Drug reform should be our new flagship policy

In my past two articles I argued for a more muscular liberalism that was more strident in championing liberal causes and for occupying the liberal ground whilst still appealing to a broader audience than ourselves.

In the interests of achieving this aim we need to pick our fights and causes carefully. We need a new flagship policy, one which wipes away the memory of tuition fees and sets us apart from our opponents. We must lead the charge on an issue and make it our own in a way we never quite managed in the public perception of equal marriage and green energy in coalition.

To qualify as a policy that we should champion at the forefront of our efforts the policy should meet the following criteria:

• Radical – The policy must be at the head of the wave, not on the bandwagon.
• Popular with the base – The policy must galvanise our central support.
• Reaching out – The policy must appeal to a broader base than our core.
• Pragmatic – The policy must stand up to scrutiny and the evidence.
• Deliverable – The policy must be economically sensible and politically possible.
• Interesting – The policy must grip headlines and attention.
• Unique – The policy must not lie within the core policies of another major party.

Drug law reform ticks all these boxes in a way no other Liberal Democrat cause does. It is radical without being blue sky thinking, coming as the bow wave of legalisation in the Americas begins to gather pace. It is popular not only with our base of academic youth but also with the wider student population and professionals on the left of the political spectrum. It is realistic and deliverable – proven in the Americas and mainland Europe, and has the additional bonus (almost unique for a high visibility left/liberal policy) of a cash windfall for the exchequer. More importantly reform is a broadly and increasingly popular position that has not only been shunned by all the larger parties but is also one which very swiftly grips public interest.

Drug law reform is an easy target. It can be marketed in terms of individual freedoms, compassion to those killed in the war on drugs overseas, economic pragmatism, mental health concerns, evidence-based policy, championing the youth and helping our police forces. It is an argument waiting to be won.

With Canada joining the list of states dedicated to legalisation and regulation of cannabis under new Liberal leadership this is our chance to lead the wave. We can be seen as radical, pragmatic and faithful to our ideological and demographic bases. This is an opportunity that we should seize before it slips away.

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49 Comments

  • Agreed.

    For a second flagship I would regroup behind voting reform. Which also has a decent level of support, and is about to get a bunch of publicity from Canada making changes…

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Oct '15 - 10:59am

    The key to successful campaigning is concentration of resources as any effective campaigner knows.

    Lib Dem Voice has hosted a number of pieces on bids for campaigning issues like this one. But to me these are dilutions.

    The Party needs a big 5 year issue; one that will explode over the next 5 years. To me there is actually only one candidate and that is the NHS.

    As a small party one has to head upstream to quiet waters, or relatively quiet waters, and build a solid claim to expertise and commitment to that issue. It needs also to be one that can be campaigned at street and family level all the way through to national level; big, small, local, national.

    I’d be very interested to know just how important health services were in the Canadian election. From talking to Canadians last month, I got the impression that their system was in chaos, and sadly, I think that will be where our NHS will be in 4 years time.

  • I agree with the article, but perhaps not the headline. Economic reform should be our flagship policy.

  • Henry Fisher 22nd Oct '15 - 11:08am

    Also both drug policy reform and voting reform are quintessentially liberal policies. For a great deal of the public who don’t really know (or care) what liberalism means, and consequently don’t really know what the Lib Dems stand for, trumpeting both these policies would help to provide clear examples of what it means to be liberal, and clearly delineate us from the other main parties.

  • Tristan Gray 22nd Oct '15 - 11:11am

    Andrew: Unfortunately voting reform is a drum we have been beating for years and hasn’t really gained traction with the electorate or set us apart. It’s not a unique cause (common across the smaller parties) or one much of the public find interesting.

    Bill, looking at the NHS issue, it falls down as a flagship under a couple of criteria:

    • Radical – No. Unless there are real drives of reform it’s not especially radical.
    • Popular with the base – Yes
    • Reaching out – Yes
    • Pragmatic – Yes
    • Deliverable – Yes
    • Interesting – Potentially. Needs to be framed and targeted well.
    • Unique – No. Not even slightly. The NHS is one of the primary causes of Labour. Using it as our flagship risks us becoming an amorphous left with the Labour Party and returns us to the problems of May 2015: No one really knows what we stand for or what sets us apart.

