With Canada, South Africa, Netherlands and 10 U.S. states legalising recreational cannabis in recent years the debate has sparked on whether cannabis should be legalised in England. Here, I will run through the actual advantages and disadvantages of legalising cannabis.

One advantage is the extra taxes which can be collected from citizens who purchase cannabis. In Colorado, (where it was legalised in 2014) this would be 2.9% sales tax, 10% special sales tax and 15% excise tax creating a total of 27.9% on every cannabis sale. However, in 2014 and 2015 in Colorado, nearly $6 million in cannabis sales revenues had been distributed to local governments. But the cost of increased law enforcement, drugged-driving incidents, fatal crashes, loss of productivity and a huge spike in gang-related crime bring into question the cost-benefit of this extra money.

In Colorado, they also reported significant increases in Accident & Emergency and hospital visits linked to marijuana use. Additionally, they reported that school expulsions have increased by 40% with the majority of them being related to marijuana use.

Durango, a town in Colorado, had seen a huge increase in homeless people and drug addicts. City officials became alarmed when residents started finding used needles just lying in the streets and on the pavements.

Marijuana has become potent. The main active ingredient of marijuana is THC and there is strong evidence is related to psychosis. CBD that seems to counteract this effect and has been tested to treat psychosis and anxiety. CBD does not make you ‘high’ so growers have decreased CBD content and increased THC content in recent years. TCH has risen from 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014.

Banning cannabis should reduce cannabis-induced psychosis. However, prohibition makes illegal drugs stronger because you can ship more product in the same space and sell it at a greater profit. This is like what happened during the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S in the 1920s. Instead of beer, stronger spirits became the norm.

If cannabis were legal there would be more options for consumers and regulators could assert high levels of CBD.

Another suggested disadvantage of legalising cannabis is that it could lead some people to harder more dangerous drugs. However, the evidence has been mixed on whether cannabis is a gateway drug – which requires more research.

Could decriminalisation be the answer?

In 2001, Portugal decided to decriminalise most drugs including cannabis. This new law preserved the illegality for possessing and consumption any drug for personal use without authorisation. However, the offence was changed from a criminal one, with a possible prison sentence, to an administrative one if the amount possessed was small enough to be just used for personal use. But, drug dealers were still criminally charged. This was also done alongside large investments into, a network of centres specialising in treating drug addiction and aftercare and social integration programs. Those who were found with small amounts of drugs were referred to support services and got help with treatment and harm reduction.

Looking at the data throughout this period the decriminalisation programme appears to be a great success. Some of which include:

- The number of people receiving treatment for drug problems in Portugal also rose by 60 percent between 1998 and 2011.

- An overall drop of 90% in drug-related HIV infections.

- The number of drug-related deaths has reduced from 131 in 2001 to 20 in 2008.

- As of 2012, Portugal's drug death toll sat at 3 per million, in comparison to the EU average of 17.3 per million.

- Homicide rate increased from 1.13 per 100 000 in 2000 to 1.76 in 2007, but then decreased to 0.96 in 2015.

Overall, I believe that there needs to be more thorough research on the effects of cannabis consumption and whether it is a gateway drug before any decision is made, although something needs to change as putting drug addicts into prisons does not work.