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 607.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Prohibition has failed is failing & will continue to fail as all it truly means is an abrogation of responsibility from Gov to gangsters who control the streets and combines soft and hard drugs into one hard sell to the young and old alike.Currently there is no control on either quality (polluted drugs) or any age restriction.The conservatives as usual do not care,they look as always to headlines

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Do you really expect any logical reasoning from this government. Their level of incompetence is shocking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    There are 2 issues here and most peeps have grasped 1. that cannabis is not only essentially harmless but actually has many beneficial properties, We are cannabinoidal creatures, cannabiniods facilitate the transmission of essential messages from the brain to all major organs including tellng a cell when it is time to die....the implication is staggering. A possible cure for cancer. running out

  • Comment number 603.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    The British Stiff Upper Lip. A nation of frigid conformists. Is this not how we are viewed across Europe?

    - Imagine if that melted and we could all chill out?

    - I remember when England played football against Amsterdam and instead of alcohol the supporters were given free cannabis. There were no fights, violence, or hangover & vomit. Rather we presented as good eggs, for a change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    Can anyone point out any time in history cannabis was a problem until they made it illegal? Beatrix Pottter invented Peter Rabbit after drinking hemp seed tea. Herodotus writes about the Scythians using it and they were certainly a vigorous race. Scythians became Saxons and then became what was once us. Anyone get the idea Mr Cameron is a bit of an intellectual lightweight?

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    @ 572.Will_87

    The price of cannabis has only recently risen drastically. 3.5 grams of the stuff was kept at the same price for nearly 20 years.

    Imagine if HM Customs and Excise were in control. The price of Cannabis would increase year on year at inflation busting levels.

    This would make the drug less attractive because of the 'high' cost and raise tax revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    Wow i am really unbelievably angry at this... Ignorance on the home offices part.
    They still believe that they are ahead of the WAR ON DRUGS
    Okay so i spent 4 hours a couple of months ago to prove this.
    I was able to buy over 234 DIFFERENT!?!?!? Drugs and that is only one area of The UK.

    IN 4 HOURS!!!!! I could of brought them too, i mean i don't need to be 18 or carry a ID.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    Many articles have been written about herbal cannabis, but there is precious little worthwhile data to support any kind of conclusion with regard to its use, as any predisposition to mental illness was never recorded in the test subjects making all results highly subjective and flawed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    Long term abuse can cause schizophrenia in people with underlying mental conditions. It IQ of kids, increases odds of lung cancer.
    No it doesn't. Once again, do some research. Cannabis can be used in the treatment of tumours, and if taken in ANY OTHER METHOD THAN SMOKING, doesn't cause lung cancer either.
    About the IQ of kids, well, it'll be harder for them to get if it's legal and regulated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.


    I'm a parent and a director of an oil company. I'm certainly not a slacker as most people against legalisation think, and have used drugs in one form or another most of my adult life. I'm not going to encourage them to use it, nor do I use it around them. They will have freedom of choice as do I, whether legal or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    I think people have a tendancy to see long term unemployed people who use cannabis and assume they are where they are because of the drug. It's just as likely that they started smoking it because they are at home all day and bored. Many kinds of people use the drug and are responsible for their own actions just like drinkers. Cannabis use does not define a person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    'Asking the pro-drug lobby comments on this issue is like asking prisoners for their view on law and order..Truly bizarre.'
    I find it more bizarre that you are suggesting the report by the home affairs select committee is produced by a pro drugs lobby!?!? It is a report that has been extensively researched and findings given! Sure you aren't smoking something;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    If govt regulates & licences recreational & medicinal drug user properly - then some 'illegal drugs' such as eg 'plain cannabis' become no more dangerous than eg a box of sleeping pills.
    Legal drug user licensing would mean that most shady characters selling junk on street corners at extortionate prices would be out of a job & as 'licensed drug users' would be a lot safer for all of us

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.


    I am smoking an E-lite ciggarette and having an Earl Grey with 3 sugars actually...I have not had any other dugs in ages...I could be done with aspliff or 5,after the day ive had man,i so need one.Im glad i aint a postie in USA.Trust me it could of went really bad...It didnt though...Im trying to stop smoking tobacco,i find it really hard stopping that...

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    It is a disgrace that Camercon takes it upon himself without reference to anyone to be our moral arbiter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    I don't think it is possible to 'legislate' human behaviour. I think the very idea of one human (or gov't) setting this type of standard for someone else is shortsighted and ridiculous.

    Perhaps it would be wise for those in gov't to repair what can be fixed and stop dallying further into private lives under the guise of good intention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    again take this thread to number 10 !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    ... and here's some of the evidence you crave:"

    A study of 26 people. Not a statistically meaningful sample, plus..

    "Since this assignment is rather challenging for anyone, it is especially hard for people suffering with schizophrenia because they often have:"

    Which renders it pretty much meaningless.

    Compare with Prof. Nutt's work...


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