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 1527.

    All one has to do is look at the nature and number of the positive comments for ending prohibition. As a father of four young boys I would really like to see some regulation of a market completely controlled by the criminal element.
    Cameron and the Home Office are out of step with the public on this to a very large degree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1526.

    "government was open to new ways of thinking". You have to wonder whether he kept a straight face when he said that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1525.

    "That is not a drug. It’s a leaf,"
    - Arnold Schwarzenegger,

    "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country."
    - Thomas Jefferson, U.S.

    "There's been no top authority saying what marijuana does to you. I really don't know that much about it. I tried it once but it didn't do anything to me."
    -John Wayne


  • rate this

    Comment number 1524.

    holland proposed all sorts of restrictions on selling to foreigners earlier in the year,
    now things have changed to allow local counties to decide if they want coffee shops.... bet that is due to a sharp fall in tourism.
    so holland will remain on the holiday destination list

  • rate this

    Comment number 1523.

    is my brand new song, coming from the sea and sun, Jamaica, the
    island in the sun, Emperor Halie Selassie I, Lightning and
    Thunder, Hailstone, Brimstone and Fire, Music; whirlwind,
    hurricane and tidalwave judgment mixed by Earthquake the
    Ambassador, produced by Flood

  • rate this

    Comment number 1522.

    HSBC has just been fined £1+ billion for laundering drug money which sounds a lot but when you think £60 trillion of transactions went through I'm sure they are still showing a nice profit. Nobody goes to jail of course because they said sorry we didn't realise we laundered trillions in drug money
    Of course the US authorities fine is just them taking their cut
    Smoke a joint though and U R EVIL!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1521.

    The risk of your child being knocked down by a dope smoker is your reason for saying no? By that logic, do you not have a problem with Alcohol being legal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1520.

    OK Troops it's time to let them Babylon Spies have to Die and perform a unified coordinated peaceful godly nyabinghi drum protest and chase them devils to outer space. Spark up a bighead spilff and listen to King Tubby meets the Upsetters at the Grass Roots of Dub and let them just gwarn

  • rate this

    Comment number 1519.

    If 'CANNABIS' was made legal & regulated for over 21s

    'what a wonderfu world that would be'


  • rate this

    Comment number 1518.

    Alcohol = Violence, Domestic Abuse, Murder

    Tobacco = Ill Health, Cancer, premature death

    Cannabis = Happy, chilled, mellow !

    Your argument is what, exactly ? Mr Cameron !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1517.

    the "old drugs" have always been around and we know the effects, if de-criminalised it would cut out the new fashion of "legal highs".... which i can assure you are far more harmful than cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1516.

    @1508 jimbo "How would you like it if some dope head knocked your kid down because they were high. It seems like it us who dont do drugs can see it this way because them for the argument are too wasted to think rationally !"

    Possibly the most inane and ignorant argument I have ever heard against legalisation and there was me thinking the Government had a monopoly on stupidity regarding this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1515.

    You might as well ask the devil if he supports the recruitment of guadian angels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1514.

    I know people that have smoked weed for years without needing to try anything else stronger or without any ill effects & I also know people who love a few lines of coke after a night on the piss.

    The cannabis gateway theory has been disproven multiple times - the problem is prohibition.

    Under prohibition you visit a dealer, they sell hard & soft drugs and may offer you something else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1513.

    The best thing about LEGALISNG CANNABS would be the fact addicts of most hard drugs, Tobacco & Alcohol would overcome there addictions with the much safer Cannabis that can be provided like in Amsterdam, if the UK was more like this place nobody would be leaving for Austrailia or Canada etc..


  • rate this

    Comment number 1512.

    Just now How would you like it if some dope head knocked your kid down because they were high.
    Probably the same as if a drunk knocked down a child. This does not mean we should not have the debate. It does you know favour resorting to statements like "because them for the argument are too wasted to think rationally!"
    I think rationally and objectively on all issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1511.

    At the very least, the one drug that's never harmed anyone, that's been proven to be great for pain relief, yet still wastes police time and causes much needed prison space to be filled, should be decriminalized and taxed. The sooner, the better.
    It's pathetic how in 2012, Cannabis is still seen as a "gateway" drug, more dangerous than alcohol, when all the evidence says otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1510.

    Well,this is rich,coming from Cameron when the last lot actually admitted that the war against drugs had been lost.He is a typical bandwagon politician who is afraid to try anything new in the fear that it will damage his status.Addiction is an illness,and the sooner it is treated that way the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1509.

    Is there really such a huge problem with alcohol & cigarettes or is that just what we are told and what is convenient to those who wish funding?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1508.

    Cant believe what people are saying on here " legalise drugs " ? So what will they think when people drugged up on dope start knocking down and killing children ? How would you like it if some dope head knocked your kid down because they were high. It seems like it us who dont do drugs can see it this way because them for the argument are too wasted to think rationally !


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