Kennedy:Cannabis must not be taboo - News - The Independent

Kennedy:Cannabis must not be taboo

CHARLES KENNEDY, the new Liberal Democrat leader, defended his call for a radical overhaul of Britain's drug laws yesterday, and claimed that MPs were lagging behind public opinion on the issue.

Mr Kennedy said that a Royal Commission should be created to look at the decriminalisation of cannabis and other soft drugs. The 39-year-old MP, who says he has never experimented with cannabis, is the first leader of a mainstream political party to urge such a major re-think of drugs policy.

He said the issue of drugs, the effect on crime rates and use for medicinal purposes should be subject to a thorough review by Parliament. Although proposals for a Royal Commission have been official Liberal Democrat policy for more than four years, the former leader, Paddy Ashdown, avoided the issue in the belief that it could damage the party's election chances.

Mr Kennedy made clear yesterday he was "under no illusions" that his critics would use his comments against him, but refused to accept that decriminalisation was a political minefield. "I don't know a household in the country that's not worried, extremely anxious about the whole issue of drugs," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

"It's what people are talking about out there. The fact that journalists and politicians in and around Whitehall and Westminster are not addressing these day-to-day concerns in a mature, considered and adult fashion is wrong."

As a "responsible politician", it was only right to ask why there were differing sentences handed out by the courts, and why senior police officers wanted change, he said. "I think we owe it to this country to have a better, more informed discussion and I think the best way is through a Royal Commission."

Downing Street insisted last night there was no need for an inquiry. "Tony Blair is against decriminalisation of cannabis and sees no value in a Royal Commission," a spokesman said. Ann Widdecombe, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that Mr Kennedy's remarks were "entirely the wrong signal" to send out to young people. "Charles Kennedy clearly has yet to learn how a responsible party leader should behave," she said. "This is an unbelievable first commitment which will alienate many of the people who put a cross by his name in the recent leadership election and who voted Liberal Democrat two years ago."

But support for Mr Kennedy came from an unexpected quarter when the Bishop of Edinburgh admitted he had tried cannabis and called for legalisation to be discussed. The Most Rev Richard Holloway, 65, said he had tried the drug and found it "disappointing", but believed cigarettes and alcohol were far more harmful.

Mike Goodman, director of the drugs charity Release, also welcomed Mr Kennedy's comments. "For a leader of one of the three main political parties to be making this statement now represents the drug debate coming of age," he said.

"Now is the time to talk, and consider not only the case to reform the drug laws, but also how a reformed system could be put into practice."

Leading article,

Review, page 3

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Commuter travels 320 metres, 75 steps, two ticket barriers and a labyrinth of roads to get to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week