The Tories are split over legalisation of cannabis. The issue is back in the news after the case of a 12-year-old whose medicinal cannabis oil was confiscated at Heathrow Airport.
The Home Office returned some medicine to Billy Caldwell after medics confirmed he needed it to deal with severe epileptic seizures.
Former Conservative leader William Hague called for a “decisive change” in the law. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the law wasn’t working well. Theresa May, however, has downplayed the prospect of reform.
Labour is divided too. Jeremy Corbyn said he backs legalisation of cannabis oil for medicinal purposes. But the party said last year that it remains opposed to wider legalisation. Now Labour says it may have a review.
Cannabis is a Class B drug—after being reclassified by Labour from Class C in 2009. That means possession can lead to five years in jail. Police in England and Wales recorded over 83,000 offences for cannabis possession in 2016-17.
Yet it’s generally safer than legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. Look at the number of deaths caused by legal drugs compared to cannabis. According to national statistics in 2016 7,327 deaths were the direct cause of alcohol and 100,000 die from smoking every year. In 2016 the number of cannabis-related deaths was 24.
Contrast the effects on people’s lives of Alcohol and Gambling (which, in the case of gambling, has not just been tolerated but promoted by successive UK governments) and you start to ask why Cannabis use is illegal and users hounded and pestered.
It’s not just we at Third Way who have said that cannabis should be legalised for recreational and medicinal purposes. . We’ve campaigned for a different approach for many years but many others have added their voices to the calls over time. It’s a view that has drawn support from all parts of the political spectrum.
The right-wing think-tank the Adam Smith Institute said that politicians and the public should recognised the UK’s drug strategy “has failed in its core aims to prevent people from using drugs, manufacturing drugs, and to put a stop to the crime, corruption and death that is taking place on an industrial scale around the world”.
Their report, The Tide Effect: How the World is Changing Its Mind on Cannabis Legislation, says legalisation would make sure the drug meets acceptable standards, remove criminal gangs from the equation, collect revenue for the Treasury and protect public health.
Public opinion increasingly favors legalisation. Strong support for legalising the sale of cannabis through licensed shops emerged in an opinion poll for The Independent. Some 47 percent of people backed the idea, while 39 percent oppose it and 14 percent are “don’t knows”, according to the survey of 2,000 people by polling company ORB. Isn’t it time that politicians represented the majority?