Although marijuana is federally illegal in the United States, 33 states plus D.C. have legalized it for medical use. In Canada, cannabis is now completely legal even for recreational use (with caveats here and there depending on which territory you live in). Over in Europe, several nations, such as Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland, have all legalized medicinal marijuana dependent on you having a qualifying medical condition.
Our British brethren are not so fortunate. Although it was recently announced that medical weed would be legalized, it will only be available to those with an exceptional medical need. Moreover, the UK Home Office has yet to establish a timeline of legalization. On the plus side, cannabis was recently reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug in Britain.
It is a bizarre situation because Britain is the world’s biggest producer of legal marijuana for medical and scientific research; an incredible 95 tonnes were produced in 2016, for example. The UK is also the world’s biggest cannabis exporter. Even though it is illegal, Home Office data from 2016 showed that up to 6.5% of British adults aged 16-59 admitted using it in the last year.
According to a YouGov poll, an incredible 75% of the British population believe it should be legalized for medicinal use, while 43% believe it should be fully legalized. As it is a Class B drug, possession could result in a five-year prison term and an unlimited fine. Sale of weed is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
As a result, marijuana users in the UK are forced to go to the black market and purchase their herb from street dealers. As there is no standardized pricing model, the price of weed varies significantly across Britain, as we show in this guide.
The Cost of Weed: Stay Away from the Shetland Islands!
You won’t be surprised to learn that London is the most expensive city for weed users. It costs a minimum of £6.44 a gram, just ahead of Glasgow at £6.06 and Birmingham at £6.01. It costs £22.54 per eighth in London. Here are how six other UK cities compare:
Price per eighth (1/8) in 6 major UK cities:
- Glasgow: £21.21
- Birmingham: £21
- Edinburgh: £20.62
- Liverpool: £19.46
- Manchester: £19.32
- Leeds: £18.80
In most UK cities, you will be able to find a gram for around £10 or less. It is more than a little odd that the price of weed is so low compared to the United States. Remember, marijuana is illegal in the UK, yet mid-range herb will cost no more than £180 per ounce, approximately $235 at the time of writing. In California, where weed is legal recreationally, it can cost upwards of $300. Admittedly, you are getting guaranteed quality from dispensaries, but it is a bit strange that weed is cheaper in the UK.
If you happen to live in the Shetland Islands, however, marijuana is incredibly expensive. We looked through UK forums and users from this group of islands, located over 100 miles from the Scottish mainland, paid up to £800 for an ounce of weed! The combination of its illegal status and the remote location of the islands means that weed is (or was) almost as expensive as gold!
The price of marijuana in the UK compares favorably with other nations where the herb is illegal. Far East Asia is by far the most expensive place for marijuana in the world. The primary reason is the lack of supply due to the severe penalties associated with marijuana use. Weed costs almost £23 per gram in Tokyo, for example, and it is also over £20 a gram in Seoul and Kyoto.
At the other end of the scale, Quito in Ecuador is the cheapest capital city for weed in the world at just £0.94 per gram! In other words, you would pay less than $40 for an ounce. Cannabis is just $1.54 in Bogota, while it is just $2.65 a gram in Jakarta, a city where weed is a Group 1 drug, which means you could receive the death penalty for trafficking! For the record, cannabis is just £2.94 per gram in Montevideo, Uruguay, a city where it is legal for recreational use.
Will Marijuana Be Legalized Recreationally in the UK?
It is highly unlikely that marijuana will be fully legalized in the UK for the foreseeable future. In fact, there is no indication as to when details of its legality for medicinal purposes will be released. We know that it will be limited to individuals with specific conditions such as epilepsy.
However, as Britain is getting ready to make its break from the European Union (EU), there are troubling times ahead for a nation that’s likely to suffer from a severe recession in the years after Brexit. It will take years, possibly decades, to conclude trade agreements with countries such as the United States, and in the meantime, legalizing weed medicinally could help fund the besieged National Health Service (NHS).
In June 2018, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), released a report which showed that the UK’s cannabis black market is worth an astonishing £2.6 billion annually, with 225 tonnes of weed sold to over three million Britons. According to the report, licensed sales of weed would result in safer and better-regulated cannabis to eliminate the dangerous strains that currently pollute the landscape.
The IEA also stated that cannabis regulation should fit between alcohol and tobacco in terms of strictness, and it should only be sold to adults aged 18+. Assuming licensed marijuana made up 95% of the market, with a VAT of 20% and an excise tax of 30%, it would produce almost £700 million of revenue. The growth in business and new employment would add an extra £300 million a year and the UK Government would also save around £300 million a year in reduced policing and judicial costs.
It is likely that like most of the world, Britain will see what happens in Canada before deciding whether to consider cannabis legalization. Contrary to what you may think, legalization may actually increase the price of weed in the UK, but users will also benefit from higher quality herb.
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Weed in the UK
As is usually the case, the cost of cannabis varies greatly from one part of the UK to the next, but it still typically remains more affordable than the price one must pay per ounce in the United States, even if marijuana laws in the United Kingdom are generally stricter. We hope that the UK can embrace the legalization of cannabis in years to come as a means to not only improve a hurting economy, but also to provide individuals in need with this alternative, green medicine.