    Duncan – What economic reform would you suggest that would fulfil the criteria I have suggested? I’m interested, as it will need to be separate from the Conservatives and Labour without falling in the “look right, look left” trap of centrism.

  • Henry Fisher 22nd Oct '15 - 11:17am

    Agree with Duncan. Drug policy reform should be made much more of, it really makes both Tories and Labour look out of touch with the electorate, but wouldn’t put it above all else, as it is still enough of a niche issue that people may stop listening if it is mentioned above all else.

  • Bill le Breton is right about focusing on a key issue.

    The NHS is a strong candidate as it applies to us all, but perhaps it one in which we would be crowded out. I think Duncan Stott’s view about making the economy/economic inequality our front and centre is issue is perhaps stronger. I found the message of our Canadian friends fascinating – the economy is not thanks to one politician, it is thanks to all of us. A strong, Liberal message – and would tie in neatly with our stance on tax credits.

    I absolutely agree with Andrew Ducker and Tristan Gray’s views on electoral and drug reform, but I fear those are issues that will appeal to a core vote and no more. They are issues we must build upon to grow that core vote, but we have to have front and centre an issue that won’t be seen as playing to our own choir; which is what I think was Labour’s mistake in May – it argued for things we expect Labour to argue when people were looking for more.

  • I would go along with Bill’s response. Moreover it fits well with Norman Lamb’s work and particularly that on mental health.

    Since there is a fairly widespread assumption that Lib Dems are liberal on drugs policy, I do not think that highlighting this actually advances much for the party. In fact it more reinforces stereotypes.

  • George Potter 22nd Oct '15 - 12:15pm

    Sorry, but why on Earth should we cede the NHS as a topic to Labour? They’re running it into the ground in Wales for one thing.

    For another, if we seriously aspire to be a significant force in politics then surely we should be aiming to be the party most trusted on issues like the economy and the NHS rather than leaving those issues to other parties.

  • Glenn Andrews 22nd Oct '15 - 12:22pm

    @Bill le Breton; ‘The Party needs a big 5 year issue; one that will explode over the next 5 years. To me there is actually only one candidate and that is the NHS.’……. surely housing qualifies too.

  • Drug reform is a great policy to rally the liberally minded. It also matters to the 10,000’s of people who have criminal records for a victimless crime. There are millions of people in the UK who would quietly support this, but most of them don’t shout about it for fear of being labelled a druggie.

    Drug reform matters to the public far more than things like proportional representation.

    Parents worry about the safety of their kids so the liberals would have to convince them that this wouldn’t put their children at extra risk, shouldn’t be hard to do though. Being caught with a joint is far more damaging to ones life than smoking one is.

    Whenever these matters are debated the pro legalisation side almost always wins. In a couple of weeks the U.S state of Ohio is having a referendum on cannabis legalisation, Google “Ohio issue 3”.

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd Oct '15 - 12:40pm

    I think you will find with a lot of these issues that Jeremy Corbyn agrees with us and will become Labour policy in due course. Of course we should support the policy anyway, but we need to account for this.

  • Stephen Howse 22nd Oct '15 - 12:48pm

    “I agree with the article, but perhaps not the headline. Economic reform should be our flagship policy.”

    I agree with Duncan. Drug reform is important but it is not a universal enough issue to be our flagship policy. Our flagship needs to be an issue which cuts across the whole of society, which means it needs to be focused on tax, health or the economy.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Oct '15 - 12:50pm

    thanks everyone for treating the idea seriously.

    actually I think that the provision of health services is a sleeping giant – yes a sleeping giant – one where for the next twelve months attention will be focused elsewhere. However bad or difficult things seem today, I don’t think we have seen anything yet.

    Labour are likely to have other things on their minds over the next 12 months.

    Once we had a very clear image as a Party committed to Education and campaigning for a 1p on income tax to fund education. I am not urging a replication of that in anything other than its singularity.

