Cameron rejects decriminalising drugs


David Cameron: ''I don't support decriminalisation''

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    @555: "I do not do drugs.. I do do alcohol..."

    Eh? Since when has alcohol not been a drug? Isn't this the same as saying, "The grass isn't green. The grass is green"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    Prohibition does not work, it lines the pockets of criminals. Not sure why these commitees are put in place if policy is guided purely on Victorian age morals. Waste of time and money. Very frustrating!

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    #400 the new zealand study said cognitive impairment only occurs with use during youth because the brain is still developing. Alcohol has an age limit why not cannabis? in my experience it was easier to get cannabis than alcohol when i was under 18 because dealers don't care how old you are

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    I get by with a little help from my friends. :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    Its not hard to get drugs these days. Trust me. People worried about an increase in uses are wide of the mark. They are very easy to get hold of. If youre worried about your kids getting them, it will be harder for them to get from legal licensed premises than it is from current street dealers. Why not take the street dealers out of the equation and make it harder for kids to get them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    The despot says no.
    Democracy at its best, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    Sounds like typical Conservative policy to me. "Why question yourself, listen to others and consider alternatives when you can get punitive?" The idea of seriously considering how effective Government policy is in a particular area and looking at alternatives should be a given, but that's First Past the Post politics for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    So you and Mr Cameron think that criminalising people as a precursor to treatment is an aid to making these people's lives better and therefore move towards a non-substance dependent living? Surely that is a good way to further the social issues that may have contributed to the substance use in the first place.
    We are capable of empathy and reason, lets use them; we are not ostriches.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    There is a company manufacturing liquid THC at a cost of $150 for 3ml. A lot for a couple of jimmys. The other problem the government has with pot is its psychoactive nature. There is a great video on you tube of british soldiers on LSD. Hilarious, they are totally unmanageable and there in lies the real problem, its very hard to CONTROL a stoner ask any shaman

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    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.

    Disposable income has dropped.

    how expensive can it be to have a sniffer dog(s) at every port and airport, and on cross channel ferries.

    And the rest of the coastline?

    I'm surprised they don't legalise it - think of the VAT income.

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    The only changes this goverment makes are to further snoop on the public and breach their privacy and freedom of speech. People are arrested for writing jokes on facebook, reading magazines and expressing opinions. Anything to do with liberty is never going to get off the ground. The sheep need the instructions and benefits off their trustworthy goverment...

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    I'll provide you with over 2 dozen different references to different case studies if you wish.
    hg, if they're as risible as the first three links you've sent, please don't waste both our time.
    Once again suggestion is not proof.
    Suggestion is propaganda.Do you know who paid for them?
    Proof is proof.
    What is so hard to understand about that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    The supposed coolness to doing drugs is only fleeting to the first time user. It soon leaves, then people will continue or stop depending if they like the effects. I have smoked weed for ten years but see it no more no less cool than eating a chocolate bar. I'm not in favour of legalisation, we hardly adapted well to 24hr drinking, but if it happened at least there would be decent weed available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    As i have smoked marijuana and drank alcohol, i can say from experience that alcohol should be class A and criminalised. You never get someone starting a fight after a smoke, no-one ever died to my knowledge of smoking but plenty from booze. Either make them legal or ban the lot. Do not demonise what you do not know about. Of course, drug companies would lose trillions so would never be backed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    I do like the idea of taking the drug scene out of the shadows and having it more under control. Where I take issue, though, is this sense that cannabis is somehow not awful. It DOES have bad effects on people and it really is not a good thing to be taking. It is NOT the soft option some people advocate. It certainly is not some harmless pastime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    The informed choice status of a govt licensed drug user could mean that a legal user of recreational or medicinal drugs would get NHS preference over illegal users as using bad narcotics & concoctions as are deemed harmful for personal & medical use. De-criminalising lawful drug use would lower the price of & de-criminalise approved narcotics use & would be attractive to most recreational users

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.


    alcohol is twice as bad than canabis but its legal? justify that mr

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    I don't see the harm in decrimilising Cannabis, I have friends who are habitual users of it, and I have tried it myself. However, class a drugs should remain illegal for the reason that they are unsafe, dangerous and highly addictive and harmful to not only those who use them, but other innocent people who suffer the knock on effects such as victims of crime from those who are high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    As usual a craven response from the worst Prime Minister ever.

    Bravery is required here to follow the evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    It can't honestly be said that something as soft as cannabis is as destructive as alcohol, either short-term or long-term.

    You can't tell me that alcohol doesn't cause far more problems regarding health, abuse and criminal behaviour than cannabis. But it's legal. The key is responsibility, which doesn't seem to be something the government trusts us common people with.


Page 45 of 77


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.