Sputnik: The Commissioner in charge of legal cannabis sales in Massachusetts has urged Britain’s government to follow similar steps in recruiting ex-drug dealers and people from communities experienced in working with marijuana. Firstly how significant is this and is it something that the UK could copy?
Ian Hamilton: I think it's significant in the sense that it's quite headline grabbing. It's possible that the UK could copy that type of model and almost see it as a kind of restorative justice where people have been convicted for previous offences for using and supplying cannabis. I suspect that the public wouldn't be particularly in favour so whether it would have a popular vote behind it, which I’m a little bit skeptical about, but I understand why it's been tried in America and why there's some good rationale for doing it of employing the expertise of people as well.
Sputnik: Lets for a minute say the UK follows suit here with Massachusetts; what effect would this policy idea, exported from the US, have on not just UK drug policy but also crime as well? E.g. could it see a reduction in crime?
Ian Hamilton: It is possible and that seems to be the consensus view from policy researchers and academics that you would see a reduction in crime. However what you wouldn't see is the black market completely obliterated - it wouldn't stop people selling and supplying cannabis in an unlicensed way even if there were people who previously been involved in the market and given some regulatory license to provide it.
The reason for that is that quite often, what we've seen in other states and other areas and other countries which is regulated cannabis, is that the black market is more openly available more of the time and often competes on price and strength of cannabis switch. Because the very nature of regulation, putting a cap usually on the strength of cannabis, setting a price and obviously not being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week just can't compete with. So it is possible crime to go down but drug-related crime won't go down all together and we certainly wouldn't see the black market disappear.
Sputnik: You mentioned there about the black market not disappearing. What other problems could you identify with these proposals? Is there any inherent problems that mean this policy could not be transferred or emulated in the UK?
Ian Hamilton: I think the obvious problem is would these new licensed cannabis suppliers only be supplying cannabis, so that might be what the state has sanctioned them to do but of course we know that while many people only dealing cannabis, there are many others who deal in a wide variety of drugs - not just cannabis.
Perhaps some less honest licensed dealers might not just be dealing in cannabis but they might make available other drugs such as Ecstasy, Ketamine, Heroin and so on - I think that's an obvious danger. Now whether the way these people are regulated and licensed how much scrutiny they would face, I don't know, but that would be an obvious way to put a stop to that. So clearly that would be a problem.
Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Ian Hamilton and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.