A regulated cannabis trade: IDMU report and CLEAR proposal

Today was a big day for the cannabis law reform organisation “CLEAR”, due to the unveiling of a report written by the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit (IDMU) concerning the tax raising potential of a regulated cannabis trade and CLEAR’s proposals for a regulated regime for cannabis which took place in a full meeting room in Parliament. What follows is a very quick summation of both reports, do read the originals.

The IDMU report is called “Taxing the UK cannabis market” (read it here) and consists of an examination of the UK market in terms of its  its size and turnover,  a break down of the domestic “skunk” production, the Tax and revenue raising potential  and the new costs which might arise.

The IDMU estimates the number of cannabis users to be between 1.8 and 3.6 million. That’s quite a range and reflects the first big problem caused by prohibition, we can’t directly measure what’s going on because it’s all illegal so the best anyone can do is estimate (guess) a figure based on arrest figures.  For something that is so common and which the government claims is a big social problem, it’s mind blowing that no-one really knows just how many people use cannabis, but that’s prohibition for you!

With the aid of the IDMU’s user surveys, they calculate how much cannabis is used per year

The total size of the cannabis market can thus be estimated by multiplying the estimated numbers of experimental/occasional and regular/daily users by their average annual consumption. The annual volume of cannabis consumption is thus estimated between 622 tonnes and 1407 tonnes per annum

And this market is in large part (approx 65% – two thirds) supplied by UK growers

The number of growers is thus estimated at between 150000 and 504000, with a best average estimate of 290000

On tax raising potential the IDMU calculate

Taxing cannabis at a rate of £1 per gram per 5% THC would have the potential to raise gross duty revenues between £2.5Bn and £6.9 Bn per year, with an average of £4.9 Bn. Clearly a potency-based duty system would have the potential to raise the greatest levels of revenue and ensure a price differential between low potency and high-potency preparations.

Of course it would all be subject to VAT

annual VAT revenues would vary between £581 Million and £1.7 billion per annum, with an average of £1.17 Billion.

Plus income tax generated from workers in the trade

additional income tax revenues in the region of £200 million per annum.

If home growers were licensed this would also raise an income for the treasury of around 58 – 116 million pounds per annum, depending on the regime.

There would be new costs and of course quite a few cost savings and overall the IDMU estimate

Overall the net benefit to the taxpayer of a taxed and regulated cannabis market could range from £3.4 Billion to £9.5 Billion per annum, with a best estimate of £6.7 Billion per year at recent market levels.

That’s not a figure to be sneezed at.

As a response to this, CLEAR has published a plan for the regulated cannabis market, which you can read in the document “A CLEAR Plan for the Regulation of Cannabis in Britain” (read it here), the underlying objective being:

1. To minimise all health and social harms of cannabis, particularly the involvement of organised crime.
2. To protect children and the vulnerable through age restrictions, responsible retailing, health education and information.
3. To maximise the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of cannabis
4. To promote quality, safety and the development of cannabinoid science.

Broadly speaking the proposal is to treat the cannabis trade in a similar way to that applied to alcohol, so licensed outlets and  suppliers with an age limit for sales of 18. There would be regulation of strength and cannabinoid content.

Perhaps the most controversial proposal for domestic (hobby) growers is the idea of licensing. Unlike with alcohol where home production of beer and wines (but not distilled spirits) is totally unrestricted providing it’s not for sale, CLEAR is proposing a £120pa  licence, which would include electrical safety checks. Domestic cultivation would be limited to

1000 watts of artificial lighting.


In addition, under natural light a maximum of six mature plants would be permitted. Also included would be a separate propagation area for cuttings and seedlings of up to one square metre.

There would be a limit of two licenses per houshold and no sales of home grown would be permitted.

This is the first time a serious proposal for a regulated cannabis trade, backed up with some solid research, has been proposed. It’s bound to upset some but it’s a good start and hopefully will get people talking. Prohibition is costing us more than our liberty, it’s hitting our pockets as well, the more people know about that, the more likely this madness will come to an end.

It’s been quite a day for CLEAR, well done to all involved.

CLEAR website www.clear-uk.org


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UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

27 comments on “A regulated cannabis trade: IDMU report and CLEAR proposal

  1. Greg de Hoedt

    Great breakdown. I am sure there will be a few out there that will complain about the limits proposed but it is way better than what we have now.

    looking forward to seeing video/audio and photos from the event

  2. Jeff Ditchfield

    “Taxing cannabis at a rate of £1 per gram per 5% THC ……………Clearly a potency-based duty system would have the potential to raise the greatest levels of revenue”

    lol This is what happens when people who know very little about cannabis propose regulation. THC levels are not constant, THC oxidises to CBN so unlike alcohol content it changes.

