Farron supports bid for cannabis legalisation in UK

Tim Farron has thrown his support behind a motion calling for the legalisation of Cannabis as the Guardian reports:

Farron is to endorse a motion at spring conference which calls on the party to extend its existing support for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use to recreational use.

The motion, to be tabled by the former health minister Norman Lamb, will be debated after the release of the findings of an expert panel appointed by the Lib Dems to examine how a legal market for the use of cannabis would work in the UK. The panel has found that the legal use of cannabis could save the exchequer more than £1bn a year. It could generate between £400m-£900m in tax revenues and could save £200m-£300m in the criminal justice system.

The Lib Dem leader said: “The Liberal Democrats will be releasing a report in due course that lays out the case for a legalised market for sales of cannabis. I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health.

“The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”

Farron and Lamb, the two rivals for the Lib Dem leadership after Nick Clegg stood down when the party lost 49 of its 57 MPs, showed that they wanted to act in a radical way when they href=”http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/12/liberal-democrats-expert-panel-cannabis-legalisation” data-link-name=”in body link” data-component=”in-body-link”>appointed the expert panel last October. The panel, whose members included the former chairman of the government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, Prof David Nutt, was charged with examining how a legal market for cannabis could work in Britain.

The motion is copied below. What do you think?

Conference notes:

That existing Liberal Democrat policy calls for those arrested with drugs for personal use to be diverted to treatment if they are problematic users or given education or Fixed Penalty Notices if they are not.

That the aim of drugs policy should be primarily to reduce public health harms and, as such, responsibility for drugs policy should sit predominantly with the Department of Health.

Existing Liberal Democrat policy enabling doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.

The growing number of international examples of cannabis being legally regulated, including in Uruguay and four US states, legal cannabis use in Dutch coffee shops and Spain’s registered cannabis social clubs, decriminalisation in Portugal, and plans from the Liberal Government in Canada to legislate for regulation.

The report from the independent expert panel on cannabis regulation convened by Norman Lamb which recommends how a regulated framework for cannabis could be implemented in the UK, with a view to reducing public health harms.

That economic analysis of the effect of legalising cannabis has found it could save the public purse £200–300 million per year in the criminal justice system and generate between £400 and £900 million in tax revenue, and that these figures were endorsed by the Treasury in a report commissioned by Liberal Democrat Ministers in the Coalition.

Conference believes that:

Debate around effective ways to reduce harm caused by drugs should be based on evidence of what works, not on political prejudice.

It is not right that every year tens of thousands of people receive a criminal record for recreational use of cannabis, leaving a devastating long-term impact on their education and employment chances.

As with all drugs, cannabis carries health risks and through legal regulation it is possible to make cannabis products far safer for use than when they are sold through an unregulated criminal market. The Government should not miss out on hundreds of millions in tax revenue from sales of cannabis products while criminal gangs collect hundreds of millions of pounds in untaxed profits.

Conference calls for:

Government to develop a framework for the legal regulation of cannabis in the UK, taking account of the recommendations of the independent expert panel convened by the Liberal Democrats and taking into account evidence from international frameworks for the regulation of cannabis, including:

The establishment of an independent regulatory authority to oversee and license the production and sale of cannabis products. Age restrictions on the sale of cannabis products and health information made available to all purchasers at the point of sale. Clear limits on the strength of cannabis products made commercially available.

Clearly defined premises in which cannabis products can be sold, including the introduction of cannabis social clubs.

Clear restrictions around the packaging and marketing of cannabis products.

A system of taxation which is designed to discourage more harmful use.

The re-scheduling of cannabis to allow doctors the freedom to prescribe cannabis products as medicines to their patients where they consider it will be beneficial.

Government to increase expenditure on public health education programmes about the risks of drug use to ensure consumers are informed about the risks of consumption and to discourage harmful drug use.

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  • “A system of taxation which is designed to discourage more harmful use.”

    What on earth does that mean ?

  • A Social Liberal 12th Feb '16 - 6:22pm

    So will the policy include allowing people to grow their own – including skunk? You know, the type of cannabis which causes paranoia and at it’s worst psychotic episodes which can last years.


  • Billy Boulton 12th Feb '16 - 6:25pm

    Endorse this motion 100% except for the need for slight clarification as to what a cannabis social club is. not sure outlawing ALL indoor public tobacco smoking, while allowing indoor public cannabis smoking is terribly consistent, other than that a good liberal policy stance and long overdue.

