The Pot of Gold the UK is Ignoring: Lessons from the US Cannabis Market

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Let’s take a moment to talk about something that’s been making waves in the United States over the past decade: the adult-use cannabis market.

From the time Colorado and Washington first legalized adult-use cannabis in 2014, it’s been nothing short of a green rush. The numbers are staggering.

In 2014, the sales tax revenue from these two states alone was $68,503,980. By 2021, with more states joining the green wave, the number had skyrocketed to a whopping $3,866,974,690.

Even with a slight dip in 2022 to $3,774,783,548, the total sales tax revenue from 2014-2022 added up to an incredible $15,114,520,975.

Yep, you read that right – over 15 billion dollars!

Despite a minor setback in 2022, the overall trend has been growth, growth, and more growth.

The highest leap? A cool $1.1 billion increase from 2019 to 2020. The message here is clear: legalizing adult-use cannabis has created a significant new revenue stream for the states that have embraced it.

The UK’s Missed Opportunity: A Stubborn Stance on Cannabis

Meanwhile, across the pond in the UK, the situation couldn’t be more different. Despite the clear economic benefits demonstrated by our American friends, the UK’s policy on cannabis remains stubbornly restrictive.

The UK, with its population of around 67 million, is sitting on a potential pot of gold. Let’s crunch the numbers. In 2021, the US, with a population of 331 million, generated about $11.68 per person in cannabis sales tax. If we apply that figure to the UK population, we’re talking a potential tax revenue of $782,560,000, or around £578,760,000.

Of course, this is a simplified estimate. In reality, a myriad of factors, from cultural differences to market pricing, would impact the final figure. But even so, the revenue potential is undeniably substantial.

Yet, as it stands, the UK government isn’t just leaving money on the table – it’s practically throwing it away.

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The current policy on cannabis, which restricts its use to a very limited range of medical situations, is not only missing out on a potential revenue windfall but also failing to acknowledge the potential benefits and changing attitudes towards cannabis use.

Given the economic success seen in the US, the UK’s current policy on cannabis seems less like caution and more like a blinkered approach that fails to recognize the potential benefits of a legal, regulated adult-use market.

It really is high time (pun very much intended!) for the UK to get with the program and reconsider its stance on adult-use cannabis.

The US example offers a compelling case for legalization, and the potential rewards – both economic and social – are too great to ignore. So, here’s hoping the UK government sees the light soon, for the sake of its coffers and its citizens.

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