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 627.

    Of course they should not be legal. Anyone who thinks they should be doesn't actually understand the effect it would have. Do you all think that Cocaine, for example, was illegal from the moment man discovered it?
    Idiots.These things were made illegal for a reason. These drugs DESTROY people. Drug addicts should be treated as ill people yes, not criminals. That doesn't mean you legalize drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    I thought we lived in a democracy - have I missed something? Has some new law been passed giving Mr Cameron ultimate power. God I hope not he's bad enough with advice although he seems to be an expert on everything!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    "586.Giles Jones

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

    So, the first one was a heavy beer drinker*, the rest are squabbles between dealers/growers. That just argues *for* legalisation, to eradicate the dealers, it does *not* say cannabis use makes people into murders!

    *Fully agreed drink and drugs do not mix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    Why have this discussion now? The latest figures show a drop in drug use in the 15-34 age group so something is obviously working.

    Also it amazes me that as a small island we cannot stop drugs getting into the country, how expensive can it be to have a sniffer dog(s) at every port and airport, and on cross channel ferries.

    Money should be invested in cutting the amount reaching the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    Many of my friends have used, or use cannabis. None of them are addicts and can quite easily go for weeks without a joint, and so far none of them have become psychotic. However, the main problem with using drugs is that the users money usually ends up funding criminal activities.

    Surely it would be better for them to be decriminalised, regulated and the money then goes to the Government instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Well I'm a parent, and I have never taken illegal drugs myself, but am strongly in favour of decriminalisation. Nearly all the tragedy, crime and death associated with drugs is because they are illegal. The "war on drugs" has left 50,000 people dead in the last 6 years in Mexico alone. Whatever the result of legalisation it couldn't be worse than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    @196.Shaunie Babes

    4) Loads more zombiefied smackheads....

    I did say recreational drugs, for example cannabis, not Heroin. I'm speaking for recreational users who chose to spend an ammount of disposable income, justb like you perhaps do at the pub? It's this type of archaic stereotype of drug users that DC is using to prevent progression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    It was (and still is) totally hypocritical of politicians to criminalize something that many of them did themselves in their youth. If today's Oxford student gets caught smoking marijuana he/she will be lucky to get any job, let alone become a cabinet minister; as has happened in the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    We have completely lost the plot over drugs. When so many people use them the law begins to look an ass (not need to remove this comment just because of the word 'ass'). Perhaps ideally nobody would use them but lots of people do. The market has a inbuilt turbo charge making it more lucrative to supply when supply is short. You are more likely to pick up a drug problem in prison then outside!

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    this is almost funny, did any of you on here know the this government actually issued a licence to GW pharma to grow 20 tonnes of high grade cannabis a year for use in a product called sativex.

    this is a joke, another enquiry ignored!

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    One carefully controlled independent study I remember reading concluded that herbal cannabis is a very mild substance that requires considerable practice before its full desired effects are achieved and that alcohol was clearly more potent and far more deleterious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Is there a black market for fags and booze?

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    From a chemical point of view, Alcohol is an addictive health and life threatening drug (actually worse than cannabis itself). So why does the government not treat it as a serious drug. According to the tests the Gov uses, it would be classified as Grade A drug (same as heroin!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    So the prime minister rules out legalizing drugs.

    Funny. I always thought the UK was a parliamentary democracy, not a dictatorship. Guess someone needs to remind him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    We need to decide if drug taking is illegal or not. If we decide is is legal we tax it and regulate it. If we decide it remains illegal we need to enforce the law fully. As part of the punishment we need to treat the problem.

    First of all we must agree the legality based on proper consideration not behavour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    People always want that which is forbidden, its called human nature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    at 550 "If we are serious about stopping drug abuse, we all know the answer...stiffer sentancing and not a few hours community service."

    Yeah that policy has worked so well in the USA, massive increases in usage, prison population and huge costs in terms of live and police time.

    Make it legal and you remove all the real problems which are a result of the illegality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    bentyger - embarrassed for me? I can live with that. If you're pro cannabis you're never going to be interested in the mounting evidence that SUGGESTS (will that do for you?) that cannabis can lead to mental health problems. (hence the negative ratings on those here arguing against legislation) I'll provide you with over 2 dozen different references to different case studies if you wish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Illegal drug use is going down so they say which I don't beleive, but its well known that use of legal highs is going up so is the death rate, makes you wonder who's got Cameron in their pockets, probably the drinks and tobacco industry, isn't the lobby system a wonderful thing?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    "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."

    Probably just as well you're retired, semi-illiterates wouldn't get a job in todays job market.

    It's ...'they're posting on their tea-break...', not their!

    Good grief.


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