    So when is the THC content measured? at harvest? or after curing? the THC levels will reduce over time.

    This doesn’t really give me much confidence in the services or expertise of IDMU 🙁

  3. UKCIA Post author

    Do you buy stale food Jeff? Would you like to buy stale cannabis high in CBN?

    How fresh is the cannabis sold on the street now I wonder?

  4. druidude

    There is much to like in this report and also much to be concerned about.
    It seems that in order to appeal to Government Clear has had to go along with much of the prohibitionist dogma. Think of the children, THC and schizophrenia, people selling/growing cannabis near schools are the lowest of the low. I live about 200 yards from a school so presumably I wouldn’t be granted a license to grow cannabis. This is clearly ridiculous. It seems that in order to pander to Government we have had to compromise on many things.

    This report really is prohibition lite

  5. Declan

    Lets get the door open before the flood gates!.No?. At least it’s a system which frees us from the prison cells and stigma. Its a start, a glimmer off true hope. Im sure it’s not ideal. I wouldnt lie and say it is ideal. However if it saves millions off people from arrest id back it. Simple.No?

  6. UKCIA Post author


    “Think of the children, THC and schizophrenia”

    Isn’t it important to consider the popular agenda when proposing something like this? Like it or not cannabis and mental health is a huge issue for a lot of people and it’s an issue only a suitable regulation regime can address. We’ve allowed the prohibitionists to misuse that issue for far too long.

    As for “think of the children”, well, yes, we do have to, of course we do. Prohibition has created the situation where the age of first use has dropped year on year. What’s wrong with proposing a regime that sets out to protect children?

    I tend to agree about the near schools issue, age limits for sales would take care of that and there’s no such limit for pubs or sweet shops selling fags. But it’s been imposed on coffeeshops in Holland which is why it’s mentioned here.

    But it doesn’t apply to doemstic cultivation anyway, only sales outlets so you’ve made a leap of logic which isn’t valid.

  7. Tom Rogers

    Something it appears to have missed and I believe is absolutely critical is flexibility of price. If the black market can undercut legal sellers then it absolutely will, cannabis sellers aren’t going to just drop the goldmine they have at the moment.

    Allowing the government to adjust the tax and ensure they can raise sensible revenues whilst still undercutting the black market will allow criminal activity to be kept much lower than a fixed price model.

    Perhaps price could even be adjusted locally to respond to varied black market activity.

  8. Peter Reynolds

    Very intelligent, progressive thinking from Tom. Entirely negative, naive, unrealistic fantasy from druidude.

    “Prohibition lite”?

    Dear God, please get your head out of your backside and get real!

    Much as I might agree with your hippy philosophy (and in my heart, I do), I am focused on making change happen in a practical way.

    The time and effort put into this work by many people from all points of view is considerable. It is beyond doubt that this is the way forward if we want to end prohibition.

    I commend this work to you and I ask all of you for your support. We may not agree on every detail but this is the way to make progress.

  9. John Nerush

    UKCIA and Peter, nice work on fire fighting the negative vibes.

    In my opinion this is a fantastic move in the right direction, I think a large problem so far in the movement is the reluctance to embrace law and general attitude, the general tactic and stance has been stuborness and reluctance to compromise. CLEAR are doing a fantastic job at trying to stand in the middle ground, at least to get the ball rolling and it is working. More people are openly supporting the cause than ever before (including myself) and there has been so much positive movement in just a few short months.

    I posted this on a post on the CLEAR Facebook wall, I think it is appropriate to be re-posted here while not entirely on point with some of the reply’s:

    John Nerush Wrote: The prices are crazy and will probably remain high on a legal system but while not the best scenario, its hard to put a price on:

    Reliability (I know I can get it when I want it and exactly where from, be it a shop or otherwise)
    Safety/Quality (I know its not mixed with something to give it weight etc)
    Personal Freedom (I am not going to be arrested for it)
    Paranoia (see above point)
    Morals (I know my money is not going to support someone trapped in a house being forced to grow my bud)

    I would be looking to grow my own and would gladly pay for that ability.

    Dont get me wrong, I dont agree with being made to pay for something that can grow naturally and easily myself but with the situation as it is we are all going to have to make sacrifices for the sake of ending this pathetic war on hungry high people.