    I urge this based on where we are.

    If we had 40 MPs and Tim had ago at PMQs and we had regular people on QT and AQ then other things would be possible.

    I am not sure many of you have the experience of campaigning in present conditions. We have to be extremely focused and we have to have campaigns that inspire teams on the ground.

    The last time we were in this position was 1989 … and of course back in the Seventies.

    I wish some of you here who were not campaigning in either of those eras could appreciate that those who were might just have some wisdom to offer.

    Housing is important but it isn’t as universal an issue as the NHS and I go back to my point about concentration. We will dilute our activity at our peril.

    But the real way to settle this – and we did this in 1989 – is to put together a number of decent camapigns and sent them all out to local parties. In a short time you will see which campaigns take hold locally.

    This is what we did with the People First campaigns in 1989. And it was this that enabled the Party to survive its last great nadir.

    And Tristan, if you don’t think we can be radical and interesting on health, then, I am amazed at your apparent lack of imagination.

    The secret is getting the research and policy people of the party in the same room as the campaigners … and by campaigners I don’t mean those trained by and enthralled to the Rennard approach that even he wouldn’t be using now.

  • Tristan Gray 22nd Oct '15 - 12:59pm

    George: Not ceding the ground, just not making it our primary issue. We’ll look like a pressure movement within labour instead of a political party in our own right. I absolutely agree the NHS and Economy are vital core issues we should have strong stances on, but they won’t set us apart.

    Stephen: As I said to George, these issues are important (more important than drug policy) but they don’t set us apart. We must have strong stances on them but they cannot be our flagship issue for that reason.

  • @Geoffrey Payne. Are you saying that Jeremy Corbyn supports cannabis legalisation? I was not aware of this.

    Anyway you could well be right, the pace of change in the western world when it comes to drugs legalisation is phenomenal and only increasing and I think the lib dems will be caught out a day late and a dollar short on this. In the last month the new Australian PM has announced that using cannabis for medical reasons will be legalised at federal level. The liberal party of Canada have come from third place to win a landslide election victory despite coming under heavy attack from the conservatives for their policy of legalisation. We have had a leaked UN report saying the agency wants to decriminalise, and in the UK a new political party was founded and funded by a multi millionaire cannabis consumer to fight for legalisation.

    There is a referendum in the US state of Ohio in a few weeks and a number of others planned for 2016. UNGASS is next year too and was brought forward by South American countries screaming for change and I think they will have the USA, Canada and some big European countries as their allies on this.

    To be fair if it were up to the lib dem members this would have been party policy for years, the problem is the parties elected representatives with a few notable expectations are some of the most risk adverse people in politics and I can’t seem them backing this on mass until the battle is won and it’s all but over.

  • I agree with the article, and I say that as someone who’s needed plenty of persuading on this issue. But the evidence base is persuasive. If we’re going to go for it, it needs to be utterly clear. No more “Hand control of drugs policy to the DH” it needs to be “We will legalise cannabis” or similar.

    On the NHS – what do we want? It’ll only work as a flagship issue if we have something to say, and I don’t think we do, beyond valuing it. Labour had much the same issue in May, there was no teeth behind their ‘Save the NHS’ scaremongering. By itself it can’t be a flagship – only if we have a clear vision for how it needs to change, and I don’t think we do.

  • I am totally for this being one of our main priorities, I voted for Norman Lamb during the leadership debate due to his stance on this issue. For those saying we should focus on the NHS and the economy, I agree, but remember the issue of drugs reform does affect the NHS and the economy, no issue in politics can be assessed in a vacuum.

  • Stephen Howse 22nd Oct '15 - 2:25pm

    “Stephen: As I said to George, these issues are important (more important than drug policy) but they don’t set us apart. We must have strong stances on them but they cannot be our flagship issue for that reason.”

    How many people take drugs or would like to? (Alcohol, being legal, doesn’t count.)

