While public interest is growing, experts say a mix of political and social factors is holding back change
The legalization of cannabis in the US shows no signs of slowing down but the prospect of a green rush in the UK, experts say, is bleak.
The consultancy Hanway Associates aims to bring North American-style cannabis capitalism to the UK and Europe. This month, the group is hosting the Cannabis Europa conference in London, but its CEO, George McBride, does not expect drastic change anytime soon.
According to a 2018 survey commissioned by the drug policy thinktank Volteface, which has ties to Hanway, 59% of the British public supports cannabis legalization. But the political dynamics that have made legal marijuana all but inevitable in the US are absent in the UK.
In both countries, there are racial discrepancies in drug enforcement. However, the aggressive and widely despised police tactics associated with Americas war on drugs never took hold in Britain, nor did they contribute to mass incarceration and other life-ruining consequences for perpetrators.
Second, as McBride and his colleague Alastair Moore note, the UK hasnt experienced an opioid crisis, or the subsequent disillusionment with mainstream pharmaceuticals and the medical field. Nor is there an entrenched constituency of veterans suffering from PTSD, concussive brain injuries and other ailments, which have led to a desperate search for alternatives.
While the British public is interested in medical marijuana, and CBD is advertised on many high streets in particular, there does not seem to be any significant constituency eager to implement a for-profit industry on a large scale. And there is not an industry-funded medical marijuana lobby insisting on the issues urgency.
Last year, Charlotte Caldwell, a Northern Irish mother, arrived at Heathrow from Canada with her son Billy, a 12 year-old who has a severe seizure disorder, and cannabis oil she acquired to treat him. When authorities confiscated the medicine, it led to a public outcry, and within weeks the UK had legalized medical marijuana for a very limited number of patients. It was the biggest cannabis story in Britain since the scare about high potency skunk weed in the 1990s. But it hardly galvanized the country to legalize it for everyone.
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