My response to the debate on motion F7 (Regulation of cannabis)


Note: you can view the debate here, about 2 hours 48 minutes in.

First of all, kudos to our party. Who else would not only discuss an issue that is usually swept under the carpet, but broadcast that debate live on the Internet and then keep it there for everyone to watch / listen to. As a result, I shall summarise my thoughts on each of the speeches.

Norman Lamb MP (Norfolk North) is of course, absolutely correct. Reports of this nature take a long time to compile and the panel who came up with this report should be applauded for their efforts. He is also right to bring up the fact that several members of the current Cabinet, through public statements, have admitted using cannabis and therefore are guilty of hypocrisy. Therefore, in conclusion what Norman said is entirely correct, we need to have a debate, and a debate is precisely what I applaud.

Lee Dargue (Birmingham, Edgbaston) who summed up his amendment by saying “What Norman said” which is succinct and to the point, and he is right. We started the conversation about the mental health of this nation and I have to admit that conversation seems to have come to a bit of a grinding halt post general election. However, whilst recognizing that “fourteen year olds are having sex” and that “fourteen year olds are doing drugs”, I would like to counter that when I was fourteen I was not doing drugs nor having sex and I put that down wholly to being brought up by my grandparents and therefore believe that closer family discussions on these subjects would be an avenue to explore.

Hywel Davies (Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire) told the conference about his diagnosis of three brain tumors (including a lymphoma) that required four cycles of chemotherapy. But unlike most patients on that treatment, he was able to walk to the shops next door along with only being fractionally sick compared to other people on the same treatment. When a doctor asked him why he replied that it was because he had cannabinols in his system (which is the active ingredient in cannabis) and thus proved why I have no objection in the slightest to medical cannabis being made legal.

Julliet Makhapila (Islington) spoke against the motion and raised at least one of my concerns over this policy. The impact on Equatorial Africa of international policies as he explained how villages in Kenya were being destroyed by cannabis retailing for ten shillings (seven pence) and that if the policy was passed, Kenya would move to becoming one of the largest cannabis production centres in the world condemning even more people to a life of handouts.

Ian McGrath (Bromley) spoke about his personal experience of the topic under discussion as he related how his third son, after experimenting with cannabis in his secondary school days he drifted into paranoia and psychosis and eventually was recruited as a drugs mule where he died in St. Lucia trafficking cocaine and used this heart wrenching experience to advocate the motion being passed.

Ewan Hoyle (Glasgow South) first of all thanked Ian for his story, and his own experiences with the subject were also very moving to hear which was then followed by a barnstormer of a speech by Elizabeth Adams (who I do so hope gets to represent the electors of Stratford and Southern Warwickshire at Westminster).

After the main speeches there were forceful interventions from Andrew Hudson (Barrow in Furness), Martha Vickers (Newbury), George Miles (Hereford), Jeff Reid (Bradford), Peter Costa-Vardakas (Kensington and Chelsea), Brian Stokes (York), Jack Davies (New Forest) and James Blamshire (York).

Richard Church (Montgomeryshire) then most definitely opened my eyes when he stated that the second place, after Merseyside, where you had the greatest chance of being charged with drug possession was not the conurbations of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands or indeed London but rural Wales and yet, the same area has the lowest amount of recorded crime in the United Kingdom. He then stated that until it was proven that cannabis taking had a direct link to cases of sheep rustling (a crime that has ruined many a local farmer in Ceredigion) he would vote in favour of the motion.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my previous post, being a registered carer does come first and therefore helping my grandparents with some errands in the garden I missed the rest of the debate (and would therefore like to apologise to those members whose contributions I did not hear) but did manage to get back in time to hear the end vote. The first vote was on the amendment moved by Lee which was carried and then the second vote on the amended motion which was also carried which means that, as I mentioned in my posting, the party now holds a position I am uncomfortable with.