    Far fewer than pay tax and have jobs, I suspect. Which is why drugs cannot be our flagship issue. It might excite our activists, and it is an area where we can be genuinely distinctive, but saying “vote Lib Dem so you can get high” and making it the main focus of our campaigning simply is not going to have the cross-cutting appeal we need.

  • I think it will be sensible to get the first strike in. The war on drugs has failed and the US is edging towards legalisation so international pressure will ease and before you know it the issue will stop being any kind of issue at all. The main problem with these kinds of Liberal concerns is they have a short shelf life because they are easily co-opted when the social climate changes and cease to be distinctive fairly quickly. If you’re going to make this a distinctive policy the trick is to do it quick and make the other Parties look out of step. A lot of these drug laws are products of the Nixon era and international pressure driven by fear of the counter culture in the US, but that’s nearly half a century ago.

  • It’s clear reading this thread that the activists want to do something bold but I doubt it will happen. Other than a few brave MPs the party leadership are not going to make any bold statements and will most likely opt for some woolly cop out about treating it as a health problem or forcing all users into treatment. I imagine the party will miss the boat on this because it’s going to sail quicker than people think, it’s like gay rights 15 years ago.

    The chance for the MSPs and others to make some bold statements will be during the 2016 elections, but up here in Scotland at least I expect some wishy washy cop out and for 4 of the parties 5 seats to be lost as a result of not having any distinctive policies because they’re scared. I also expect the legalisation of cannabis party to beat the lib dems in some Scottish constituencies or regions.

  • Tristan Gray 22nd Oct '15 - 3:37pm

    Stephen: On “vote Lib Dem so you can get high”

    That’s not what drug reform is about. It’s about reform of the prison system, reform of policing, it’s about tax revenues and mental health. It’s about individual freedoms and policy based on evidence.

    As I mentioned in the article – Drug law reform is an area which can be packaged in a huge variety of ways and ticks through almost every area of liberal policy. “Vote lib dem so you can get high” barely even features among them.

  • So anyway, adopting cannabis legalisation as a flag ship policy. What do you think are the chances of the lib dems actually doing this and their elected representatives getting behind it actually are?

    I make the odds of that happening about zero. Shame though, it’s a great idea so thanks for the article Tristian. But they won’t get behind this until the battle is already won. It will be a bit like getting behind gay rights now as opposed to 20 years ago when the debate still needed to be had and support wasn’t nearly universal.

  • DavidW. If you think drug use is a victimless crime try being there when a relative destroys his family while he becomes a gibbering wreck only wanting his next fix. It is not all just puffing on a joint. Legalise it and there will still be drug dealers as the legal ways of buying will be too expensive as the corporations go in with glee. Diversification for the tobacco companies perhaps? There will still be victims of crime as addicts will still steal to get hold of money to pay for their drug of choice. I always see this liberalisation as a middle class initiative from those who can afford the drugs and want to be able to buy them easily.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Oct '15 - 1:24am

    Not that it matters much what I think, but I struggle to care about drug policies much. I can see the pros and cons of the different approaches and just think there’s so many other vital areas such as the economy, public services and security.

    I disagreed with Norman Lamb’s approach of emphasising niches such as drug reform and the right to die. It’s bread and butter policies that should be emphasised and niches should remain niches.

    I’d probably support legalising Marijuana though.

  • Ronald Murray 23rd Oct '15 - 6:49am

    I think this has to be handled very carefully. I have been told by a chemist several drugs used to treat MS have cannabis as part of the formula. I have a couple of friends with MS and neither have said they would have any truck with smoking cannabis. Possibly prescription only would be OK.
    The other thing is that it becomes the legal addiction of choice like alchohol. As well as drunks we will have spaced out individuals driving about, walking about and operating machinery (if there is any industry left under the present regime).
    There is always the risk of schizophrenia a medical friend tells me. I feel it would simply be another alchohol or tobacco problem. We must lead with really important policies not fringe stuff, which will lose us votes.

  • @Ronald Murray “not fringe stuff that will lose us votes…”

    Campaigning so strongly about waiting times for gender identity clinics is fringe stuff but it’s what the lib dems are doing up here, that’s an important issue too mind you, but it’s about as ‘fringe’ as it gets. Mind you it is also politically risk free and not likely to lose them any votes, but they won’t gain many votes from it either.

