Lifestyle

The Tide Effect

The people of California have just voted to legalise cannabis – a decision which will have immense repercussions both in America and around the world, while efforts are already underway in Canada to legally regulate the cannabis market. The Tide Effect argues strongly that the UK should follow suit, and that the legalisation of cannabis here is both overdue and imperative.

The eight main points outlined in The Tide Effect are:

  1. The government strategy is based around three main pillars: reducing demand, restricting supply and building recovery. All three are failing.

  2. Regulation is substantially more desirable than simple decriminalisation or unregulated legalisation, because only regulation addresses all four key issues: ensuring that the product meets acceptable standards of quality and purity; removing criminal gangs from the equation as far as possible; raising revenue for the Treasury through point-of-sale taxation; and best protecting public health.

  3. The entire language used to address cannabis-related issues needs to change. Language poses a barrier every bit as formidable as legislation does. The opponents of legalisation have long been able to reinforce their position by using the words of public fear
    – ‘illegal,’ ‘criminal’, ‘dangerous’, and so on. Only by using the language of public health, consumer rights and harm reduction, the same language used about alcohol and tobacco, can we move towards regulation.

  4. The scale of a legalised industry will be huge. The US market is estimated to be worth $25bn by the time of the next election in 2020. A similarly regulated UK market could be worth around £7bn per annum.

  5. Legally regulating cannabis will allow long-term studies of its health effects not currently possible. The effects of both tobacco and alcohol are well understood because of the amount of scientific scrutiny brought to bear on them.

  6. Many shifts in public policy are prompted, or at least prodded, by an emotional response on the part of the public. Greater efforts must be made to show that the cannabis issue also has a human aspect to which many people respond.

  7. Any campaign to legalise cannabis must be multifaceted, involving public support, media analysis and political engagement. 

  8.  Responsibility for cannabis policy should be moved primarily to the department for Health, while the role of the Home Office should change from enforcement of prohibition to enforcement of regulation and licensing. 

Read the full paper here

    Sinnovation: Risk reduction in vice

    • In a complex world, there will be times when our actions have consequences that we could not have foreseen, however good our intentions were. This complexity is one of the major challenges in public policy: it is what divides people with similar goals, and what demands rigorous analysis of public policy.
    • Most people fall somewhere in between paternalism and libertarianism. They regret the harms that alcohol and tobacco cause to heavy users, but also believe that those users should have the right to take those if they are aware of the harms and aren’t hurting other people. For these people, though they are not libertarians, liberal harm reduction is the key – not rigid prohibitionism.
    • For the authors of the papers in this book, government bans on harmful behaviour do not automatically reduce harm. Indeed, because of the complexity of society and the difficulty of making good public policy, these bans (or other restrictions) may have the opposite effect, and increase harm to the public.
    • By stifling innovation, regulation may freeze products in a state that is far less safe than free-wheeling capitalism would otherwise provide. Given that most smokers or drinkers would prefer not to die young or suffer from chronic illnesses, there is a clear (and perhaps very strong) profit incentive for the firm that can replicate the experience of smoking a cigarette without producing the harm that cigarettes do.
    • A ‘permissionless innovation’ approach may be the best way forward. In this framework, firms are free to innovate and markets anything they like to consumers, with the proviso that untested products must be explicitly marketed as such, with the firm forced to pay the price if and when things go wrong. A regulatory approach on this basis would create a pathway for new reduced-risk products that were, if not 100% safe (such a thing is impossible), a lot safer than the things they were replacing

    Read the paper in full here.

    The Minimal Evidence for Minimum Pricing

    Statistician John C. Duffy and ASI fellow Christopher Snowdon assess the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model, used as the basis for the British and Scottish governments' calls for minimum alcohol pricing. They find that the model is deeply flawed, based on faulty premises and used to justify policy far beyond what it actually proves.

    Read this report.

    The Wages of Sin Taxes

    What is the true aim of taxes on alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods, and other "vices"? Are smokers, drinkers and fat people burdens on society who should be discouraged from enjoying their habits by taxation? Do these "sin taxes" actually work? In The Wages of Sin Taxes, Chris Snowdon tackles these questions and shows that sin taxes do not achieve their stated aim, offer no tangible benefit to society, and hit the poorest hardest.

    Read this report.

    Plain packaging

    Commercial expression, anti-smoking extremism and the risks of hyper-regulation.

    Christopher Snowdon examines the case for plain packaging of cigarettes, including examples from around the world. He finds that its supposed benefits are, in fact, nonexistant, and plain packaging laws may have significant unintended consequences as well, including making counterfeiting of cigarettes more common. Plain packaging laws could lead us down a slippery slope where alcohol and even fatty foods are also controlled by the government.

    Read this report.