    Allot of the people who are being a little ott with the whole “we shouldn’t be taxed at all”, are the sort of people who will always complain about the “establishment” and if there is nothing they care about enough to find fault then they will make fault to support their need for rants.

    A good example of people like this was the wall for the hyde park event a couple of months ago with people going off on one about how they dont want it legal because they dont want to be taxed, which in my opinion, is short sighted and totally ignorant view point on the oposite end of the spectrum for the people who dont want it legal because they still think it will kill you and their kids.

  10. Tom

    @ Peter Reynolds.
    You really need to make a better attempt at getting people on your side, ridiculing people will not get you support from anywhere.
    It is a good thing this has been done research wise, up to date numbers are a good to have. What troubles me is this add on growers license, more specifically the power of entry to inspect a persons indoor garden, it would generate little extra income but the intrusion is severe. It therefore appears to me that this has been added to placate the powers that be.
    Please do not start to ridicule me, I would like to remind you that this is a debate.

  11. Sensi Soldier

    this is ground breaking ,maybe not ideal for all ,yet ,most definitely great for most ,why make criminals out of people that commit no crime ? Why waste money trying to stop a very strong and growing trend ? (cannabis cultivation on a personal level ) we should all support this movement peter is one of the only mp’s i know of that isn’t out for personal gain.HATS OFF TO YOU MR REYNOLDS …….

  12. Sensi Soldier

    thank you peter you have my FULL support . i do agree that the power of entry issue ,is most definetly an issue.i mean we all know how the police ‘SOMETIMES’ work once theyre in your home thats it they so called ‘investigate everything… I should know this as i invited police officers into MY FAMILY HOME to HELP with local burglaries as they where doing door to doors ! the officer noticed a very small amount of cannabis on my table as they where leaving and then turned around and arrested me and looke through all my house,yet no burglars where caught. makes me sick .I DID MAKE A COMPLAINT,to the apparent INDEPENDANT police complaints committee,yet it was an officer with two jobs that popped to see me …what a joke…just had to show my input sorry to go on , druiddude..calm down man it will all be fine in the end 🙂

  13. John Nerush


    Dont confuse safety/licence inspection with raid/investigation. People tasked with a job like this would be much like firearms officers of which I have experience with. They are generally friendly, paper pushing people rather than officers try to fulfil arrest quotas.

  14. Padidaddy

    Hats off to you Peter. If you look at the situation for most of us who enjoy cannabis this form of regulation would be more than welcome. I really do not mind having to pay a tax on cannabis. Unfortunately its very hard to avoid paying tax on anything so this wouldn’t really be so different. For those that can and do grow for themselves is it surely not better to pay a small amount to have the freedom to do what you love? Or would you rather live with the threat of police coming to smash your door in, take your gear and potentially ruin your life? Call me an optimist but the whole taxing issue could pull the economic situation around as-well. What we really need to avoid is infighting between the anti prohibition movement and end up with nothing but the same as we have now, an illegal market dominated by shoddy organised crime and dodgy wet overpriced buds. Im very happy that CLEAR is making the progress and its defiantly a step forward in the correct direction. My only fear is that the more the truth is spread and the movement grows, the more the suppression within media and miss-information spread by politics will increase. Lets all unite and keep up the pressure and they will surely have no answers.

  15. Tom

    @John Nerush, You miss the point, a lot of people wouldn’t want any intrusion to their home, and it would be an intrusion. The expense of that particular part is heavy and in my view unnecessary, license fee, maybe, power of entry no.
    Just my 2p worth…

  16. Peter Reynolds

    Tom, I complimented you for your progressive thinking. I wasn’t ridiculing druidude, I was disagreeing with him.

    “Prohibition lite” was an attempt to make the work of many (not just me) look ridiculous but, of course, it’s an absurdity in itself. Regulation is the opposite of prohibition and that is what we are focused on.

    Thank you to those who have offered their support for this initiative. No one is pretending that these proposals are perfect but they are progress.

    As for the paranoia kicking off about “right of entry” and “intrusion”, where on earth is that in the proposals? Strange, I worked on five drafts of it and I can’t ever remember anything about that.

    As John says, there are some who will simply never be content until cannabis is treated like tomatoes. Well dream on! My job is to make progress and if I ruffle a few precious feathers along the way that’s all part of it.

  17. Mr Pots

    Amazing work I have watched the first 3 available parts of this proposal on YouTube and I am very impressed. You would have to be insane or ignorant to think that this would not improve our country.