    Drugs legalisation is a very important issue, we’re talking about 100,000’s of lives wreaked by criminal records, 1,000’s needlessly in jail and billions in wasted money and lost tax revenue – frame it like that and it’s hardly a fringe issue. It will lose the lib dems some votes but it will gain them many more and mean the lib dems actually stand for something again. As a smaller party than the other two the lib dems have to mean something different to the others to be relevant, otherwise they will be overtaken by the Greens.

    You know, the biggest risk to the liberal democrats is not losing votes from a controversial liberal policy, the biggest risk is of not having any different policies and sliding into irrelevance and political oblivion as a result. If you doubt this, watch what happens to them in the Scottish elections next year.

  • Jenny Barnes 23rd Oct '15 - 9:11am

    If you watch real life police documentaries you will see that very often “known villains” who the police really want for knife crime, rape, violence and so on, get done for possession with intent to supply drugs. In other words, the current drugs policy effectively criminalises people, so that the police can arrest, charge and jail pretty much anyone they like. Imagine the carnage if, for example, car speed limits were actually enforced with criminal records and jail sentences….
    Bottom line – the deep state likes the current drug “policy” and will hang on to it as long as it possibly can.

  • I really like our approach to drugs and Nick is doing a great job leading the charge but this is not going to get us back into power. Tim has already called the big tree issues and they are: Housing, EU and Human Rights/Migration. That is enough to get our message through to the public and win us back a substantial vote. This campaign will be heard by those to whom it is a concern and rally them to our cause and essential to us being Liberals but it is not power politics. It is important but not on the same scale as the three already chosen. Let’s stay focussed.

  • No, No , a thousand times no. Put it in the manifesto by all means, about page 39. There is plenty of evidence to support decriminalising drug use and it would be a ‘sexy’ policy.
    Flagship policies should resonate with the electorate, boring I know.
    All flagship policies should centre around things that matter to the individual voter, in order of importance:
    1/ economy, jobs and taxation
    2/ NHS
    3/ education
    4/ National security and Law and Order
    5/ public services
    6/ the environment and energy policy
    7/ local government ( and devolution)
    8/ the EU etc.
    Any other structure would have the voters flummoxed and our canvassers confused.

  • We need a new flagship policy” [added emphasis]

    It’s the country that needs a new approach. Look around: after 35 years the neoliberal paradigm about what drives the economy works and how it should be run is visibly failing. Rampant (and growing) inequality, lack of opportunity, insecure jobs, unaffordable housing, austerity and even the failing in the NHS are all merely symptoms of this underlying reality.

    That’s what people want a solution for. They’re not going to be impressed by policies crafted for the needs of a particular party. (Although, for what it’s worth, I do agree that drugs policy needs a major overhaul.)

    Moreover, the outlook is dire. The government has failed to fix the deep-seated problems that neoliberal policies have caused since doing so would involve, among other things, tackling abuses by their friends and sponsors in the City and elsewhere. So, they’ve kicked the can down the road which kind of works in the short term but makes things much worse thereafter. And we’re just about out of road; serious people are now openly speculating about how long it will be before we get another crash, one that will be much worse than the last one.

    We should focus on getting to the bottom of what’s driving the economy in such a pathological way and coming up with solutions to put it onto a new course. Success in that would filter into every policy area in a good way. It would also make the Lib Dems fit for government.

  • If you fancy getting the NHS as a key reason for people to vote for you,
    A-Good luck
    B- Release the Risk register for the Health and social care act, which as a party you surely had access to as you voted for it.
    C- Read the Francis report, and see if the Department for Health being a purely political organisation that ignores every warning of staff leaving or major problems might somehow relate to that whole “ignoring issues for political gain” thing

    Although if you really want to complain about ignoring relevant issues for perceived political gain despite the obvious and repeatedly stated evidence that you are wrong and your plan will drive the issue involved into the ground, then just look at how well your party has done recently.

