UK Politics

Ex-minister Norman Lamb urges cannabis legalisation

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNorman Lamb: Prohibition has not worked in any part of the world

A former health minister has called on MPs to legalise the possession and consumption of cannabis.

Norman Lamb backed introducing regulation of its production, distribution and sale.

But his 10-minute-rule bill in the House of Commons was rejected by 66 votes to 52.

Mexico and Luxembourg have plans to legalise recreational cannabis use. Canada has just done so. And New Zealand is considering a referendum.

Mr Lamb told MPs about three of his North Norfolk constituents, who faced health problems that were eased by cannabis use.

Speaking about one of them, he said: "Cannabis offers him essential pain relief but he has no option but to buy it illegally. He knows, at any time, he could face arrest and prosecution."

The Liberal Democrat told MPs: "It is clear the recent reforms are not working," as he called for a "more enlightened approach".

He said prohibition had not worked in any part of the world, adding cannabis was "available everywhere".

Mr Lamb said his bill offered a "more rational alternative to this mess" and claimed that many of those opposing his bill would have used cannabis at some stage.

The MP proposed "strict regulation" on the growing, selling and marketing of the drug, which he said should be legalised for adults.

Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Steve Double praised Norman Lamb's campaigning but did not back his bill

Conservative MP Steve Double said "something needs to be done" but the legalisation proposal from Mr Lamb was not the answer.

He said: "I have seen very close up and first-hand, the lives that it wrecks, the impact on mental health that it has, and the cost that it not only has to the individuals but to their families, to their communities and to wider society."

After Tuesday's vote on his bill, Mr Lamb said: "It is total hypocrisy that the most dangerous drug of all, in terms of harm to yourself and others, alcohol, is consumed in large quantities right here in our national Parliament, whilst we criminalise others for using a less dangerous drug - with many using it for the relief of pain."

Medicinal use of cannabis oil has been highlighted in 2018 by the campaign of Hannah Deacon, a mother of a boy with epilepsy, who took him to the Netherlands, where the treatment is legal.

She met Prime Minister Theresa May, before being given prescriptions for her son, and carried on campaigning for wider use, after a petition that collected 718,543 signatures.

The law on the use of medicinal cannabis changed last month but the new rules did not recommend the use of cannabis oil.