DEBATE: Are the Liberal Democrats right to propose a fully legalised cannabis market for the UK?
YES – Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform.
Yes, because it would massively reduce all the harm that is presently caused by an unregulated, uncontrolled market. Thirty per cent of the population uses cannabis at some time in their lives, and 5 per cent use it on a regular basis, at least monthly. It is time government took responsibility for this rather than abandoning our children and communities to criminals. Instead of maximising all the harms around cannabis, legal regulation would minimise street dealing, underage use, and the production of poor quality “moonshine” cannabis. Great benefit would accrue from enabling legal access to cannabis for medical use, now proven beyond doubt to be safe and effective for a wide range of conditions. As well as savings of about £500,000 in criminal justice costs, authoritative research shows that the UK economy would enjoy a net gain of up to £9bn annually, as well as tens of thousands of new well paid jobs. Police and community relations would be greatly improved and effort could be focused on crimes that cause real harm.
NO – Peter Hitchens, columnist for the Mail on Sunday and author of The War We Never Fought – the British establishment’s surrender to drugs.
No. This cynical and rather ignorant proposal is another triumph for the billionaire Big Dope lobby which hopes to open up an enormous and lucrative new pleasure drug market. As usual, it prefers not to admit its real purpose, hiding behind the dishonest euphemism “regulation”, when what it really means is a free for all. Tobacco and alcohol are both “regulated” but remain gravely dangerous and are easily obtained by under-age users. Cannabis is currently “regulated” by laws which ban its possession – sadly they are hardly enforced at all, but Japan’s experience shows they could be effectively applied, if we tried. Experience (especially of alcohol) shows that full legalisation would be irreversible. This dangerous pledge is part of a race against time and truth by the Big Dope lobby. Each month, more evidence comes in of a strong correlation between cannabis use and mental illness. Any serious political figure would hesitate to take such a step. But the Lib Dems are not serious.