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 587.

    The health argument is irrelivent. What difference does it make if its good or bad for you. Most of the enjoyable things in life are bad for your health or put you at some kind of risk. I smoke, drink, try to eat healthily and excersice mimimally. So what difference would a spliff do? Really? Ive been smoking weed for 6 years now, I have a degree and a decient job. Prohibition need to end!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    The stereotype of the "stoner" being harmless is a myth, there have been some quite disturbed young people recently who have gone on to kill people who smoke cannabis. You can't compare modern varieties to the stuff from the 60s. It's like comparing beer to whisky.

    You've only got to search this site to find news about murders:

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    in the end making somthing illigal solves nothing at all. people will smoke it no matter the risks so why not just legalise it? whats it going to change oh nooo the drug dealers loose money and the government gains it what a sad day for humanity.
    p.s. 550 if your a parent your should be ashamed, weed heads are peacful and loving. i know parents who down bottle of wine and beat their childen

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    People opposed to legalisation on here are missing one crucial point in all their arguments against legalisation. The point being that people use it whether its legal or not. The arguments about safe driving, mental illness, productivity etc. These do not matter as people ARE using it now. Your arguments do not only stand up if the drug is legal. They apply now. Making it legal doesnt change that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    I am in favour of the legalisation of all drugs, not least because if they were legal, fewer people would want to take them. This applies especially to the 'hard' drugs where people buy into the drug culture. If the substances were legal, there would be less attraction as the ritual aspect of the practice would disappear. As for the 'soft' drugs, the element of naughtiness would also disappear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    Another thought; I do not pay VAT on the Carrots I pull from my patch - But I wouldn't pay VAT on Carrots anyway. If I grew my own dope, it would be subject to VAT - how do you control that? Are those circumstances subject to VAT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    The electorate would be far better off it at the next election, we reject David Cameron. This is just the latest proof that this guy is so far out of touch it's verging on the comedic. Still best appease the curtain twitching Daily Mail readers eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    What a surprise, the Government avoids setting up a commission to look into this as they know it would come back with recommendations they don't want to hear. Personally, I'd legalize and tax cannabis, ecstasy and a few others. People are taking them like there's no tomorrow anyway and we are paying to try and stop them and to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    Once again the Prime Minister seems out of touch with reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    The UK establishment need to wake up to the fact the War on Drugs will never be won. If they were as serious as they make out, then Afghanistan is a classic example of where they have clearly failed. Better to have control in a legalised sense, which will make it safer and generate much needed revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    There is zero chance of our elected representatives actually having a reasoned and rational debate on this subject.
    The three hot topics for the man in the street, that the politicians are afraid to openly debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    It looks like most of the posts supporting decriminalising on here dont go to work, unless their posting in their tea-break, before you start iam retired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 575.

    To think we're still deprived of a HARMLESS plant is beyond me,especially when the government is so willing to allow folk to drink themselves to death or smoke tobacco until they damage their lungs or get cancer,but they wont decriminalise something that has been proven harmless by scientists and that was legal years ago, as daft as banning coffee and chocolate would be,you silly self involved man

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    @ 450.Andy The Thinker

    I kind of have to agree. I'm talking from experience here. While occasional social use is fun and harmless, longer term use does impair one's ability think reactively. And in some instances can affect one's general attitude to work.

    We need hardcore long-term users to speak up and be honest about the effect cannabis has had on their mind and lives.

  • Comment number 573.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    You will never ever stop people smoking cannabis, instead of lining the pockets of huge organised crime gangs lets legalise it and tax it. It would literally make billions of pounds a year!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.


    Good, drugs ruin family's end of.////

    - I tend to find that families turn one to drugs!

    556.John UK

    The usual stoners and slackers ...blah....blah....blah...///

    I think you might benefit from a toke! ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    They musn't smoke dope at Eton or do they Dave. LOL again LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    "If can't stop drug use in high security prisons how do you expect to do same in free society" - legalize and regulate to minimize harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Its not only tax and policing that would benefit from decrimalising cannabis, it would create jobs both from growning and selling it too.


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