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 467.

    To all those who say 'soft drugs lead to hard drugs' I agree, not least because as it currently stands if you want 'soft drugs' you have to visit a drug dealer who will probably be selling 'hard drugs' (I love those terms)
    Also, How can we expect a drug free society when we can't even keep high security prisons clean?! its just utter madness. let the people decide for themselves how to live

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    What would happen if all drugs where legalized and available at the chemists afler consultation with a drugs councillor /GP?
    Would crimals stop selling them, no money in it?
    Would less people be in prison and less police hours wasted?
    Would this free up money to spend on education and treament?
    Madness is doing what we have always done and expecting to get something different. Legalize now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    If they were legalised, all it means is we replace one set of criminals profiting from drugs with another.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    With the Leveson Inquiry Cameron arrogantly ignored the recommendations, and now he goes one step further by ignoring the need for an independent review. What a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    There is a reason why drugs are illegal, mainly due to physical & mental health issues but also the impact addiction has on families and relationships. We need stronger education from an early age on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and gambling.

    Legalisation in my opinion is seen as an easy answer to the problems drugs brings, but it should never be considered the answer at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    "Cannabis does cause schizophrenia, same as Nicotine causes cancer."

    Alcohol causes alcoholics and stupid drivers cause accidents are you going to ban them all?

    Cannabis won't help people predicated to Schizophrenia any more than than alcohol will help people predicated to alcoholicism.

    You can't blanket ban everything due to a minority who are foolish enough not to observe the risks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Another poor decision made on behalf of society by elected politicians who just either don't understand or who stand to lose too much personally by changing the status-quo. Busy feathering their own nests when they should be taking one for the team. Everything needs to change in society if we are to progress. Political, Social, Economic, Environmental...yet we lumber along doing very little.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Drug use is great, and you will find no shortage of advocates to tell you so. In fact it’s all fine and dandy until of course you find yourself dealing with some old psychotic junky whose wet themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Legalizing drugs is a no-brainer.

    -Drugs are imported from god knows where and cut with dangerous chemicals.
    -Dealers offer harder drugs to buyers to make more money.
    -There's crime linked to dealer/gang violence and desperate addicts.

    -Drugs are pure and taxed.
    -Tax money funds support for addicts
    -Less crime = less stress on police

    Everyone wins apart from the dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Ok so we are in a recession, we need jobs and money. considering the fact that 20-40% of britian occasionly smoke it. Wud it not make sense to legalise it and and tax it. A. you would make more jobs. B. the country wud make more money C. it is safer as it is not comin off the street. D. it is a helpful drug, slowin down the rate of growth initailly slowin the rapid spread of diseases, cancer etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    All are current Cannabis policy does is fill are prisons, waste money, police time, court time, forces addicts to go to dealers for tainted drugs and funds more crime as i said before madness, hopefully the next PM will see sense and have a backbone to do what's right for his people and not his own gain and future career, we want a British Obama not a British Nixon... What happened Cameron???

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    #438 Not true. Cannabis itself contains 400 carcinogens and it burns hotter than tobacco so does more tissue damage (plus smokers tend to hold the smoke in longer). Mixing it with tobacco just makes a bad situation worse. There's quite a few oral cancer cases in very young cannabis smokers (mid-20s) thats 30 years before you see cancer in tobacco smokers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    I do wish people would stop saying, in effect, 'legalise cannabis and before you know it, everyone will be stoned at work in charge of heavy machinery'. We don't turn up to work drunk, and many people COULD turn up to work stoned already, but don't. It's a reductive argument to imply that drug use always = irresponsibility and that people will be constantly under the influence

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    i am a bit dumb myself! maybe drug induced during my younger years!!! sorry about that, but, How many people die using illigal drugs compared to people dying using legal drugs (booze, fags) every year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    I still don't understand why growing a plant and smoking it in the privacy of your own home, affecting nobody else, can be anybody else's business. The amount of taxpayer money wasted on the puritanical demonisation of otherwise law abiding citizens could be much better spent reducing the national debt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Rather ironic, given some of the photos that have emerged from the Bullingdon Club era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    297. EtG (the metabolite produced when alcohol is broken down) is detectable in urine for up to 80 hours after the elimination of alcohol. This is what you are talking about with cannabis, the detection of THC metabolites which is very different to being high. You wouldn't state that people stayed drunk for 80 hours after drinking would you?

    Education on drugs not propaganda is needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Funny how the users of the drug are always the ones pressing for decriminalisation.

    My friend from Portugal says since decriminalisation there drug-use has gone through the roof - ordinary people who might otherwise not have used it are hooked.

    Cannabis causes paranoia. Do you want cannabis users looking after you in hospital, driving HGV's or working heavy equipment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Put all recreational drugs under the MHRA regulatory framework and watch as new, safer and cheaper alternatives come to market freeing people from a life of drudgery and criminality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    The doors of perception in & around Parliament have been locked & bolted for years,it now appears they've also been welded shut,just to make doubly sure.


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