Here’s the introduction to the piece published yesterday in the UK Guardian.
Former drug dealers should be recruited and trained to produce safe, legal cannabis if the UK decides to legalise marijuana, the head of an American programme overseeing the sale of the narcotic has urged.
The Commissioner in charge of legal cannabis sales in Massachusetts has said Britain should follow her state’s example of recruiting ex-drug dealers and people from communities involved in what was once the underground market for marijuana.
Ahead of talks with parliamentarians at Westminster this week, Shaleen Title, along with two other US experts on drug liberalisation, revealed that a project is under way in their state – which legalised the drug in 2016 – to retrain former cannabis dealers to enter the now legal marijuana industry.
Title’s call echoes that of Michael Semple, the EU’s one-time special representative to Afghanistan and negotiator with the Afghan Taliban, who said that a future British government would have to open “peace talks” with drug gangs if the UK goes for legalisation.
He told the Guardian he believes that government, police and other authorities must open dialogue with dealers who face going out of business.
Semple said British policymakers would not be able to ignore “the people most directly affected” by making drugs legal.
“Given the sheer number of people involved in drug dealing, and, internationally, the scale of violence associated with the ‘war on drugs’, it should not be difficult for drugs policy makers to envisage a peace process with drugs gangs.”
On the Massachusetts experiment, Title said they had recruited 150 people so far, both ex-dealers and people from areas of Boston and the wider state where drug arrests have been highest.
“They have skills already of course gleaned over a long number of years. It is a way to give people and the voters that backed legalisation in our referendum what they wanted. They did not want to hand the industry over to a few giant corporations that are going to exploit it.