Prostitution and the drugs trade are set to boost our GDP by £10 billion, according to our increasingly whacky and some say unreliable Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The FT was thrilled: “The move is one of the changes planned for September that will add up to 5 per cent to the UK’s gross domestic product… September’s revisions will change the official size and shape of the economy and rewrite recent economic history.”

Hurrah! Now we are like Italy.

I can see why Italy might have to resort to including the black economy to have a GDP at all, but us? Are we (the UK) so desperate that we have to give the black economy the thumbs up and equate it with the productive value of farming?

I don’t think so.

Given the delighted chortles on the TV newspaper previews I have a sneaking suspicion that this ONS publicity stunt has another purpose.

Call me suspicious, but could this be the latest salvo to be fired in favour of drugs and prostitution legalisation so beloved of the libertarian, modernising tendency that inhabits government departments from the Treasury to the Department of Health?

What better way of persuading George than by a pseudo-rational tax benefits case; by dangling the proverbial carrot of the size of the illicit drug economy in front of him. He must, after all, lie awake at night sweating about how to garner more taxes to pay for the still uncut public sector and the still growing national debt.

Just think of all that filthy lucre it would bring in!

It takes no more than a prompt like this to get the pundits on message. The BBC’s late night news presenter, Clive Myrie, obliged apropos the ONS story. Look at Colorado, he volunteered, with awe in his voice, they’re just reaping the millions since legalising cannabis.

All I can say Mr Osborne is that I would think long and hard before giving in to this specious line of thinking. I would also take a harder and longer look at Colorado than the BBC or the broadsheets have done to date.

The fact is that they continue to publish pro-Colorado articles that obscure the science behind marijuana use and ignore the increasing concern of public health officials there.

I would advise you too not to be persuaded by their optimistic reportage. It is unlikely that tax returns will begin to pay for the damage the drug inflicts as legalisation leads to more users, from a younger age, more openly, and therefore more frequent ones.

At least two deaths have already been attributed to legal marijuana cookies alone, and poison control centres  continue to report increasing calls related to the drug.

‘Mainstreaming’ marijuana as inevitable is the theme constantly pushed by legalisation advocates through expensive propaganda campaigns (New Approach Oregon, the group sponsoring Oregon’s marijuana initiative, for example, has just received another $100,000 from the Drug Policy Alliance of New York – an out of state group tied to George Soros).

Yet despite these efforts, last week a CBS poll found support dropping for the first time in ten years – something which commentators in the States view as a significant turning point.

People there are seeing what legalisation looks like in real life – that problems in Colorado abound – including diversion to minors, deaths related to legal products, and increased emergency room admissions as the state struggles to implement the policy responsibly.

It is doubly ironic that here, where cigarette advertising has been banned and plain packs are to feature in the Queen’s Speech, in Colorado newspapers and magazines on any given day are filled with pages of marijuana advertisements, coupons, and cartoons; all for products such as (marijuana) candies, sodas, ice cream, and cartoon-themed paraphernalia and vaporizers, designed to attract children and teens.

Yet their taxes will not even plaster over the costs of making marijuana more available; no more than alcohol duty cures alcohol harms.

Teen drug prevention and treatment (inevitably expensive yet far from foolproof where marijuana is concerned) will be a game of continual catch up.

These, Mr Osborne, are the considerations to be kept front of your head should you be tempted by the siren calls for a taxed and regulated drug market.

The price is higher than the public would tolerate or society could bear.

 

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