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 407.

    Drug use is coming down? Is DC on the same planet? More that the police don't have the time, resources - or inclination, to complete the paperwork!

    Agree entirely with #384 in that alcohol is a far greater problem than cannabis use and has the huge knock on to lawlessness, violence and the health service. Why not legalise cannabis and use the tax for the benefit of all?

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    The Governments of the world have been peddling mis-information abouts drugs for years so most of the population when talking about the issues don't understand the topic properly.

    The first thing our Government should do to start changing the publics perception of drugs is to change the name of there own service from the 'Drug and Alcohol Service' to the 'Drug including Alcohol Service'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    despite using drugs recreationally, I actually agree with the PM to a certain extent... Of course the real deal readily available and controlled would be safer than a legal dodgy substitute, but that doesn't mean it is actually safe. The media has been obsessed with the legal highs in recent years. As far as I am aware they are barely used anymore, not the dodgy ones anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    I have no experience of taking Drugs, my sons have used cannabis and "seem" ok. I used alcohol, it cost me my marriage because i wasnt very "nice". If cannabis is legalised It may help my Sister in law who has MS. It can be sold by HMG and taxed to support Drug rehab programmes. With the same safeguards as for alcohol; personnally I see no issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Abuse of drugs is wrong, but then so is abuse of tobacco and alcohol. They are wrong because of the associated social and health problems.

    I think we should set aside the pointless moral arguments for a moment and decide how best to address the issues. How does society minimise the amount of crime and harm associated with drugs? Taking "organised crime" out of the equation might help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    Surely it is obvious that the users are the reason for the drugs trade. dealers just supply the needs of the users. It is the users that pay the money that ultimately ends up paying taliban poppy growers in Afghanistan, or criminal cartels in colombia. users are the problem. Random testing at work and severe penalties for ANY possession.should be the norm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    As usual, the argument get bogged down in the questions of whether drugs are harmful or not (they are).

    That's not the point though. If you accept that drugs are available and there is a large population of people using them, then surely the only responsible option is to control access to them, tax them and use that revenue to fund rehabilitation and education programs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    The latest study (the one form New Zealand) clearly shows that there is long term cognitive impairment from cannabis.
    When looking at "studies" first question who paid for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses.Look at the drugs we use.Except for pharmaceutical poison,there are essentially only two drugs the West tolerates:Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society,and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.
    -Bill H

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    The last time an adviser suggested something like this, he got fired for it! This government will not listen to sense on drugs policy, even though many of them have experimented themselves and know that the risks are exaggerated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    The issue here is not about which drugs are "safer" than others, the issue is whether drug users should be punished if they're caught. You may have heard anecdotes of people doing bad stuff on drugs, but bad stuff happens everyday with or without drugs.
    The real moral dilemma here is how harshly you should punish users. Should you get a criminal record for enjoying a few pills at the weekend?

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    @297.Phil Sears
    Again, it may stay in your system but in trace ammounts, you are not 'high' for a month after one joint.

    It is this kind of ignorance that is the reason for DC's stance,.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

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

    Talk about ducking the issue and trying to push the debate on to prisons so the ultra right can get on their high horses and charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Cameron is a fool - but most of us knew that anyway.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Support Britain's digestive manufactures .

    Legalise Pot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Hey?...How come all you pot smoking people aren't out at work....stop whingeing it ain't going to happen...

    And another thing...What relevance is a report that compares Portugal's Public Concern to the UK anyway..

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    The most unhealthy and one of the most addictive drugs is nicotine, yet it is legal. Do not posters on here realise that drug use is not allied with social class or whether you work; same with alcohol as I am too well aware. Prohibition means profits for rather nasty criminals. Legalisation means discussion and treatment. It really is a no-brainer, unless perhaps you are a Mail reader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    This only came up because the USA have decided to change theirs. We don't have to follow them into every war, copy their ever law, try to be as diverse or anything else.

    This is not America and they are hardly a template for society. Its OK for us to be different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    @Eddie - your point doesn't work. More people will smoke it, before and during work because it is less noticable than alcohol.
    This is a fact - I've never drank in work, alcohol smells and people can tell you're drunk.
    But I have lit up during my tea breaks, because no-one can tell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    it wud b sik if the gvamunt sold killa cheese!


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