ask ourselves how we want our country to look in five or ten years coming out of this major disruption. Cannabis may be part of that story.
Parler – @jessmotherland
Medium – @jf.motherland