Finally, there’s the issue of economic cost. While the economic burden of cannabis use is hard to calculate, it must be far lower than the £38,000 it costs to keep somebody in prison for a year, and support them afterwards when they’re unemployed or suffering mental-health problems. Imprisoning cannabis users places a huge burden on the police and courts, far greater than the drug itself.
So, prison is worse for people’s mental health, more likely to lead to hard drug use, more likely to ruin someone’s career, more likely to lead to a cycle of destructive behaviour, and is far more expensive for society than cannabis: imprisoning people for using cannabis increases harm, rather than reducing it.
An alternative model for punishing those caught in possession of cannabis is the “Cameron approach”. When David Cameronwas caught with the drug at Eton, he was made to write out hundreds of lines of Latin; there are certainly thousands of young people across the UK whose lives would be immeasurably improved if this became public policy.