Now, whether they were watching the debate live like me, or not I cannot say, but a friend of mine from Wells constituency e-mailed me a few moments after the debate saying “I find it utterly depressing that anyone would bother to use cannabis, and would hate to see its use increase. On the other hand, it does waste an awful lot of police time, and it would be good to move the flow of income from the criminals to public services” and suggested that, as my grandparents had said after I made my posting, “It is better to be in an organization protesting a decision from the inside, rather than protesting a decision outside” and then reminded me that the Liberal Democrats are a federal organization and therefore I could try and organise a discussion on the policy in Wales ensuring that the medicinal use of cannabis is permitted but not the general use. Therefore that is what I have decided to do and at the next conference, probably autumn, if I am able to, I would like to table a motion calling on the Welsh party to adopt such a policy.

* 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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  • Thanks for taking the time to do this, Harry; a thoughtful piece.

    There is no evidence that legalisation would increase usage, and your right that we should support programs to alleviate usage or help people to stop – or not start at all. That’s why it’s great amendment 1 was passed so we make explicit reference to that.

    If you’d like further info or help with drafting, I’d be happy to help!

    Lee (2nd speaker in debate).

  • nigel hunter 14th Mar '16 - 9:51am

    Well done for you stance. Grand parents and grandchildren have an affinity to each other’ Use their wise council to assist you in your efforts. Communicate with Norman Lamb to ensure a wise successful conclusion to motion F7.

  • Whilst, of course, no drug is without harm – particularly for those with sensitivity to that substance, cannabis is one of the safer ones, when used appropriately. There are swings and roundabouts with anything, naturally; I’ve used it a few times for recreation reasons when I was younger and whilst mild intoxication can be pleasant, larger doses are not.

    This is the case with anything, though – compare a pint of beer or a glass of wine with a bottle of vodka. My father died as a result of a long-standing addiction to ethanol, which almost certainly started with social use, and then became self medication for depression. He would quite possibly still be alive if he’d used something else. On the other hand, another relative of mine used to self medicate his mental health issues with cannabis, but stopped doing so because it did not interact well with the meds he was prescribed.

  • Peter Reynolds 14th Mar '16 - 10:23am

    I think the issue Harry is that the genie is already out of the bottle. Three million people use cannabis regularly (at least once per month), 30% of all of us will use cannabis at some stage in our lifetime. We consume more than 3.5 tons per day.

    When you write “I could try and organise a discussion on the policy in Wales ensuring that the medicinal use of cannabis is permitted but not the general use.” you remind me of those authoritarians in both Tory and Labour parties who think their laws will make the blindest bit of difference. All that will happen is we will continue to pump £500 million per annum in law enforcement costs in a futile attempt to bully millions of our fellow citizens.

    All that such enforcement achieves is to waste a great deal of money and cause far more harm to both individuals and society than cannabis ever has.

  • What I find really disappointing is the fact that the science and evidence behind Cannabis is crystal clear but Cannabis is still being treated as only a recreational or medicinal drug when in fact it is a psychoactive Vegetable or non psychoactive Vegetable depending on its use, Here are the crystal clear compositions and therapeutic properties of the raw marijuana juice
    In natural form, marijuana is a super-nutrient, rich in essential nutrients capable of preventing and healing many diseases, these essential nutrients include essential fatty acids, essential aminoacids, fibers, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, carotenoids, terpenes, and phytocannabinoid acids. Cannabis should be available at all the vegetable markets and at the juice stores and recreational / medicinal dispensarys, even restaurants it should be at your local shop in the fruit and vegetable section it should be in the hospitals and pharmacies. Treat Cannabis with the respect it deserves it is so much more than just a psychoactive vegetable

  • Harry Hayfield 14th Mar '16 - 12:52pm

    Lee, thank you very much indeed for the kind offer. I can do the “Believes” and “Notes” bit but it’s the “Calls” bit that always throws me. Nigel, my grandparents (as I mentioned in my original posting) have, in effect, been my parents all my life (and therefore I take their advice all the time).