  • I totally agree with Tim and in 10 or 15 years time every party will agree with Tim.

    For a so called ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ party this is almost coming a decade to late! Mind you the two big parties and the SNP have not yet come to this conclusion so the lib dems are ahead of them. Still decades behind the greens and years behind UKIP though!

    The problem, as always, is can you trust the lib dems on this? Will Lib dem MPs undermine this by queuing up to tell the press that they don’t support this and introduce private members bills urging David Cameron to “get tough”?

    This is the problem, it’s a great policy but you can’t trust the lib dems to mean it or stick to it, so if you really believe this is important as a small minority do sure you should vote UKIP or green?

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Feb '16 - 7:01pm

    I’ve got a problem with passive smoking, babies and cannabis. I walk into a flat often with a new born baby in it and when I enter the block of flats I can often smell cannabis downstairs. They have complained about it, but haven’t been able to stop it. I don’t like the idea of the baby having to inhale that stuff.

    This is probably fine, but let’s not go all pro drugs and ignore things like passive smoking and accidents.

  • @Billy Boulton
    It works pretty well in Amsterdam, you can only smoke Cannabis inside designated coffee shops and tobacco/cigarettes is prohibited. You can still sample pipe tobaccos & cigars in approved tobacconists here so I can’t see why it can’t be applied the same way

  • John Mitchell 12th Feb '16 - 8:20pm

    I support rehabilitative centres and support. Perhaps the penalties for drug possession and drug use need to be examined in further detail for certain or infrequent offenders. Overall though I would not go as far as legalising cannabis. This is because the medical and scientific community have still not judged the effects of its usage. It has been linked to making mental health illnesses worse or prevalent. Furthermore, not all kinds of cannabis are the same and some are stronger than others.

  • In the 1960/70’s the Liberals were full of people wanting the legalisation of cannabis, scrapping the HofL’s, electoral reform, getting rid of our nuclear weapons etc and they had only had a handful of MP’s. In 40/50 years little – or nothing – has changed, the voters are still not showing any support for these policies. Recognise that hardly anyone goes to prison for the personal use of cannabis these days and the vast majority of the population are happy with the drug laws as they are. Stop living in the past and find policies that the majority of the population will support. The LibDems often seem to look down on the views of the majority and that really isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  • I Looked it up. The lib dems did something like this ages ago. They have been playing this card for over a decade then u-turning. Sadly, those who believe legalisation is important need to vote green or vote UKIP as the lib dems record proves they can’t be trusted not to u-turn again on this. The lib dems Simply can’t be trusted when it comes to drug policies.

  • @Ann Stoker
    “In view of the composition of the ‘expert panel’ appointed by the LibDems which consists of five known individuals who have campaigned publicly for the legalisation of cannabis, why are they bothering?”

    Didn’t you read the text of the motion? The Lib Dems want to base policy on evidence, not prejudice. This, apparently, is the way you do it.

    I couldn’t care less what adults do to themselves so long as they’re not harming others, but I echo the views of others that I wouldn’t want to see a complete free for all. I don’t want myself and my kids to have to be breathing this stuff in when we’re walking down the street, in the park, or whatever. Yet this seems to be what the Lib Dems are proposing.

  • I hope those who are influential in the Liberal Democrat party read the comments by Malc (8.43 pm), especially the last line and having read them do something about it instead of burying their heads in the sand. There have been some encouraging local government by election results but after an initial flurry of seats gained in June, there have been hardly any gains since Tim Farron became leader. Why is this ?

  • Rsf7: “if you really believe this is important as a small minority do” – should a small minority dictate to the majority ? A party which advocates policies supported by a small minority will not achieve much success or influence. The Greens and UKIP have not got very far in over 20 years and the Liberal Democrats have only fared slightly better because of traditional support in some parts of Britain and their former value as a repository for protest votes before UKIP took over that role.

  • @nevelope2003

    Should a small minority dictate policy? No evidence should do that. The majority of the population wouldn’t object too much to cannabis legalisation, this isn’t the 1990s the population are way past that stage, USA and Canada are quietly legalising and nobody is up in arms.

    I was talking about the small minority who would let cannabis policy determine their vote. Those who want legalisation should not vote lib dem as the lib dems can’t be trusted to do it.