    Someone reading this has unreleased information about the H&SC act. Rebel. Do something useful. Let people know. Or just email it to me.

  • @ Eddie Couldn’t have put it better. We need to focus relentlessly on the bigger issues to win voters back and reach out to new ones: the NHS, housing, manufacturing, skills, jobs, education, fairer taxation, supporting those in greatest need, the environment and transport – ie providing some semblance of opposition to the Government. Drug law reform is the last thing on most people’s minds and, in some ways, going on about it as if it were a priority detracts from our credibility at such an important time.

    I also have to declare an interest though. I am on the whole against decriminalising drugs because I think it will lead to more drug use, which in turn will lead to more addiction and more mental health problems such as psychosis. I think we need to find a third way on drugs – for example to make drug use a civil rather than criminal offence.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 4:47am

    Yes Judy I agree. If there is strong evidence for Cannabis having mental health side affects then really how liberal is drug de-criminalisation actually?

  • Agree Eddie. For example, in a recent study published in the Lancet on psychosis and cannabis, first time psychosis found to be three times higher in skunk-like cannabis users than those who had never used the drug.
    http://www.thelancet.com/pb/assets/raw/Lancet/pdfs/14TLP0454_Di%20Forti.pdf

  • @Eddie “how liberal is drug decriminalisation really?”. Very, it’s like this, you don’t get to dictate how I live my life, even if it’s ‘for my own good’ or if you happen to believe you know what’s best for me.

    This is how the liberally minded seem to see things. The social democrats however see things differently.

    And that’s one of the problems with being two different parties merged into one. No consistency and being unable to stand for anything makes a political party irrelevant, especially a small one. I believe this is what will lead to the Green Party overtaking the Lib Dems.

  • DavidW: There is no sign of the Green Party overtaking the Liberal Democrats yet. Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party the Greens have lost thousands of members and their opinion poll ratings have dropped by about the same amount as the gains by the Labour Party. If the remaining members of the Green Party turn out to be more in tune with Liberal Democrat policies and principles there might be a case for an electoral pact in time for the next General election.

  • @nvelope2003:

    There is every chance of the Greens over taking the liberal democrats I’m afraid. The Greens already have more MEPs than the lib dems and look set to win more MSPs in less than a years time too. In all likelihood Corbyn will be gone before 2020 and we’ll see how good the Labour Party looks to those voters then.

    I intially wrote on this thread that the activists would be solidly behind this sensible proposal but the elected representatives wouldn’t be. But that was a bit premature, the activists are also divided on this. There is no easy way to fix this, an issue that essentially puts individual freedom to choose for ones self above the harm an individual may do to themself by exercising their free choice is always going to divide the liberals from the social democrats. Liberals want people to have freedom including the freedom to make their own mistakes, social democrats essentially want to control people for their own good.

    The smaller a party is the more principled it has to be. This party is never going to be able to unite around a divisive issue the way that the SNP or the Tories can. The only things this party can agree on are the things that almost everyone can agree on, and the other parties will have very similar policies on those issues.

    Making drug legalisation a flagship policy would put clear yellow water between the lib dems and the other parties and rally the liberally minded. It would win more votes than it cost simply because there are very few lib dem voters, but the social democratic wing of the party will never allow it. The lib dems are actually very divided and the MSPs seem risk adverse and scared of any divisive issue.

    I therefore predict that the Lib Dems will lose seats in Holyrood in May 2016. Let’s just wait and see who is right and who is wrong? Do you believe they can hold all five seats?

  • nvelope2003 24th Oct '15 - 9:29pm

    DavidW: I said there was no sign of the Green Party overtaking the Liberal Democrats YET. They might very well do so in the future but I am not entirely convinced that Jeremy Corbyn will be removed before the next election. Whatever his faults he does seem to have energised the Labour party and I think the majority of their new and even old members would rather have a party they are comfortable with than what they had before the 2015 election even if they cannot win in 2020. The Labour members of Parliament will probably take a different view but they have no power to remove him. Many of the new Labour supporters have come from the Greens, Communist Party, Socialist Workers party, old Labour ex members etc and those sort of people do not care much for the sort of policies the voters might like or vote for – if they did they would not have been in those parties.