  • Cannabinoids help the regulatory system of our body to be more efficient. In summary, they are nutrients that help to better regulate the performance of our 210 types of body cells. We are not talking here about their use as a medicine, but simply as essential nutrients.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Mar '16 - 3:06pm

    I’m generally supportive of legalising cannabis, but we need to be careful we don’t celebrate liberty so much that we neglect health.


  • Eddie Sammon 14th Mar '16 - 3:16pm

    There’s also the John Stewart Mill harm principle: as I’ve said: I know a three month old baby in a block of flats and he regularly has to consume cannabis passively from the flat downstairs. How is that fair?

    If it isn’t for medical reasons then such behaviour should be banned.

  • While I believe there is enough evidence that cannabis can cause psychological damage (and that its a mistake to suggest the scientific evidence only suggests it becomes damaging when not used in moderation) it is not right to treat all those using it as criminals.

  • I have written a lot on these pages over the past few days against legalisation. I find the idea of legalising something linked to psychosis very dispiriting. Legalisation will increase use, use will increase addiction and mental health problems, not in everyone, but in enough people to make this the wrong decision. To quote a scientific article in the Journal of Neuropharmacology from 2014:

    “While it is clear that more systematic scientific studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behavior, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching influence on adult addictive behaviors particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals”

    OK so we say under-18s wouldn’t be able to buy cannabis under our proposals, but I don’t expect the effects simply end at 18. First time psychosis in all ages is significantly higher in cannabis users too. I have provided references in previous posts.

    Cannabis use has actually been coming down partly because of good drug education in schools. Legalising it will reverse that trend.

  • PS This is a useful summary of the risks to mental health from Harvard Health

  • In response to Eddie Sammon, firstly if that same person who is consuming cannabis instead was to consume cigarettes in that same manner it is still going to be harming the baby down stairs in the flat below. We need good education and basic guidelines and some rules to protect the children the most if we continue to focus on cannabis prohibition for consenting adults we cannot truly dedicate all our resources to protecting the children.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Mar '16 - 2:19am

    Thanks John. The baby is actually in a flat upstairs, but it annoys me that he has to inhale the cannabis fumes coming out of the flat downstairs on entry and exit to the house. It would be even worse if the people in that flat downstairs had a baby of their own.

    Basically my message is that when we are dealing with something that isn’t just harmful to the person using it, so we need to be careful that we don’t sound like legalising cannabis is a super progressive measure like legalising gay marriage. One can harm others, the other can’t.

  • I understand completely and it is definitely not fair for anyone especially a young child that cannot remove themselves from the situation to have to suffer the effects, but if the adults can still smoke cigarettes I don’t see how your argument makes the difference if there was no such thing as cigarettes then you would have a much better argument but the main point here is awareness and education, just as you shouldn’t smoke cigarettes around children or in the same room the same should apply for cannabis the people need to know it’s not acceptable to smoke around children full stop, there should also be maybe flats that are smoke free especially for those with children. Also the main reason so many people smoke cannabis is because it is the easiest and cheapest option, prohibition has made it mainly a popular plant to smoke, when in fact it can be vaporised in an electronic cigarette or a vaporiser it can be eaten as food or in capsules, cannabis patches ( nicotine patches) and many more options, I think you will find with cannabis legalisation many more people even full time smokers would prefer to consume their cannabis in a safer manner without the harmful effects that smoking cannabis can bring but with legalisation and the right steps in place eventually smoking cannabis will be a thing of the past for many if not most of the population

  • I think the fact Cannabis is a vegetable that can heal and prevent so many diseases makes Legalising Cannabis a super progressive measure even more so than gay marriage. Why should we wait to get cancer and then act on it when drinking raw cannabis juice can prevent it and many other life threatening conditions, prevention is always better than a cure. The nutritious foods we consume should be the main medicine for keeping our bodies in tip top shape, medications should come after all else fails

  • Item on the BBC News website :

    “A teenager accused of deliberately running over and killing a police officer has been a cannabis user since the age of six, a court has heard. Father-of-two PC Dave Phillips, 34, died when he was hit by a pick-up truck in Wallasey, Wirral, in October.

