The Liberal Democrats voted today at the party conference in York to support a regulated cannabis market in the UK, becoming the first political party to support this reform to our drugs laws.
The move to support legalised recreational use of cannabis follows an expert report from a group of police officers, public health experts and drugs policy analysts. The panel was chaired by Steve Rolles, from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, and included the government’s former chief drugs adviser David Nutt as well as Mike Barton, the Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary. You can read the report in full below.
The plans for a legal, regulated cannabis market include:
- Allowing the sale of cannabis to over 18s from specialist, licensed retail stores with trained vendors, in plain packaging with child-proof seals. The packaging would come with clear health and risk reduction information and the cannabis would be graded into lower, medium and higher strength.
- A new regulator to oversee the market for legal cannabis. The regulator will target the price, potency and packaging of cannabis available from retailers, with policy informed by evidence and best practice in tobacco and alcohol regulation.
- Allowing home-cultivation for personal use and small scale licensed cannabis social clubs, based on the successful model in Spain where there are around 400 such clubs.
The expert panel found that such as regulated market would benefit other public services by around £1bn a year, thanks to £400m-£900m in extra tax revenues and savings from the criminal justice system of £200m-£300m.
Farron backs legalisation of cannabis
The move is backed by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, making him the first leader of one of the UK’s main parties to back legalisation of cannabis for recreational use:
Prohibition of cannabis has failed. We need a new, smarter approach and I welcome this report.
It is a waste of police time to go after young people using cannabis and ludicrous to saddle them with criminal convictions that can damage their future careers.
A legal market would allow us to have more control over what is sold, and raise a considerable amount in taxation.
War on drugs has failed
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb said:
I’m very proud this party has taken a principled stand and led the way. The war on drugs has been a catastrophic failure.
We give billions of pounds every year to organised crime; too many people have lost their lives in places such as central and southern America and we criminalise thousands of people, blighting their careers. When people buy cannabis from criminals, they have no idea what they are buying.
No criminal is interested in your welfare. So regulating the sale of cannabis, controlling the potency and taking the trade away from criminals makes sense in terms of public health and community safety.
During the 2010-15 coalition government, the Liberal Democrats pushed for a review of the UK’s drug laws, but were repeatedly blocked by the Conservatives.