Cameron rejects decriminalising drugs


David Cameron: ''I don't support decriminalisation''

Related Stories

The idea of a royal commission to consider decriminalising illegal drugs - as suggested by a group of MPs - has been ruled out by the prime minister.

In response to the report by the home affairs select committee, David Cameron said the current policy was working in Britain.

The committee highlighted Portugal's approach, where people found with drugs are not always prosecuted.

It also asked ministers to monitor cannabis legalisation elsewhere.

"Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference, " Mr Cameron said.

"Also, we need to do more to keep drugs out of our prisons.

"These are the government's priorities and I think we should continue with that rather than have some very, very long-term royal commission."

A royal commission is a public inquiry created by the head of state into a defined subject and overseen by a commissioner who has quasi-judicial powers.

Legal highs

Official figures show that drug use in England and Wales is at its lowest rate under current measurements since 1996.

Ex-addict, Paul Spittlehouse: "I wasn't affected by the threat of conviction"

However, there is concern over the growth and prevalence of "legal highs", some of which are banned, amid a recorded rise in deaths linked to their use.

The committee stops short of supporting a relaxation of legal sanctions for drug use, as suggested by experts at the UK Drug Policy Commission in October, but it does call on ministers to look in detail at the idea.

The Dissuasion Commission: Portugal's answer

In Portugal, resources are focused on drug treatment rather than law enforcement. Users of small amounts of drugs don't face a criminal penalty if they attend a "Dissuasion Commission". It establishes whether the user is addicted or just a casual user.

The commission stops criminal proceedings if a problem user agrees to treatment - but it will also impose penalties on a user if he or she goes back to drugs. These include bans on certain types of work and restrictions on the user's movements and whom they can meet.

Fines tend to be reserved for casual drug users because Portuguese experts say it is counter-productive to fine addicts.

If the individual sticks with the programme and emerges clean, he or she has no criminal record.

In its wide-ranging report, the cross-party home affairs committee said MPs had visited Portugal as part of attempts to understand different systems of decriminalisation which were being used around the world to manage the harm of drugs, rather than just hand out penalties for their use.

Portugal has not legalised drugs but it has a system of not imposing criminal penalties on drug users who enter into special programmes designed to end their habits.

"We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system," said the MPs. "It had clearly reduced public concern about drug use in that country and was supported by all political parties and the police.

"The current political debate in Portugal is about how treatment is funded... not about depenalisation itself.

"Although it is not certain that the Portuguese experience could be replicated in the UK, given societal differences, we believe this is a model that merits significantly closer consideration."

The committee urged ministers to monitor the effect of plans for cannabis legalisation in the US states of Colorado and Washington and in Uruguay,

The MPs said that, although drug use was falling, the impact of their use still cost billions and there were questions over whether the international strategy was working.

They said the time was right for a "fundamental review of all UK drugs policy in the international context" and recommended a royal commission be set up with an end-date of 2015.

The Home Office disagreed that a Royal Commission was the correct course of action, saying: "Our current laws draw on the best available evidence and as such we have no intention of downgrading or declassifying cannabis."

However, the Home Office minister Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat, said the government was "open to new ways of thinking".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are open-minded, we think it's a decent, thoughtful, balanced report. We will consider it carefully."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    Of course, legalization would cause a ruckus, leave thing the way they are, and although things are never quite silent, they can be pushed to the background. A little like tinnitus, really, it never really goes away, you just ignore it as much as you can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    One of the primary arguments against cannabis has always been that it's a 'gateway drug'. Well if you take the supply out of the hands of dealers who may well be stocking something heavier than plant matter and create a regulated, taxed industry then you close that gateway and make money that would otherwise be going to the hands of criminals. Anyone against this must be on drugs or something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Of course its different with the cocaine snorting rich people of London and the City. Do they ever get busted?

    Again Murdoch has inflenced British policy so these MP committes stand for absolute zero.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    To the people who have submitted negative comments. What you know about drugs is extremely little and only get your relevant information from government funded campaigns which purposefully exasturbate the dangers of drug usage. Funny how they are not as keen to run ads on the bad effects of lovely taxed alcohol which kills alot more people than drugs as well as having the lovely effect of violence

  • Comment number 323.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    @PhilSears 297, WRONG!! You are believing a myth there, I've been tested after 2 weeks and been clear that's only 14 days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    256. MIke Eckhoff

    While there are people like you in the population, nothing will ever change and soft recreational drugs will continue to be peddled by criminals.
    "All drugs are filth" you say, clearly without any understanding of what you're talking about.
    I take it you're in favour of life sentences for tea and coffee users too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    As expected this HYS descends into the usual coalition bashing from the left about not using evidence to make decisions and not understanding the people because they are all millionaires......

    ....but Labour got there first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Can you imagine the tabloid headlines if he didn't reject it? N'ah, he's already on weak foundations. There's no way he would ever step foot on something so risky that might take the ground out from under him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    "has been ruled out by the prime minister." When did the UK beomce a dictatorship with one toff idiot deciding ALL policy ?????? We have 650 MP's who should vote on this. It is not a decision a single out of touch toff should impose on 60 million people !!! Democracy, not dictatorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Chubby Pandas, here you go, I've done your research for you.
    In 2002 David Cameron called for the UN to debate legal regulation, and ... possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs
    So yes, a complete change of tune. This one's a foxtrot....

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    1. Does Cameron want more dealers selling to our kids?
    2. Ppl choose if they want to smoke?
    3. Income tax for this sad country we live in

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Millions are spent each year and lives are lost in a fruitless effort to control the drugs trade. There will always be a demand and this demand will be met by criminals while it remains illegal and dare I say glamorous. Make it legal, control the trade, undercut the criminals and get some tax revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    No surprise that Scumeron is against a logical idea, the man is so out of touch with reality that it is truly frightening...

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Well of course he is, why let people make informed educated decisions about there own life when he can spend/waste millions of pounds on the war on drugs, which i add is lost.

    Experts agree, think tanks agree, europe agrees even the USA agree (to a point) but our PM knows better than all of these informed people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    I know lots of people who have & do use recreational drugs, I know of many who have had life wrecked or ended by alcohol but I have to say I personally know none who have had the same problems with illicit drugs, especially cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Politicians are scared of bad press and attacks from the other side.

    Personally I'd vote for decriminalising the lot and I accept that I, and probably millions of others would want to try the drugs I've been so far denied access to. I've tried most, but have stopped short of trying heroin. I'd definitely want to give them all an occasional go if they were cheap and clean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Some of the arguments posted on here are beyond silly they are absurd! The best one is, legalising would get rid of the criminal element. Who are you kidding? There is plenty of documented evidence that the criminal element are moving from drug importation to Alcohol and Tobacco smuggling. The criminal element will stay to undercut the taxed & legalised drugs with the same poor quality product.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    when people are poor they turn to excessive drinking,drug abuse, or any other vent in order to cope with the poverty they are in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Soft drugs lead to the hard stuff I'm told and users often end up with mental health issues. Alcohol abuse gets users and by standers hurt and killed too. Cigarettes ruin the health of the user. On balance the alcohol seems to be the more harmful.


Page 61 of 77


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.