    There have only been 3 prominent defections from Labour since 12th September and they are all from the Lords where they do not have to worry about getting re-elected. One of them Lord Adonis seems to have moved to the Conservatives without actually joining them. I would be surprised if any Labour MPs defected as they know what happened to the SDP MPs who did. They will cling on and hope for better times. Winning in 2025 would be better than 2035.

    I fear you may be right about the Liberal Democrats prospects in both the Scottish and Welsh elections next year. If only those elections were to be held in 2017 there would probably be a better result as the Conservatives might have lost some support by then. I do not think there will be much chance of a recovery anywhere before 2017 except possibly in the places where there is substantial support and/or the Labour Party is weak such as the South West and parts of the South East. We should try to rebuild support in the South West so that it might become like Scotland is to the SNP or Manchester to the Labour Party.

  • nvelope2003 24th Oct '15 - 9:33pm

    DavidW:
    As regards drug policy, while people should be able to do what they like
    in private there is a cost to the Health Service and the tax payers in
    dealing with the problems of drug addiction so this is not a clear cut
    issue. It may be that not all drug users will be a burden on the health
    service or the prison system but many of them are and the public might
    think that liberalising the laws will just encourage drug taking and
    create more problems. If there was convincing evidence to the contrary
    then people should be free to do as they like. When this has come up
    before the press has hammered the Liberal Democrats and they will do so
    again. You will have to hope that milions of voters feel so strongly
    that the laws should be relaxed that they will flock to our support. I
    have grave doubts that they will do so.

  • @nvelope2003: The MPs are the only people who (in practice) could remove Corbyn. They could trigger leadership election after leadership election by voting no-confidence until he refuses to stand again in the next contest. But you may very well be right, there is no guarantee that they will actually do this.

    As for the right wing press savaging the Lib Dems if they pledge to fully legalise cannabis, no doubt they will.

    The right wing press will savage the party for almost any policy that is worth while whether it is greater integration with Europe, taking more asylum seekers, refusing to use prison as a way of punishing each and every offence, increasing taxes to fund public services and benefits. etc, etc.

    The fact that there are so many people in the Lib Dems that refuse to do what is right on drug policy due to fear of the right wing press only convinces me that the Lib Dems are unfit to be in power and that there is no place left for them in British politics and that the party just need to go the way of the SDP.

    The last thing this country needs is more government by tabloid journalism. If that is all the Lib Dems have to offer the sooner they are off the national stage the better.

  • nvelope2003 25th Oct '15 - 6:19pm

    Political parties have to put forward policies which are likely to attract large numbers of voters if they want to achieve power. All the evidence seems to indicate that it would be very difficult for any party which put forward the policies that you support to do that without years of propaganda and even then they will have to be put forward in a crafty way so the voters do not see the full implications. However as the Liberal Democrats seem to be near rock bottom they may have no alternative but to advocate the policies you suggest to try to attract the support of the small number of voters who want those policies in order to remain in existence.

    The SDP disappeared because the Labour Party adopted its policies in order to regain power. Many people oppose legalising drugs even if they use them. Because someone thinks something is right does not make it so. What percentage of the voters actually use cannabis?

  • @nvelope2003
    ” 6.7 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59 using it in the last year, similar to the 2013/14 survey”
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/462885/drug-misuse-1415.pdf

    Also, you seem to be talking as if you believe in absolutes as regards right and wrong on this topic. I find that odd.

    Earlier you wrote : “while people should be able to do what they like in private there is a cost to the Health Service and the tax payers in dealing with the problems of drug addiction so this is not a clear cut issue”. We already pay those costs now, all of the countries that have decriminalised now have lower rates of users. Anyone familiar with the Netherlands will understand why this is and the effect it had on society, including lowering overall healthcare costs. Your assertion that it’s not a clear cut issue on the basis of cost to the NHS is incorrect, on those grounds it’s very clear cut and statistics on the subject have a remarkable consistency.

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