    Would this proposal also eventually lead to an increase in hemp farming and the potential industry that would follow?

  18. Sam

    Good job getting some figures out there, its important these things exist, even to get the ball rolling for more accurate figures.

    I’ve got to say Peter, you’re the most aggressive smoker I know of! I understand your pride in your work, but I do agree that the tone of your words won’t help changing people’s minds. Just the way it is I guess.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  19. tokedesigner

    “A regime that sets out to protect children” would surely have to include “pipesafe” so that the children who do now and/or will (despite all attempted restrictions) continue to have access to cannabis are protected against the false “joint” which is the true danger not the cannabis.

    a. The hot burning overdose joint customarily contains 500 mg of herb (to be burned yielding carbon monoxide) whereas a suitably designed dosage restriction utensil can serve 25-mg loadings (mostly vapourised by holding the light far enough away).

    (This “joint” overdose prevention issue is analogous to “4 Loko”, a commercial alcohol + caffeine drink newly marketed in the USA with– get this– 12% alcohol and 23-1/2 ounces in a NON-RESEALABLE can. What message about dosage are they sending to teenagers?)

    b. Youngsters shopping at a tobacco place somewhere for $igarette papers to roll a joint are exposed to vicious $igarette advertising, including the hint: “If they see you having papers, maybe it would be smart to have some tobacco with you so they don’t suspect cannabis…”

    c. Worst of all, as outlined in the “Tokepure” section, seasoned addicts are training more kids every day to roll the cannabis together with tobacco, in order to “make it burn better” (hashish); or (because big mouth Cameron et al. warn against “too strong” skunkweed) to “cut” or “milden” it down so it seems somehow safer ($igarette tobacco contains a zillion drugs added to suppress the cough reflex and other symptoms that would have warned you how dangerous tobacco smoking is).

    Popularizing a Responsible Use Utensil would avoid such abuse by providing a screened crater so small only 25 mg sifted herb flakes fit in a loading and no tobacco need be added at all.

    The process of revising and improving the wikiHow article “How to Make a Smoke Pipe from Every Objects” continues; possibly the best parts of the article should be moved to a different title such as “How to Make a Socket Wrench One-Hitter”; pictures of viable utensils meeting the description, and of handwork operations assembling them, are especially needed. Sign in, adopt a user name, help write the article. (This writer edits only from anonymous library computers, so someone not afraid of having their IP number searched down by Big 2WackGo should hopefully take care of the photograph, scanning, jpg.files and all that?)

  20. ABull

    Well well well, we seem to have some negativaty about this entering your home to basicly check everything is safe etc: do you not realise that the police can enter your home anyway now, yes they can it may not be legitamate but they will enter if they simply say to a district judge or the desk sergent we have imformation relating to criminal activety and “POW” one Warrent on it’s way, so don’t think this will be a problem i say BRAVO to this guy who has got things this far, i was busted and absalutly nobody knew i was growing but my so called freind, and he helped me build the grow room, gave an anonomous call, and guess what yep ” knock”Knock” on my door helo we are cumming in, and yep your nicked, i would happily pay £120 and say come in check its all ok thank you officer and good day, instead of come with me ma lad, so stop winging about cops entering your home, they can now, GOOD work and lets hope this becomes the new face of cannabiss, legal to grow for £120 or prison if it aint passed and the law changes.

  21. irra

    Is this effort to legalise cannabis, or an effort to find funds for the government? It does sound as if it is the later.

    This is going to be very expensive at £1 per gram of 5 % THC in Tax.

    We know how the state works, whatever the price at the start will be the thin end of the wedge.

    And I guess a large part of the negativity that you refer to, I don’t think there is a lot but there you go, the reason is I suspect that noone really trusts the parliamentarians today. So how can we negoiate with them. irra

  22. ABull

    I think we should get this taxing passed then worry about taxes later, i mean one step at a time, firstly pass this in Parliment then when it is in then sort out taxes, But the most important isue is getting it passed in the first instance.
    it’s been a long road so lets start at the curb step onto the road by passing this then as we travel down the road we can debate taxes then, first thing first,
    We are so in America’s pocket it’s only time before we follow them by there example, i mean are we not in a resecion or not, we are, and to help get us out of it stop lineing the pockets of criminal organisations and take control. if this means taxing cannabis then so be it. Im sure the price of seeds will will triple so there is the first tax, then a license, then we are on our way, i think six mature plants and the same in clones or seedlings is a good starting point,
    I would happily pay the £120 for a license to have the satisfaction of knowing that i am not contrabuting to criminal organisations, Would YOU?????

