My personal thoughts on Motion F7

I have lived with my grandparents all my life and as a result, especially since 2005 as I have been their registered carer, I have moved wherever and whenever they have moved and this means that since I became a Liberal Democrat in 1992, I have been all over the place.

However, there is one small downside to this and that is being able to get to big Lib Dem events. In those 24 years I have only managed to attend one regional conference, three Welsh conferences and no federal conferences or special conferences, which brings me to the reason for this (as the Americans would say) op-ed: Motion F7 at the conference in York discussing the paper launched a few days ago entitled “A Framework for a Regulated Market for Cannabis in the United Kingdom“.

Now, let me make this clear from the get go, having read the report I agree with a large number of things. For instance, “Each year, criminal gangs generate billions of pounds from the illegal drug trade – money which in turn funds organised crime. And each year thousands of people receive convictions for drug possession which will harm their education and employment prospects for the rest of their lives” is absolutely true.  Similarly “Liberal Democrats argue that we need an evidence based approach to drugs law, one which is based on independent and scientific advice, rather than fear and prejudice” is a statement I think we can all agree on.

However, I have to draw the line at the conclusion of the report that cannabis should be legalised and distributed via dedicated retail outlets, social clubs and via home growing.

Now, before the cat-calls of “Call yourself a Liberal Democrat!” start, I wish to make it clear I have no problem with legalisation of medical cannabis.

However, the idea of cannabis being freely available just doesn’t sit with me at all well. It is entirely possible that this is because I don’t have a very good relationship with drugs in general (hating all prescription medicines and only taking paracetamol when I have been in absolute agony).  Or maybe it is because I have been brought up by a family that doesn’t drink, smoke or take illegal drugs, or it may even be, if the internet quizzes I do are any guide, that I am such a Victorian in nature. But whatever the reason, I do know this, and it pains me to have to say this, but if Motion F7 is adopted as formal Liberal Democrat policy at the conference then I shall have to write to my local party with the following:

“Dear Mr. Chairman, following the adoption of Motion F7, on the subject of the regulated market in cannabis, I am writing to give advance notice that following the Assembly elections on May 5th, where I hope that Elizabeth Evans will be elected as the Liberal Democrat constituency Assembly Member for Ceredigion and Mike Powell will be re-elected as a regional list member for Mid and West Wales and where Richard Church will be elected as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys, I shall be tendering my resignation from the Liberal Democrats on May 9th 2016 for the reasons outlined in a posting on Liberal Democrat voice on March 10th 2016”

I really don’t want to have to do that as I know so many Liberal Democrats here in Ceredigion and online. But I cannot be part of a party that agrees to such a policy, therefore would ask that if anyone who reads this is able to attend the conference, you have my complete permission to read this out and ask for conference to send the motion back for consideration, or just plain vote against it.

* Harry Hayfield is a the sole Liberal Democrat representative on Llansantffraed Community Council in Ceredigion and has been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 24 years

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  • I’m sorry, but there’s absolutely no argument here other than “I have a gut feeling against this. So I’ll leave if you vote for it. So please don’t.”

    This is absolutely the _worst_ way to make policy I can think of.

    We should be making policy decisions based on harm reduction, personal freedom, and financial viability. Gut feelings and feeling uncomfortable are unfortunate, but restricting the actions of others because of them is, indeed, the opposite of the liberal approach.

  • This is what I said in a post yesterday on the subject:

    Cannabis use is linked with psychosis and possibly schizophrenia, unlike smoking, moderate drinking – and caffeine! There is a big difference. Recent evidence from King’s College London points to “substantially worse” outcomes for patients having a first episode of psychosis who use cannabis, with a “50 per cent higher frequency of hospital admissions.”

    And instead of the drug being worth billions to the awful drug gangs Norman Lamb writes about, it will be worth an estimated 1 billion in tax revenues to the Government! Once something is legal it can be advertised and promoted. All this will do is lead to more people smoking cannabis and, in reality, more addiction.

    This is what a recent scientific journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, said in September 2015:

    “In adolescents, increased social acceptance and decreases in the perception of cannabis’ risks are associated with increased use (Hall and Weier, 2015; Scheurmeyer et al, 2014). Already 2.6 million more people in the United States report near-daily cannabis use in 2013 compared with 2008 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2014). And cannabis legalization creates a powerful profit motive to create and maintain cannabis users, with the burgeoning marijuana industry following a similar business strategy as the tobacco industry (Richter and Levy, 2014), which will likely further increase cannabis use.”

    Criminalising cannabis use may have its problems and maybe offences should civil – I am no legal expert – but this policy is another case of the Lib Dems failing young people by not assessing the entirety of the evidence.

  • “As a matter of fact, second and third hand inhalers injest 1000x times the amount of drug being inhaled by the smoker.”

    I have a gut feeling that this statement is bollocks. Can anyone point me at evidence supporting this, on the off chance I’m wrong?

  • nigel hunter 10th Mar '16 - 9:35pm

    I know that he has experience behind his thoughts worthy of him. However I think it would be better to remain in the party, you are needed you have experience on the subject you can guide the party into a successful policy

  • Judy, the full report addresses the issue of advertising and also the health impact the drug can have. The point is you currently have an unregulated illegal market where people have no idea of the potency of what they are buying or what impact that could have on them.

    A regulated market would reduce the risk factor, allow people to know what they were buying and using. Put it this way, there are loads of strengths of alcohol available, and most people don’t buy the strongest. Likewise for cannabis if it were legalised. Currently you buy a product and have no idea – its like buying ‘alcohol’ and not knowing if its vodka or beer.

  • @Observer. This is what a Guardian columnist says about the Lib Dem’s suggested policy on this:

    Quite apart from the rights and wrongs of this, the move is not, politically very astute. At a time when more young people are abstaining from alcohol (reported in the news over the last week) trying to tempt them into voting Lib Dem so they can smoke cannabis legally is missing the mark, I think sp at least.

    It does seem like an attempt to ‘make up’ for tuition fees disaster in the worst possible way.

  • As someone who has been professionally involved with the Criminal Justice system at first hand, Prison service, Magistrates Courts, Youth Offending Service can I just say that all my experience has convinced me that drugs should be treated the same as alcohol, and be decriminalised. The Crime rate would fall, gang conflicts would significantly reduce, gang style shootings such as Manchester and London would reduce, the Courts would have a lower work load and as for the prison service, well back in the 1990’s I conducted a survey of receptions at a large city local prison and over 70% were convicted of a crime that somewhere along the line involved drugs, either taking, possession, violence involved in re-organising or getting and theft to finance. The police would be freed up to deal with other issues, indeed we should find huge cost savings in all the law enforcement agencies.
    I know cannabis can send the mind crazy if taken often, regular over a long period, but so does alcohol.
    To me the arguments in favour of decriminalisation are becoming indisputable.

  • What reasons?
    What you have mentioned are possible explanations for your opinion, only.
    What you have completely missed out on saying is anything that should matter to anybody else whatsoever.. am I supposed to be persuaded by the fact you clearly don’t have a rational approach to drugs in general and decide that this means that I should agree with you when you, apparently very predictably, just assume that it’s so bad to be worth leaving the party..
    This kind of threat is practically abusive, you say you’ll leave the party over it, but the only time you come close to stating a reason you literally used the word “something”!

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