They become the only major party to support legalisation of cannabis for recreational use
With an overwhelming majority, the Liberal Democrats Conference has passed a motion to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, in a self-conscious demonstration of its commitment to liberal values.
The debate centred on the public health benefits of legalisation, the regressive social impacts of criminalisation (particularly on working class and BME communities) the waste of police time and resources, and the need to end trafficking and the dangers associated with illegal dealing.
The party also claims that legalisation could generate up to £1bn in additional tax revenue.
Proposed by Norman Lamb, party health spokesperson, the motion rested on a report produced by an independent panel of experts, outlining a framework for legalisation and regulation.
It stipulates that:
- Cannabis should be sold over the counter by licensed vendors, in plain, childproof packaging and with appropriate health warnings. It would come in three different strengths – lower medium and higher.
- Consumption should be limited to those over 18.
- Homegrown cultivation of up to four plants should be permitted.
- Small-scale, licensed ‘cannabis social clubs’ of fewer than 100 adults should be permitted, although Dutch-style ‘cafes’ are discouraged.
- A regulator should be established to oversee the cannabis market.
Commenting on the result, Lamb commented:
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“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.”