The Chief Minister of the Isle of Man has said wants to widen the debate on drugs, by considering decriminalising cannabis on the island.
Allan Bell’s comments follow a presentation on the island given by former Westminster drugs adviser Professor David Nutt, who was sacked under Labour after he criticised stricter laws on cannabis.
Most recently, Professor Nutt said the number of deaths from so-called legal highs are overestimated, arguing that drugs are often wrongly classified or already outlawed in the UK.
During his speech, Professor Nutt suggested that by relaxing laws, the self-governing Crown dependency could become a research hub for exploring the medical benefits of drugs, the Isle of Man Examiner reported.
In an interview with the newspaper, Mr Bell praised Professor Nutt’s “fresh perspective” on the drugs debate.
Accepting the link between cannabis and mental health problems, Mr Bell told reporters it was also important to consider evidence which suggests that it has positive effects on a range of medical conditions.
Read more: We could make drugs safer. We choose not to
Owen Jones: The drug we ignore that kills thousands
“I think there is a consensus developing internationally now that the old-style war on drugs has failed miserably and there needs to be a new approach,” he said, citing the legalisation of cannabis in the US and Uruguay as examples of nations taking a positive attitude towards drug regulation.
“I really do think, and have long believed, that drug use should be considered a health matter and not a criminal activity. We should not be imprisoning people for drug use.”
Mr Bell added: “I’m not saying it should be legalised but that there should be a different approach. I’ve an open mind on this – chanting the long-established mantra that “drugs are bad” is not going to resolve this issue at all. There needs to be fresh debate on how we deal with drug use, including possible decriminalisation.
“I think we have to consider every approach to take criminality out of drug use. The vast majority of people who do drugs do it recreationally and should not be considered criminals," he added.
However, he stressed what he sees is a difference between decriminalisation and legalisation, and said that people would only be able to keep small amounts of the drug for personal use. Those with excessively large stashes would still be prosecuted.
The island is also restricted by a UN protocol, he added.