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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  • Comment number 567.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    @Owlsoflaughter 550, yes parents would rather their kids experimented by going to unregulated sellers who can push a harder substance and let them run up massive debts.
    Makes perfect sense, to a lunatic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    HGblade. suggesting there might be a link is a far cry from proving it, as stated in article 3.

    Wiki is a joke and unregulated, so nothing on there can be trusted without further info too back it up.
    Frankly, I'm embarrassed for you at this point.

    And the first article says "may",even in the headline.

    ohhhh, no facts there....but thanks for playing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    People will be taking and are taking drugs no matter what the laws are of this country. It's called freedom of choice, we were born with it.

    If you can't stop it, and believe me you CAN'T stop it, then you might as well rid it of one of its main problems.... The dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.


    Are you suggesting thats why so many people grow their own.If it is im not surprised.Its true,you cant tell whats in it when its shipped in...I know this is off key but the brian Cox story about Opium is very interesting.Now that was drug dealing on a massive scale,not pretty at all...

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    What about legalising prostitution Dave. Take the girls from residential areas & put them in premises on industrial estates, getting health checks and paying tax. No kerb crawling, residential neighbourhood improved, no pimps beating the girls, no housewives living nearby propositioned etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    'SKUNK' is just 1 of many different types of strains and the fact this 1 keeps coming up only shows how clueless some people actually are when it comes to cannabis.. Fact is there are many strains some help you relax like 'Candy Kush' while others such as 'G13' work like coffee but sadly only people who have been to Amsterdam and tried some will know this to be true..

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    If the govt regulates recreational & medicinal narcotics use properly not only do they receive income from the licensing but all who use recreational drugs would have the choice whether to be a legal or an illegal drug user. More drug users would opt to be legal users as cheaper & safer & be easier to assist with education & health issues."Informed choice" is way forward as safer & cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Do you know how many people are on prescription drugs legaly that should not drive or use machinery???"

    I do - practically anyone taking a codeine based pain-killer for a start. Check out the thousands of people addicted to codeine, there are forums for addicts, some take anything up to 60 a day (and act like any other addict to feed their need). Just the tip of the iceberg...

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    Asking the pro-drug lobby /users for their comments on this issue is like asking prisoners for their view on law and order.

    Why on earth do they think we should bother listening to them?

    What next – let’s decriminalise shoplifting because the thieves think the stuff should be free?

    Truly bizarre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Righty-ho we need an expert-led enquiry to find out the facts - then we'll know the best way forward .

    Oh dear, what the experts say doesn't fit with our political bias, the media's narrow focus and hearsay from the golf club bar.

    Get the secretariat to file that report in the 'long grass' next to Leveson, and we can get back to impotently wringing our hands about the nation's social ills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    The usual stoners and slackers advocating legalisation I see. Sure, let's have more car accidents, IQ damage, low achievement, bone idleness and all round nihilism. I wouldn't mind, but the rest of us have to put up with the fallout from it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    I do not do drugs.. I do do alcohol, always have and I do remember the frisson of obtaining a drink when I was under legal age. May I suggest that mature adults get half their kick from the frisson of illegal behaviour, the snub at authority? Why they want to fund dealers beats me. I am glad usage is reportedly coming down. Would it come down faster if the Prohibition effect was removed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    look at the huge amount of comments on this news reports, surely someone in parliament will see this and raise it with cameron? i mean if he were to read this he could for once see what the people actually want.

    ♪♫1000 comments lets do it old chaps ♫♪

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.


  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    Yet again more policy that flies in the face of scientific evidence, expert review and public opinion. Pandering to the close minded persons fear of anything that isn't the status quo.

    Sign this petition if you agree

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Yes drugs ruin lives. Making it legal doesnt ruin your life any more. The opposite if anything. Keeping it illegal does not prevent people from using. Trust me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    I really wonder how many people advocating the legalisation of soft drugs are parents ?

    Not many.

    If we are serious about stopping drug abuse, we all know the answer...stiffer sentancing and not a few hours community service.

    Now I'm off to enjoy my legal bottle of wine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    I hear there going to make that awful drug alcohol illegal soon, there talking about making it a class A along with heroin and cocaine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    Based on the goverments view, and drugs being illegal, what about opium, should this be banned to? Wait, I thought this was a pain killed used by hospitals here in the UK.

    Again, cannabis is also a medicine, used in several countries, so multiple conditions legally.

    So, remind me, which is one drug legal, but the other not?

    Is the current government full of hyprocrites?


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