  23. Mr magoo

    Lets get real people. We will need people to issue licenses,people to enforce all the rules,people to ensure taxes are paid,extra courts for those who don’t obey the rules,extra police to enter(forcefully or invited)homes to ensure the crop is under 5% and that we are all behaving how a government tells us we must. I think not.lets be sensible.licence available at post office £50p/a. Four plant limit for personal use only.imprisonment for dealing.we could then enjoy ourselves as we wish,as drinkers can.the government would make untold money and the boys in blue could arrest some real criminals.simple. We live in hope.

  24. Irra

    I raise two topics here, but first I follow on from last comment Re, Mr Mango –
    I must disagree strongly to what is said in this previous post.
    For me it seems that the author is advocating ‘ more of thr same’ , we have prisons with people in for possessions now. Yet the post is asking for more imprissonment for rule breakers. If legalisation on reasonable amount of cannabis is to be successful, it must make any black market of cannabis a none viable proposition. Four plants per person is unreasonable, and unrealistic IMO and what about if there is a bad crop one year. A blight of some sort, there needs to be a supply’s to insure against such problems. As to law enforcement entering homes forcefully etc; For sure I am of the opinion that we certainly don’t want any of that, we have that now. Imprisonment for dealing? How then do you distribute it to those who cannot grow their own. And I have never seen so many people ‘wanting to pay an extra Tax to the government as canna activists.
    Not to mention the point that we want all prisoners in side under the 1971 S.C. Act! Released from prison for non violent possession. Ian H.

  25. Irra

    I follow on & in reply to Peter Reynolds of Sept; 15th & Tom of same date; From the figures estimated as posted on Clear web-site the Taxes are estimated at between £millions to £1.7 billion. I assume then that 1.7billion in taxation would charged on the upper estimated 1042 tonnes (from memory) of which approx; 2/3 rds are produced here in the U.K.
    Whether or not the fire checks and some quango Health&Safety charges are also to be considered.
    If as Tom alluded to the price of cannabis is not very low indeed, then we will still be riddled with criminal gangs growing not for quality but greed for the £$€¥. The situation needed to eleminate any black-market is that it is not a viable proposition to do so, but things don’t seem to look this way at all.
    In 1968 the government of the day changed the way heroin & cocaine were prescribed, doctors were stopped from writing out such scripts & DDU. ‘s were put into place in their stead. Within six months we had the first real concerted importation of grade 4 heroin from Red Chine.it flowed to Gerrade St. London via Liverpool docks & other routes. And the problem lasted over a decade.
    In California it did cost around $600 per oz,today most likely more, a wealthy persons luxuary, however, they still have a black-market as we all know.

    ON the matter of exclusion to former LCA founding members I name Alun Buffry LCA, Jack Girling LCA, Christ Baldwin LCA, and any other cannabis that has been excluded from posting on Clear website. And I should address this matter to Peter Reynolds& ask why?
    Why has it come to defragmenting the movement by banning people and espcially afore mentioned names.
    Peter I seen that you have slagged a few people off for basically having an
    ‘opinion’ eccept that it was different from your own.

    As a result of the change from LCA to Clear & the estimated figures etc; not least the exclusion to those good ole boys who founded the LCA going in the first place. I feel that debating within parliament to be unlikely to get anything worthwhile from a cannabis smokers point of view. We want good organic cannabis but not at any price and that is just what this seems to be,for me.

  26. UKCIA Post author

    Hi Irra

    On your first point it’s reasonable to expect a commercial supply side which produced a high quality consistent product sold through proper shops to be able to charge a bit more than a black market supply, as with beer there can be quite a price difference between the legal and black market options without promoting a massive black market trade. However, I agree there is a maximum to this and if the legal trade gets too expensive then an llegal trade will grow, but it’s not a simple as you imply if I understand you correctly.

    On the subject of the old guard LCA people, you should be aware that one of those people you mention was banned from UKCIA way back in 2006 for disrupting and trolling the old forum we had here. Others from the old LCA were also banned. It should also be noted that the old LCA was banned from pretty well every cannabis forum because if their disruptive behaviour and I’m afraid in my view they have done more to fragment this law reform campaign than just about anyone else.

    Do remember that not everyone who wants to see cannabis law reform is a cannabis user, I for one am not for instance.

    Happy Christmas


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