Legalising cannabis would save taxpayers huge sums and allow police to focus on more serious crime, according to the billionaire investor George Soros.
Mr Soros, who has long campaigned for drug policy reform, said laws against cannabis were “clearly doing more harm than good” and had not stopped it becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the US and other countries.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal under the headline “Why I support Legal Marijuana,” he said prohibiting the drug was “unenforceable.”
Mr Soros, perhaps the most famous ever hedge fund manager said: “Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually.”
He declared his support for a Nov 2 ballot in California in which the public will vote on whether to legalise recreational use of the drug.
Mr Soros said California had a chance to provide “national leadership” just as the repeal of alcohol prohibition in the US began with individual states.
He said that even if the measure did not pass, the fact that the vote was being held at all “elevated and legitimised public discourse” about the issue.
The beneficiaries of current US laws against the drug were criminal organisations in Mexico, he said, who would lose their competitive advantage if it was made legal.
“Like many parents and grandparents, I am worried about young people getting into trouble with marijuana and other drugs. The best solution, however, is honest and effective drug education,” Mr Soros said. “I’d much rather invest in effective education than ineffective arrest and incarceration.”
By Nick Allen