With the European and local elections in the UK today and the general election fast approaching, this time next year , which will ultitmately be the 56th cycle of promises, votes, elections and lies. So it is no coincidence or real surprise that in the space of a few months Nick Clegg and David Cameron’s conservative think tank have said ‘hey y’know, maybe it IS time we look at our drug policy’. NORML UK decided to investigate the main UK political party views and policies on cannabis and drug law reform.
You only have to look back to 2005 when David Cameron, then a spritely Tory whippersnapper, spoke out saying: “Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades.”
Now fast forward to 2011, when in this infamous interview, Cameron stated, “the question here about whether illegal drugs should be made legal. My answer is no…”
As we can see, politicians have been known to make complete U-turns on promises when they come into power, so it is also important to see how they have acted in the past before voting on the basis of their current policies.
Let’s take a look at the five leading political parties and see their most recent stance on cannabis law reform, from harshest to least:
Unsurprisingly, Labour refused comment on the subject of drug law reform, which has been their usual tactic on this subject. It was a Labour Government under Gordon Brown which returned the classification of cannabis to class B again in 2005, laying down even harsher penalties and prison time for the next nine years, and for years to come.
When it comes to any new ideas regarding the ‘War on Drugs’, Labour consistently falls silent. Even when Labour MP and drugs advisor Bob Ainsworth came out saying the War was “nothing short of a disaster” , Ed Miliband replied: “I don’t agree with him on decriminalisation of drugs — I worry about the effects on young people, the message that we would be sending out.”
Miliband has previously touted he was ‘too square’ for drink and drugs when he was younger, and also appears to be someone who struggles to understand the needs of 3 million cannabis-smoking voters in the UK today.
Conservative think tank ‘Bright Blue’ recently stirred the cannabis conversation when they recommended Cameron to reform UK cannabis laws as a way to attract young people and ethnic-minority voters. Considering the group is backed by Theresa May, Francis Maude, and the former minister Andrew Mitchell, does this recommendation have legs?
When Norml UK asked the party what they thought, a representative replied: “We will publish our [drug] policies for the next General Election in our manifesto.” Could this imply Conservatives are changing their stance on cannabis? Or is this just another tease? We should find out about a month before the next election next year when they are expected to release the manifesto. David Cameron’s latest comment was in response to Clegg’s call for a review, he said: “I don’t personally think a Royal Commission is the answer and I don’t support the decriminalisation of any drugs that are currently illegal.”
In the meantime, if you want a laugh, just go to their official drug policy page and see them explain why the ‘war on drugs’ is so ridiculous: ‘It also drains public resources. For example, crimes related to drugs cost the UK £13.3 billion every year.’ They’re giving us statistics to use now!
This party is a prime example of why you shouldn’t vote for a political party based on one policy. Farage did come out in April saying : “I personally think that the war on drugs was lost many, many years ago and that the lives of millions of people in Britain are being made miserable by the huge criminal element that surrounds the illicit drugs trade and I do think that Portugal does show us that perhaps there is a better, more enlightened way to deal with this.”
However, the official party remains a prohibitionist stance, and we’ll have to see if they heed Mr Farage’s recommendations in their manifesto next year.
Nick Clegg has been very vocal about the UK’s drug policy in recent months as the general election deadline looms closer. As previously mentioned, in response to a anti-Prohibitionist motion passed at his party’s annual conference, he called for a Royal Commission on drugs at the end of 2013 which Cameron quickly batted away. After an emotional trip to gang-dominated Columbia in February 2014, he came back looking for alternatives to prohibition using the famous line: ‘If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform’. And this month, he signed the London School of Economics report which logically proved the war on drugs had failed.
However, what needs to be remembered is the Lib Dem’s promises have not proved airtight in previous times. Broken commitments to lowering tuition fees, VAT and delivering “fairer taxes in tough times” have left some supporters feeling short-changed. Could more promises on cannabis regulation face the same fate?
The Green Party is a party that has been literally fighting the green fight for years. Stating their official policy which has remained the same for over 10 years: ‘Cannabis would be removed from the 1971 Misuse of drugs act. The possession, trade and cultivation of cannabis would be immediately decriminalised, roughly following the Dutch model.’
You may have heard of Caroline Allen, if you were at Hyde Park 420 this year; you would have seen MEP candidate for London on a soapbox showing her support for the cannabis cause. A green party spokesman and policymaker for the Green party, when asked for a comment by NORML, Miss Allen replied: “We do not believe people should be criminalised for either recreational or medical use and support people’s choice on this issue. We would decriminalise cannabis if in power, looking to the examples overseas as to where this has been done successfully.”
Few voters make their choices on one policy alone, but we at NORML urge you to take cannabis policy in your consideration when casting your ballot today. Unfortunately through all the promises, lies and swathes of information, politics is a game we must play to get anything done. Voting is one way we tell politicians we want change; passive non-compliance will not achieve anything other than let the same circle rotate.
It may seem un-motivating – how politics works, but every time the word of cannabis reform is spouted by politicians, the debate is restarted. Papers run stories for good or bad, social media networks light up like roman candles and everyone is thinking about what matters to us most.
With enough talk, accelerated by activist events, the facts will prevail and the undeniable truth about cannabis will come to light.
So with everything said and done, who will you be voting for at the local and general elections?
Mr Cheese is a writer for The High Community, a UK entertainment and activism website looking to bring three million stoners together.