New poll reveals MPs in favour of change in law on drugs

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The Independent Online
If the Government were to allow a free vote in Parliament, cannabis would be decriminalised at a stroke, says a new poll.

Of the MPs who took part, 70 per cent said there was a case for allowing doctors the right to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes. Only 15 per cent voted against, with just over eight per cent undecided.

The poll was conducted by the London bureau of Japanese newspaper the Hokkaido Shimbun, which has reported on the Independent on Sunday campaign to decriminalise cannabis.

Each MP was sent a short questionnaire and told they could reply anonymously, which may have accounted for the high proportion of answers from Conservative MPs, the political group traditionally shyest about expressing support for reform of our out-dated drug laws.

Just over a third of MPs from all parties voted in favour of decriminalising cannabis for personal and recreational use, with Labour MPs the group most in favour of this proposition. More than 41 per cent of Labour MPs taking part said 'No' to the question, "Do you think that the possession and use of cannabis in the UK should be illegal"?

The poll was conducted over the summer recess and 130 MPs from all parties took part.

Last week, a cross-party group of 17 MPs signed an Early Day Motion urging the Government to respond swiftly to growing evidence that cannabis can help treat disease and reduce pain.

Last Monday, another leading MP campaigning for a change in laws, Dr Brian Iddon, met with George Howarth, the Home Office minister in charge of drugs policy. "I feel we made some progress in one or two important areas and that he listened very closely when I raised the question of random testing for cannabis in prisons," Mr Iddon said.

"But on the question of decriminalisation, he said that government policy would remain unchanged. We also discussed the medical uses of cannabis, and it is well known that Health Secretary Frank Dobson has said he would listen to arguments."

Meanwhile, the IoS Decriminalise Cannabis campaign continues to attract new supporters. This week, the writers John Mortimer and Frederic Raphael sign our petition, as does stage actress Zoe Wanamaker, BBC TV's Dervla Kirwan and singers Marianne Faithfull and Boy George.

Campaign reports, pages 21-22