Former Scotland Yard chief Bernard Hogan-Howe has called on the Government to set up a two-year review to examine whether Britain should legalise cannabis.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Lord Hogan-Howe proposes that a panel of experts should examine “the accumulating evidence on legalisation… with open minds”.
“This could include whether they feel the evidence suggests cannabis should be safely legalised,” he writes. “It is hard to justify criminalising a substance less harmful than products we can buy in a shop and at some level has medical benefits.”
The former police chief’s intervention follows a visit to Colorado, one of the first US states to legalise cannabis in 2014, for a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary to be screened tomorrow.
Hogan-Howe – Britain’s most senior police officer before retiring last year – talked to doctors, politicians and police, and visited a cannabis club and farm.
He says there is a “general acceptance reform has worked out”, even from a former opponent such as the mayor of Denver. He points out that taxes on cannabis have funded a new police station in one town and higher pay for officers.
He remains sceptical. He found there was still a black market for under-age users and remains worried about young users developing psychosis.
But, he writes: “We know prohibition of cannabis has resulted in criminal gangs using violence as they compete for trade and territory. But evidence shows that alcohol causes more violence every night of the week.”
Even critics of legalisation agree Britain must monitor reforms elsewhere. “I don’t think it is a good idea,” said Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. “But let’s see how it goes in Canada. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”