    Clayton Williams, 19, had been buying drugs and had smoked a “spliff” before stealing the Mitsubishi truck, Manchester Crown Court heard. Mr Williams denies murder and claims he did not intend to injure the officer. In police interviews, he told officers he suffered “bad memory loss” and “smoked a lot of weed”.

  • “Reports of this nature take a long time to compile and the panel who came up with this report should be applauded for their efforts.”

    Actually the report was put together during “three half-day workshops” in December and January, plus some email correspondence.

    There seems to be some confusion over the nature of this report. The authors were not asked to consider whether we should have a legal cannabis market. They were asked to suggest how such a market should be organised, which of course is very different. The idea that cannabis should be legalised was taken as a given before a word of the report was written, so I think it’s important to stress what this report was not i.e. it was not a bunch of “independent” experts considering whether cannabis should be legalised or not.

  • Thank you Harry for your comments! We’re definitely working hard on the election! Good luck with your campaigning.

  • So David Raw – prohibition worked really well in that case then!

  • Jonathan Liebling 19th Mar '16 - 3:12pm

    I would like to thank, both, our party for approving this policy and Harry for writing this review. As Political Director of United Patients Alliance who are a support and campaigning community of 1000s of medical cannabis patients in the UK, you won’t need me to tell you what I think should happen here and moreover I would like to draw your attention to our #EndOurPain campaign (Backed directly by Nick Clegg and several more LibDem MPs – please sign, promote and support)
    On the subject of general consumption, which this policy is about, there are a few inaccuracies within the comments, that I would like to address:

  • Jonathan Liebling 19th Mar '16 - 3:13pm

    Judy stated that “Legalisation will increase use” – Our very own International Comparators Report, published whilst in coalition proves beyond doubt that in fact, the legal status of a drug or the level of punishment has absolutely no significant impact on rates of drug use.
    In countries and states that have legalised cannabis a small “tick” up has been seen, however, alongside it has come a 25% reduction in Opiate addiction and death, significant reduction in problems with other illicit drugs and a 15% reduction in problems associated with alcohol abuse too. Whilst cannabis can be addictive, there is no physical addiction and the rate is far lower than other substances.
    “legalising something linked to psychosis very dispiriting” – Firstly, Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine all have a significantly higher link with psychosis than cannabis. As above – legal regulation will reduce harm and since the ONLY evidence of causation is with young people with a predisposition to a mental illness who start early consuming large quantities of the most harmful types of cannabis – This really is not a major issue and whilst the entire market is in the hands of criminals and you risk criminalisation for admitting use, no one cares about the health or age of the user, the quality and strength of the product and the user is unlikely to seek help if they run into issues for fear of prosecution. A legal regulated market will address these issues far more effectively and once again, harm will be reduced. Another aspect to consider here are the benefits to some patients mental health. As CBD is currently being researched as an anti-psychotic for the treatments of all sorts of disorders, this must be balanced against the perceived harms.

  • Jonathan Liebling 19th Mar '16 - 3:14pm

    “Cannabis use has actually been coming down” – actually the rates are directly in line with the ebb and flow of global drug use popularity, but, it is unwise to take this statistic in isolation; what is more concerning is the rapid increase in use of “Synthetic cannabis” products (Legal Highs) probably due to its legal status and our lack of ability to test for them, so is seen as a safer option for many, including those in prison or with job that expose the user to drug testing. In addition a significant increase over the same time period in harder drug use. Deaths from Heroin and Cocaine overdoses have increased by about 30% over the same period.
    Legalising and regulating – will reverse those trends.

    As you might imagine, I have a wealth of information, including the lasted and best peer reviewed research and can justify, with same, every statement I have made – Happy to respond to any and all challenges and questions.

  • Jonathan Liebling 19th Mar '16 - 3:18pm

    BTW: If I can, and you would like to read it – Here was my immediate response to the proposal:

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