Inequality of cannabis use across the world


Inequality of cannabis use is growing as recreational use laws for cannabis roll out in some countries. In contrast, the UK has no interest in cannabis legalisation, continuing to use it as a posterchild of the larger war on drugs.

Additionally, BAME people are more likely to be arrested for drug offences than white people, even when the usage rates are similar - and this is consistent across most of the developed world.

Legal inequality of cannabis use 

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug across all ethnic groups and age groups, but it isn’t legal in most developed countries.

Adults in Germany or Malta can smoke cannabis in their own homes, but people in the UK can get locked up for two years for it.

Eighteen states in the US have legalised cannabis, Malta has legalised the growing and use of marijuana for recreational purposes, and Germany legalised cannabis for personal use this year, creating a controlled supply.

Naturally, this is frustrating for people living in areas of the world where cannabis possession is a crime and looked down on. In the UK, cannabis is illegal to possess and use, and you can get a criminal record.

The situation is a mess because there is no consistency in policies between countries, although most laws can say the same.

For example, in the UK, large shops can only stay open for six consecutive hours between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays. In Germany, retail stores are banned from opening on Sundays and public holidays.

Racial inequality with cannabis use

In the UK, black people are 12 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis use than white people, despite similar use rates per capita.

In the US, cannabis use between whites and non-whites is also similar, but Black Americans are arrested for cannabis offences at a rate of 4 to 1 compared to whites.

You could argue this is due to institutional racism, with predominantly white police forces deciding to profile black people racially. This argument holds lots of weight, especially when considering that usage rates are similar.

This is not a new problem. A report by Release in 2014 found unequivocally that drug possession offences in England and Wales are focussed on black and minority communities.

The UK Government’s own figures show that black and mixed-race people are more likely to be arrested for drug offences, including cannabis.

Clearly, this is wrong, but it is nothing new. Countries across the developed world have racial inequality problems, including with cannabis use. It is up to policymakers to forge a better path for the future of cannabis use.

The future of cannabis use

The UK Government made medicinal cannabis legal on November 1, 2018, but recreational use is illegal, and this is not expected to change anytime soon.

However, with the global shift towards cannabis reform, the UK Government will have decisions to make over legalisation in the future. Germany, Malta and the US have shown that a regulated, legal market for cannabis is possible.


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