Legalizing cannabis and selling it to over 18s through specialist shops would raise £1 billion in tax annually, according to a far-reaching study.
Carried out by a group of experts including academics, police officers and scientists, the study will inform a new drugs policy for the Liberal Democrats.
The party will thrash out the details at its forthcoming spring conference, which takes place from Friday to Sunday in York.
Similar schemes have been tried in some US states, but the new study is the most far-reaching analysis of what liberalization would look like in the UK.
Plans include the creation of licensed shops through which to sell the drug, the establishment of a new regulating body, government control of the power and price of the product, and taxation arrangements.
The investigating panel was set up by former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb, who told the Guardian on Tuesday that the “groundbreaking” study would help shape the debate in Britain.
“Every year, billions of pounds are put into the pockets of organized criminals selling cannabis, and vast amounts of police time and resources are wasted going after those using the drug,” Lamb argued.
“We have to be ambitious. It is not good enough to continue pretending that everything is OK or that the current system is working,” he added.
The research is partially based on similar work done by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg while the Liberal Democrats were in coalition with the Tories between 2010 and 2015.
Clegg’s successor Tim Farron has also been outspoken in his calls for drugs law reform, telling the Telegraph newspaper on Monday: “We need a new, smarter approach and I welcome this report ahead of the debate at spring conference.”
He warned that the current practice of going after young people for cannabis is a “waste of police time” which could “saddle them with criminal convictions that can damage their future careers.”
“A legal market would allow us to have more control over what is sold, and raise a considerable amount in taxation,” Farron said.