Elizabeth Adams, the Lib Dem candidate for Stratford-on-Avon in last year’s general election, gave a strong and impassioned speech in favour of legalising cannabis.
Elizabeth explained “The war on drugs has totally failed. It hasn’t been a war on drugs at all, drugs are thriving. It has been a war on the victims of drugs.”
Elizabeth’s speech focused on her own experience as a victim of domestic violence, which was made worse by the perpetrator’s drug and alcohol abuse. Elizabeth argues that some of the most vulnerable people in society are currently prevented from seeking help for issues made worse by drug use because of the fear of being penalised.
She continued, “What I learnt during my time working in community pharmacy, is that every substance we consume, whether it's for medical reasons or not, carries a risk. Some people will suffer from side effects. Now wouldn't you much rather have people able to know about the risks and be informed and educated about problem signs to look out for? That they knew where and how to get help, and that they felt comfortable to get that help? This is what we need to do.”
The Liberal Democrats are the only party to have officially adopted the policy of legalisation. The global cannabis industry is estimated to be worth £200 billion worldwide. Legalisation would be likely to bring in a big tax boost that can be used to invest in education and health, including programmes to help prevent drug abuse.
In the autumn, the Liberal Democrats set up an independent panel of experts to look at how a regulated, legalised cannabis market could work in the UK. At their party conference over the 11th – 13th March 2016, party members voted to adopt the proposals of the panel, making them the first UK party to officially back the policy of legalisation for cannabis.
Norman Lamb MP, the party’s health spokesperson, explained “It is not good enough to continue pretending that everything is ok, or that the current system is working. We should be ambitious in our new approach. Millions of British citizens are using cannabis with no idea of the potency of what they are taking and too many are still being criminalised, which blights careers. At the same time huge sums of money is put into the pockets of organised crime.”
“The current system is doing untold harm: on health grounds and on justice grounds. Several states in the US have now introduced a regulated market and now the new Liberal Government in Canada is set to follow suit. We should lead the case for reform here.”
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats said, “I think this is the sort of radical, liberal policies that we're known for. No other party is endorsing reform and can bring about change.”
The debate to pass the policy at Liberal Democrat conference heard speeches in support of legalisation from members with a variety of tragic and personal stories of the damage that the war on drugs has caused. This includes a cancer patient who argues for legalisation so that proper research can begin into the effects of cannabis in treating cancer. It also included a member whose son was killed after being exploited by a criminal gang into smuggling drugs across borders.
The UK is increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. Canada, Israel, Mexico, Uruguay and over 20 States in the US regulate cannabis for medical use. Australia is in the process of doing so. . In Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Romania, and Switzerland all allow some degree of medical access.