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 547.

    " not serving the interests of the health and welfare of the people the government represents."

    Since when has this government ever served the interests of the people it's supposed to represent?

    It got into power with 36% of 60% of the population who bothered to vote. That means approx 75% of the population did not vote for this government but have to suffer its stupid policies anyway.

  • Comment number 546.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Why not legalise marijuana and tax it? We need the revenue and it would deprive criminals of income.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    Good, drugs ruin family's end of.

  • Comment number 543.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    PM rules out everything that makes sense - a government too afraid to do anything "brave", which is what's needed in these tough times.

    Not taht any of the major parties would be any better - no doubt Labour will promise a "review" or some such vague nonsense but nothing will ever happen as long as we have any of these poll-driven weaklings running the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

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

    You're referring to a claim made by BLF, the study they were quoting even said that they distorted the data. A 30 year long investigation by UCLA found that smoking as many as 20,000 cannabis joints does not increase the risk of lung cancer. No large study has ever found a link.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    It was obvious that David Cameron and co would not consider any liberalisation of drug law given their old school, conventional, almost Daily Mail back grounds. When the police spend £10B on drug enforcement to recover less than 1% of drugs used in the UK..... you have to wonder

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    Sometime i wish we had a federal system of government so one man in London couldnt dictate what he alone believes to be right. There is not one thing wrong with cannabis!
    It actually makes me feel sad that in this modern age of liberty you can pick up a rifel and die in vein in some desert but you cant come home and smoke a joint? Backwards!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    Cannabis probably DOES cause schizoprenia in some cases ... and here's some of the evidence you crave:

    I'll supply a few more sources if you want. How about other psychotic illness:

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    There are two reasons that the Government will not decriminalise Cannabis:

    1. It chills you out and potentially makes you less 'productive', unless you are involved in creative pursuits! - Not good for Capitalism then.

    2. It makes one reflective and thoughtful, so one awakens to the reality behind the veneer and obfuscation which is the political narrative. They prefer we 'Sleep & Obey'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    So the Home Office claims that "Our current laws draw on the best available evidence"? Where are they finding this so called evidence? All the scientific evidence I have seen is that cannabis is significantly less harmful/dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.


    Try facts, not fear propoganda.
    Long term abuse can cause schizophrenia in people with underlying mental conditions. It IQ of kids, increases odds of lung cancer.

    However, it is an excellent pain killer, muscle relaxant and antidepressant for people with chronic musculo-skeleto problems, has anti-cancer properties, is used to treat nausea in cancer and AIDS patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Once again the Tory party show how out touch they are with the vast majority of the people in the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    Very disappointing but not surprising. It takes guts and humility to admit that the drugs policy (above all cannabis) has been a total flop. Countries like the Netherlands, Portugal, USA are leading the way leaving the UK behind to continue blundering and limping along. Maybe when the % of people going to the polls reaches 0.5% they might FINALLY remove their heads from the sand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    The govt isn't talking about legalising drugs -I wish people would look at the report before commenting - just about decriminalising. I've lost count of the number of times I've wandered round central manchester and noticed a really strong smell of weed, often being smoked publicly - suggests maybe the police aren't paying much attention to recreational use anyway and are focusing on the dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    @366. David
    Have you read that study? Here are some shortcomings of it:
    Impact of socio-economical status not taken into account,
    disproportion of male participants in users group (70% vs 38%),
    abnormally low IQ of people in users group before first use (5 IQ points).
    Lack of sampling of cannabis used by participants to exclude chronic heavy metal/pesticide/fungicide poisoning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Since claims of falling drug use are used to support continuing prohibition the BBC etc. should verify before repeating. Drugs come in and out of fashion. Figures don't include 'legal' highs. Use of recently proscribed drugs like mephedrone are going through the roof, and heroin use has NOT fallen. The fact is drugs fulfill a need and we should be grown up enough to accept that & make use safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    One has to wonder why Mr C took this course. A very significant amount of small/petty crime is carried out by those addicted to achohol and drugs. Devoting resources to treatment and avoidance is surely a darn site more cost effective than locking up people who don't care or fining the penniless. Talk to Police and Probation Officers about drug use 'coming down' or if the current system works!

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    I agree for once with the PM. I've seen many of my friends lives turn to, ahem, poo, because of drugs, cannabis having played a massive part.
    Anecdotal and not worth the paper it's written on.
    Come on anti-freedoms people.
    Where's your evidence?
    Or is it all just "what some guy down the pub" told you?


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