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 447.


    All the relevance, they have 'people' in Portugal too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    The difference with alcohol and cannabis is simple.
    Alcohol has a limit, it slows you down until you pass out.

    -No ones ever died of sclerosis of the liver caused by cannabis .

    Or blood toxaemia caused by cannabis.
    Or circulatory failure caused by cannabis
    Or Diabetes caused by cannabis
    Or Alcoholic_polyneuropathy
    Or Has had to have limbs amputated because of cannabis use

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Yes..but then we'll also need to legalise shoplifting so they can pay for it

    Call me old fashioned but most drug users I come into contact with aren't high end achievers BEFORE they start their anti social crusade and abuse of the NHS and legal system

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    "297.Phil Sears

    Always overlooked, canabis remains in system for 28days, even 'weekend' users are never clean, safe to drive, operate machinery, make sound judgements, etc."

    Utterly wrong. There are endless studies in the US regarding drug-driving on weed, and the consensus is that drivers are fit to drive after around 4-6 hours. Considerably less than someone who has had a skin-full.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    What world does Cameron inhabit? "We're winning the war on drugs"; Yeah. "We can't regulate the Press"; No, perish the thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Good old Dave, what a man, the drugs policies are working just about as well as his economic policies. It's easier to get drugs in prison than out, so what makes him think prohibition works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    There must be a case for having a legal, well-regulated, quality assured, taxable drugs 'industry'.
    But we would need to think through drug-driving laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    Its ridiculous a goverment telling its citizens what it can and cannot do to their bodys. Its OK for them to fund terrorists in Syria, test nuclear bombs last Saturday and commit fraud but for a person to choose to smoke a plant makes them a criminal. People need to stand up for liberty, take responsibility for yourself and stop living off the nanny state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    # 397 Caroline...Yes

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    377 "1 cannabis cigarette increases the chances of developing lung cancer by as much as 20 tobacco ones."

    That is because for the majority it is smoked alongside unfiltered tobacco. There are no such issues if it is ingested in a hash brownie for example. It's actually the legal component of the joint doing the damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    @scirop 389, if your weed doesn't smell you've been ripped off, it stinks and you can tell the smell of it a mile off. It's much easier to smuggle a bottle of vodka into work than it is a ten bag of blue cheese!

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    381. magictricks "I'll open up my coffee shop with-in [sic] a week an [sic] employ some people"

    There won't be any coffee shops even if legalisation happened.
    Coffee shops work in Amsterdam where marijuana remains illegal - it is merely decrimialised under very strict circumstances. The drugs are still illegally sourced so add to the profits of the drug barons. Not a very clever step forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    355. bentyger
    'My daughter has been in a psychiatric hospital with schizophrenia for nearly 2 years because of cannabis.'
    'No, she's been in hospital for 2 years because of schizophrenia. I bet your doctor wouldn't put his name too a paper saying cannabis caused it.'
    Exactly! Also, whatever made her WANT TO use drugs is what actually caused it! Man up and face that as a parent: guilty or not.

  • Comment number 434.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Time and again the sensible and vast majority on here say the complete opposite of our politicians, be it the need to get out of the EU, cessation of foreign aid, immigration and now the obvious need to decriminalise cannabis.

    All 3 main parties are completely out of touch and seemingly brain dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    I simply cannot believe that drug use is coming down. I am a recreational drug user. 95% of my friends do drugs. Taking a pill is just as causal as having a pint. Yet I hold down a decent job etc. I am one of many millions. If drugs were legalised, would I consume more? Absolutely not. Why would I? Does one turn up to work drunk, because alcohol is legal? No. This legislation is outdated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    most people are of an age to know that taking ANY drugs whether if be for hightened enjoyment or just to chill out is totally dangerous. If they insist on doing it then they should suffer the consequences, not burden the authorities or hospitals with their stupidity. If it causes them permanent damage or kills them, so be it

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Cannabis should have been legalized long ago, it's a harmless positive experience, but because of greedy cowards like David Cameron we continue going round and round like a dog chasing it's tail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Disappointed but not surprised that Cameron and his government is sticking to the status quo of criminalising recreational drug users, who cause no harm to others. How can that be a crime? Of course, alot of the crime associated with drug addiction (ie. to fund an addiction), which actually DOES have victims, is also the result of prohibition. Prohibition is not working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    What would happen if we legalised, sold and taxed cannabis:

    National debt gone within 6 months due to tax revenue, tourism revenue and huge relaxation on NHS.
    We'd be high.
    Nothing else.


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