Here's what the UK's main political parties think about legalising cannabis
On June 8th the British people will be going to the polls for the third year on a row.
Key topics are sure to include Brexit, NHS and affordable housing. One hot topic that politicians are never keen to discuss is the reform of the UK's archaic and damaging cannabis laws. This is despite the fact that over 23% of the UK’s population – 14 Million people – have used cannabis in the last 12 months.
Last year, a Populus survey found that 58% of MPs support the legalisation of cannabis. Prominent politicians supporting legislation included Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister and Dr Dan Poulter, the former health minister.
As we have illustrious company supporting a more progressive cannabis policy dank! decided to take a look into exactly what the leaders of the UK's main political parties actually think.
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Leader: Theresa May Number of MPs: 330
Officially, the Conservative party does not support the legalisation of cannabis for either medicinal or recreational use. However, 55% of Conservative MPs support the relaxation of cannabis laws.
With Theresa May as Prime Minister, no one expects a logical approach to cannabis reform.
Historically, Theresa May has adopted a ‘tough on drugs’ approach to policy and she believes that the UK’s drug policy is working despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. It is argued her beliefs on drugs are based on her own personal and religious beliefs rather than anything substantial.
In 2016, Nick Clegg famously accused Mrs May of deleting sentences from a Whitehall report that concluded that there is no correlation between zero tolerance drug laws and the level of drug use.
Verdict – Despite large swathes of the Conservative party offering hope for cannabis reform, Theresa May’s drugs policy is heavily based on her uninformed personal opinions.
Stern, unwavering and ominous are adjectives that have been used to describe our current Prime Minister and as such, it is unlikely that she will change her mind on even the medicinal use of cannabis despite the plight of those in chronic pain and suffering disabilities.
Leader: Jeremy Corbyn Number of MPs: 229
The aforementioned Populus poll found that 60% of Labour MPs support the use of cannabis for medical reasons despite it not being the official stance of the party.
In 2001, under a Labour government, cannabis reform appeared likely. The then Home Secretary, David Blunkett reclassified cannabis from Class B to Class C which essentially removed the threat of arrest of possession.
It is estimated that the reclassification saved 199,000 police hours in the first year alone. However, In typical British fashion, it was reinstated as a class B against the advice of the Advisory Council of on the Misuse of Drugs.
Speaking at a Labour leadership debate in Glasgow 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would decriminalise cannabis for medical purposes, but stated that he did not support legalising any recreational drugs.
Verdict – With Jeremy Corbyn as the leader there is hope for a more progressive approach to drugs. However, dank! notes that Corbyn is calling only for the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis rather than legalisation.
Leader: Tim Farron Number of MPs: 9
The Liberal Democrats have a longstanding history of a progressive and evidence-based approach to cannabis legislation going back to the early noughties.
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dems’ health spokesman described the war on drugs as a "catastrophic failure."
Furthermore, in July 2016, ex-Lib Dem leader and former Deputy PM Nick Clegg called for the government to fall into line with other countries and listen to the plights of cannabis patients to change the law on cannabis.
Officially, the party does believe that drugs are bad for people however, they recognise the ‘ineffective’ war on drugs as the greater harm to society.
Their current leader Tim Farron believes “The war on Drugs is over”. In 2016 he produced a report that suggested that cannabis should be sold over the counter by licensed vendors. There is evidence this approach would inject nearly £1bn into the UK’s economy.
Verdict – Rather refreshingly, the Lib Dems want to take a scientific and evidence-based approach to cannabis regulation with the aim of controlling the potency and taking the trade away from the black market.
They recognise that the tide is turning and it is simply a matter of time before European countries - including the UK - move to legalise cannabis.
Scottish National Party
Leader: Nicola Sturgeon Number of MPs: 54
In October 2016, the SNP made history when the Ayr North branch of the party put forward a motion to decriminalise cannabis and voted overwhelmingly in favour of it.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is reserved in her support for cannabis legislation but agrees that “there is a specific case for medicinal use”.
Martin Docherty-Hughes the MP for East Dunbartonshire has gone further with his support. He went on record telling the Greenock Telegraph “It’s a disgrace in the 21st century that my constituents, living with chronic pain from conditions such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and avascular necrosis have to choose between suffering and breaking the law.”
This is a view shared throughout the party. A poll commissioned by Volteface found that a whopping 88% of SNP MPs support the legalisation of cannabis.
Verdict – Similar to the Liberal Democrats, the SNP want to take a progressive and evidence-based approach to cannabis. The party clearly shows compassion and shares empathy for the thousands of patients who risk being criminalised as a result of their medications.