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UK: William Hague calls for Theresa May to legalise cannabis

Mattha Busby

The Guardian

Tuesday 19 Jun 2018

Ex-Conservative leader says policy is ‘inappropriate, ineffective and out of date’

William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative party, has urged Theresa May to legalise cannabis, saying the UK’s drug policy is “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date” and “this battle is effectively over”.

Lord Hague said issuing orders to the police to stop people smoking cannabis were “about as up to date and relevant as asking the army to recover the empire”.

In an article in the Telegraph on Tuesday, Hague says the prime minister should be bold and lead a major policy change because it is deluded to think cannabis can be “driven off the streets”.

His comments come as a growing coalition of MPs, experts, campaigners and families whose children have epilepsy call for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use, after the confiscation last week of cannabis oil supplies intended to treat Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy.

The cabinet appears split on the issue of medicinal cannabis and on Monday May distanced herself from calls by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for a swift review of the law.

It is also understood that she also overruled the home secretary, Sajid Javid, when he told her it was “absolutely urgent” that the matter was discussed at the cabinet meeting on Monday.

Hague’s remarks go beyond the debate about cannabis for medicinal use. In his article, he urges politicians to recognise that “out there, cannabis is ubiquitous”, suggesting that if it were better regulated its strength could be controlled and its sale taxed.

“Over the weekend, the Home Office sensibly backed down and returned Billy’s medicine,” he writes. “By doing so, it implicitly conceded that the law has become indefensible.

“It must now be asked whether Britain should join the many other countries that permit medicinal-grade marijuana, or indeed join Canada in preparing for a lawful, regulated market in cannabis for recreational use as well. Can British Conservatives be as bold as Canadian Liberals? We ought to be.”

Canada is preparing to legalise recreational cannabis after both houses of its parliament voted in favour of the move, making it poised to become the first G7 country to do so.

In Austrialia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and most of the US, medical products containing the drug, such as the oil used by Billy, are allowed to be licensed.

Hague claims criminal gangs benefit the most from the drug being illegal and that many police forces have “stopped worrying about it”.

“When a law has ceased to be credible and worth enforcing to many police as well as the public, respect for the law in general is damaged,” he writes. “We should have laws we believe in and enforce or we should get rid of them.”

May said this week: “There’s a very good reason why we’ve got a set of rules around cannabis and other drugs, because of the impact that they have on people’s lives, and we must never forget that.”




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