Cameron rejects decriminalising drugs


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

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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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    There are enough thieving junkies as it is, sick of the sight of them making towns and cities everywhere look a mess. Boot them all out of the country Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    If you want prisons so full of mentally-ill and drug-involved people that rela criminals get shorter sentences to make space, then stick with the current system. If you need hypocrisy running the country, teaching the kids that integrity doesn't win, then keep the current system. If you need to save the NHS, recoup lost tax and provide some mental health care - start taxing cannabis = Coffeeshops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Given the overwhelming new scientific evidence on the relative harm of drugs from bodies such as The Lancet, the progress of the previous draconian United States (driven by the people), the proven alternative models of drug control (e.g. Netherlands, Portugal, Mexico) and the gaping deficit in our public finances... Why WOULDN'T we reform our drugs laws?

    The Conservatives. That's why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    The difference with alcohol and cannabis is simple.
    Alcohol has a limit, it slows you down until you pass out.
    But cannabis is a drug that can be used consistantly and can sometimes (most of the time) be undetectable. That's why it's banned.
    A drunk is a drunk and everyone can see it. A dope head can sneak past the barriers and cause a lot more havoc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    My daughter has been in a psychiatric hospital with schizophrenia for nearly 2 years because of cannabis. Posh boys like Cameron need to get a grip, stop using drug laws as a tool to bash the lower classes. People need treatment, not criminalisation. Yah-yah politicians really are scum. Grrrr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    I cycle and ride motorbikes and the last thing I want to come across is some guy flying his kite on my stretch of the road...

    It's a funny logic that argues for the instatement of drugs based on the fact that alcohol is legal and also bad for one's health.

    How many of you guys out there pedalling legalisation are parents...not many I'll bet.

    Keep drugs off the streets and lock up the dealers

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    There are too many moral judgements being made in this discussion.
    You cannot classify someone as good or bad because they choose to take particular substance or not.

    What does seem obvious is the moral judgement we can apply to violent criminal gangs who benefit from prohibition.

    Legalise and legitimise, and the big losers will be the traffickers and pushers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    @ 285.Mr_Evil
    How true, it also lined the pockets of the Mob, controlling the black market, who used it to start off all of their other illigal business' - the same as here, the longer it is prohibited, the longer we line the pockets of criminal gangs rather than HMRC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    All he is saying no to is basically creating more jobs and stealing from the black market of drug's which is modified and tampered with at least it could be regulated legal and age limited the weed will always be here from now an past human life span.. because weed will keep on growing anyway.. he is ridiculous he will never stop me from smoking it I can only make that choice myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    He was never going to agree to something that we could enjoy the British people will remember the misery of the Camron Clegg era like we remember the poor of Victorian times

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    A lot of the anti legalisation commentors have clearly never met a recreational cannabis user. The vast majority use it when relaxing and socialising with friends when (contrary to drinking) they want to remember the evening and not have a hangover the following day. Obviously this is a threat to society and must be stamped out at all costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    All those who are for drug's being legalised are very delusional. I work for a very well known Mental Health charity id love all of you pro drug people to come and see the affects it has on people and yes that includes Cannabis! it's not just the drug its the people around them it affects also!

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    To quote "I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself ". Let us remember the loved ones we have all lost to drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    I think there should be a public enquiry on this, then Cameron can completely ignore what it recommends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    I'm sure Dave will change his mind in 2015 once he is out of a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Time after time the idiots in power are told that they are throwing money down the drain trying to stop people taking drugs ... Its always ignored due to their idea that it will loose votes ... It won't ... Everyone who wants to take drugs already do ... Legal or not ... Simple as that
    Its time we had some realists in parliament not these endless crawly bum licks

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Reading the lowest-rated comments shows us exactly what we're up against, folks. Scare-mongering, misinformation, ignorance and obstinacy. The war on drugs has failed, miserably. Time for us to think again. Perhaps the next government will be a bit more rational.

    By the way, hilarious that somebody called Keith Vaz an 'affluent hedonist'. Brilliant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    A family friend has a son, brilliant man, former student of mine, who at 15, one summer midnight, stoned, took a dive off a bridge into a river he imagined deep enough,and wound up a paraplegic. The suffering of the family is not to be described. His mother's life was shortened by at least20yrs as a result of the stress. His Dad is still paying for his upkeep,22yrs later. How many more like this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    The politics of hypocrites.
    Just look at what the US is doing now over cannabis the most prohibitive country ever is dealing with it.
    Prohibition is a total waste of money and creates more problems than it solves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    I think David Cameron is mad and out of touch to reject as far as cannabis is concerned, it's been proven to be much safer than alcohol and tobacco, for every argument made against cannabis the same could be said for the legal TWO 1000 times compared to cannabis the stuffs as safe as safe as coffee anyone who tries to say any different is ignorant or lying...


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