    Canal is legalisation is like gay rights 20 years ago, the general public don’t really care and a few activists really care, they should not vote lib dem

  • Victor Grayson 13th Feb '16 - 1:32pm

    Addiction to drugs like cannabis is dangerous to individuals families and society in general. We need to concentrate on getting rid of the dreadful stuff.

  • Once again half the lib dems are on one side of the fence, the other half are on the other. This why the anti drug activists should not trust the lib dems on this, you cannot be sure if their position will change or what way they will go. The party has become a bit of a joke, it’s not just a broad church it’s standing for absolutely nothing.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Feb '16 - 4:44pm

    I’d rather support a party that had people putting across different points of view than one that just said “drugs are bad” or “drugs are good”.

  • Peter Reynolds 13th Feb '16 - 7:05pm

    @A Social Liberal: “– including skunk? You know, the type of cannabis which causes paranoia and at it’s worst psychotic episodes which can last years.”

    There is no evidential basis for this statement at all. The hysteria about skunk and psychosis is largely a tabloid invention. There is correlation between cannabis use and psychosis but the latest research from the Institute of Psychiatry shows that smoking cigarettes increase the risk by twice as much as using cannabis.

    Your words are taken from tabloid headlines and there is not an iota of truth in them.

  • @eddie

    The lib dems don’t just have opposing views though, they have no consistent ideology at all. I have also discovered that there is a legalise cannabis party in the UK now. Perhaps it would just make sense for drug legalisers to vote for them, at least they mean it. Lib dems have clearly played to many games with this in the past to be trusted on it now.

    I actually like what the lib dems are saying in Scotland right now. Legalise cannabis, increase taxation for most people to increase public spending especially in education. But there is no way I’d vote lib dem again, they’ve proven that they’re untrustworthy and you never know what you’ll actually get from lib dems in power.

  • @a social liberal.

    Cannabis of any type has never been proven to cause mental illness, there is a slight correlation, but correlation is not causation, do you actually understand the difference?

  • Having witnessed many young cannabis users letting their education go literally to pot, I would need a lot of convincing that this is to be encouraged. Of course there is a question of cause and effect here: were they stoners because they took cannabis or did they take cannabis because they were stoners?

    Smoke inevitably contains a myriad of partially oxidised chemicals, many of which will be carcinogenic in varying degrees, it is irresponsible to encourage it. We regulate and ban all sorts of chemical additives, there is no reason why cannabis should be an exception. There can be no objection to regulated medicinal use of cannabinoids, which could be quite widely available if shown to be no more harmful than comparable medical products.

  • @Rsf7 Rates of psychosis have been found to be up to is three times higher in skunk users – and that was reported in the Guardian! http://bit.ly/1Dxvy4v

    @Martin and @John Mitchell and others. I agree. I am sorry to say this seems like another case of the Lib Dems jumping on a non-evidence based bandwagon – and letting young people down again (as if tuition fees wasn’t enough). I was thinking about rejoining the Lib Dems, but cannot bring myself to do so now – even though I’ve just been out delivering Focus leaflets!

  • Peter Reynolds 15th Feb '16 - 9:54am

    @Judy Abel One article in The Guardian is all it takes to convince you and you think it amounts to evidence?

    The cannabis psychosis scare story is a creation of the tabloid press which has vastly exaggerated the results of small studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry, not one of which has shown any causal relationship between cannabis use and psychosis. All that has been shown is correlation. In fact the latest research shows that correlation is twice as high between cigarette smoking and psychosis as with cannabis.

    Here’s a different view from Canada:

    “CANNABIS PROHIBITIONISTS ARE LITERALLY INSANE” http://cannabisincanada.ca/cannabis-prohibitionists-are-literally-insane/

  • Martin

    I think you write common sense with the compassion of first hand experience.I think the problem is tobacco and spirits.As long as we know both of them can be or in fact are regularly wrecking and ending lives , yet are legal , how can we treat cannabis users as criminals .

    It is the same as with a more open minded and considered view on certain conditions allowing for legal prostitution.As long as hard core and even extremely ,but conensual, violent pornography is legal , it is wrong to criminalise a prostitute or punter.

  • David Faggiani 17th Feb '16 - 5:43pm

    I agree with Tim’s proposal. I agree with the end of prohibition. And I hope the electorate, or, at least, quite a bit of the electorate, will agree.

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