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 427.

    'illegal' drugs, no such thing. Controlled substances is more accurate. Well, guess what Mr Cameron I am in control and on the rare occasions I wish to partake in psychedelics for my own personal and spiritual well-being I do so of my own free will in my own body and cause nobody any harm. I still cannot quite believe how it can be criminal to have a personal experience such as this?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    "soft drugs lead to hard drugs"

    Maybe so, but I have never met anybody who used drugs who didn't first try cigarettes and alcohol, so where does that argument get you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Ah yes, its how it is,.... Let the people decide,.... who decides for the people, and verily, little word heard beyond.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Those experts are talking rubbish. I am customer service personnel who face customers and potential criminals every day. I said drug issue should be “all or none” to avoid any confusions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Stop turning users into criminals and start turning them into consumers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.


    "The latest study (the one form New Zealand) clearly shows that there is long term cognitive impairment from cannabis."
    Do you have the right to protect your fellow citizens from harming themselves? You do not! I am not my brother's keeper.
    Better for government to supply drugs in pure form with dire warnings about the consequences. Drug dealers kaput!

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    This government isn't going to do anything it doesn't want to do regardless of any evidence shoved under its nose or how many times it needs to be proved their policies simply aren't working.

    Middle class Britain doesn't want Cannabis de-criminalised. This government isn't going to do anything that middle class Britain doesn't want.

    Common sense, rationality and logic have nothing to do with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    So, its not good for you to drink alcohol but its ok to take drugs - mmmmm this smacks of double standards......

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    brap you win a prize for most insightful post of the day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    @355 "Cannabis doesn't cause schizophrenia"

    You're a deluded fool. Cannabis does cause schizophrenia, same as Nicotine causes cancer. Pretending cannabis is harmless does nothing to advance your cause. Like Cameron, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    404. Henners1957
    If cannabis is legalised It may help my Sister in law who has MS.
    Morphine (a class A drug) is available to cancer patients. There is no need for cannabis to be legalised for everyone in order for MS patients to have it prescribed. You're mixing two distinct issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    This is why the drugs policy has failed if you tell people a harmless herb is a danger and put it with drugs that are dangerous you lose integrity therefore people will run the risk of trying drugs that are dangerous with the belief that they are as safe as 'Cannabis' so I hope the government is ready to take that responsibility.. Legal Cannabis regulated for over 21s = happy people, jobs, money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    "Always overlooked, canabis remains in system for 28days"
    What a dummy! trace elements in urine are not affecting anyone
    You read something wow but are still stupid and ignorant of the subject

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Well that's a relief for the criminal element.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    One person cannot be allowed to decide.
    Do we allow our PMs to dictate to us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    The first step towards making dangerous or unhealthy behaviour acceptable is to give it a cute or friendly name like " using recreational drug". Govt's can never stop the supply of drugs so they must do their best to reduce demand. Teachers and Youth workers try hard to persuade young people that smoking pot is not OK;Govt's should do all they can to support them and never undermine them

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    My children had just ONE drugs awareness lesson in their whole school career. Plenty of useless citizenship and religious study though. Non politicised education is the only weapon that works in the drugs war. Giving young people a criminal record for trying drugs is crazy, far better to be sent on a compulsory drugs awareness course, than to destroy their future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    Yes because the big boys can manufacture them and sell them to us at a great profit. You need to read about the Rat Park and Prof Bruce Alexander and how the whole problem of addiction needs to be seriously looked at. Addiction is a product of social problems and needs social support. You may as well ban alcohol - o sorry that brings in too much tax for gov to waste on 1.2 billion subs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    this is just the latest in a long line of things Cameron sees fit to pontificate about, when the fact is he does not have a clue about the subject matter. He looks at things through the prism of his rather healthy bank account and is dumb enough to believe the distorted picture he sees. So out of touch it's scarcely believeable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Politicians like Cameron do not listen to experts, the general public or even common sense. They listen to the press barons, the people who wield the real power over 'our' politicians.


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