The Great Cannabis Cash-in

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The420Guy

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Britain's army of dope dealers will be indifferent to the partial
relaxation of the cannabis laws which takes effect on Thursday.

They will be too busy making money to notice.

On 29 January, possession of small quantities of the plant becomes a
non-arrestable offence under many circumstances, throwing the
spotlight once again on Britain's biggest and most lucrative black
market.

Just what the trade is worth is a matter of some debate.

A Home Office study in 2001 put the value of the British cannabis
market at about UKP 1.5bn a year, but most experts in the drug field
say this is a highly conservative estimate.

Bonanza

According to the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, a consultancy which
advises the courts on drug pricing and supply issues, Britons spend
closer to UKP 5bn every year on the illegal narcotic.

To put this into perspective, Scottish & Newcastle - Britain's biggest
brewer - sold just UKP 2bn worth of beer in the UK last year.

Moreover, it appears that the proceeds of the cannabis trade are
ploughed straight back into the British economy.

Twenty years ago, most of the cash went abroad to line the pockets of
the Middle Eastern or North African producers who controlled the UK
market.

But according to the IDMU, domestic producers with clandestine
plantations in their attics and cellars now supply close to 60% of the
cannabis consumed in Britain.

"Most of the money stays in the UK these days. The prices and profit
margins for imported cannabis have collapsed," says IDMU director
Matthew Atha.

High Street

It has also been suggested that the cannabis trade delivers a
substantial indirect boost to consumer spending.

A report from market analysts Research Business International last
year claimed that the appetite-enhancing effects of cannabis encourage
users to spend about UKP 20 each on fast food and confectionery every
time they smoke.

This translates into an annual UKP 6bn windfall for pizza delivery
chains and newsagents, the researchers claimed.

The fact that the cannabis market has grown so large despite the
threat of prison sentences and hefty fines to suppliers and consumers
alike may seem surprising.

But a combination of prohibition and strong demand has made the trade
so profitable that mere prison sentences have proved incapable of
stifling it.

The equipment needed to grow high-grade cannabis can be bought legally
for a few hundred pounds, while a single plant with a life cycle of
about two months can yield up to UKP 1000 worth of the drug.

Legalisation

The Green Party, one of many groups which supports the repeal of the
cannabis laws, wants to harness the drug's revenue-generating
potential for the greater good under a policy of "regulated
legalisation."

It wants cannabis to be sold legally through a network of
Amsterdam-style coffee shops, with a proportion of the proceeds
ploughed back into local community projects.

"The emphasis on local initiatives is crucial," says Shane Collins of
the Green Party Drugs Group.

"We would strongly oppose any attempt to commercialise cannabis by
major corporations."

But any cannabis suppliers hoping for a sales boost after the new
regime comes into force may well be disappointed.

While a few curious non-smokers may be tempted to take up the habit
now that the risk of prosecution has diminished, just as many
established users are likely to quit as the drug's outlaw allure
begins to fade, say experts.

"When the fruit is no longer forbidden, it doesn't taste as sweet,"
says Mr Atha.


Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2004
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2004 BBC
Contact: newsonline@bbc.co.uk
Website: Home - BBC News