All drugs should be decriminalised for personal use and cannabis should be fully legalised as a medical treatment, the Liberal Democrats have said.
The party has tabled amendments to the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill which seeks to ban most legal drugs.
Brian Paddick, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson and a former police officer, said in a statement that the Conservative approach to drugs policy was “doomed to failure”.
“These new psychoactive substances - or legal highs - only exist because our current approach to drugs is failing. Instead of tackling the danger of these new drugs, this Bill is likely to make things worse,” he said.
"When I was a police officer, I realised that locking up drug users is simply not the answer. We have to learn the lessons of why our current approach is failing before we make the same mistakes with new psychoactive substances as we have done with other illegal drugs.
"Decriminalising personal possession will free up vital police resources to go after drug dealers, ensure addicts get treatment and social users get the education they need to keep them safe.”
Decriminalisation for personal use would not equate to full legalisation but would mean someone could not be punished criminally for possessing the drugs.
Where cannabis is and isn't legal
Where cannabis is and isn't legal
Having been reclassified in 2009 from a Class C to a Class B drug, cannabis is now the most used illegal drug within the United Kingdom. The UK is also, however, the only country where Sativex – a prescribed drug that helps to combat muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and contains some ingredients that are also found in cannabis - is licensed as a treatment
2/12 North Korea
Although many people believe the consumption of cannabis in North Korea to be legal, the official law regarding the drug has never been made entirely clear whilst under Kim Jong Un’s regime. However, it is said that the North Korean leader himself has openly said that he does not consider cannabis to be a drug and his regime doesn’t take any issue with the consumption or sale of the drug
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In the Netherlands smoking cannabis is legal, given that it is smoked within the designated ‘smoking areas’ and you don’t possess more than 5 grams for personal use. It is also legal to sell the substance, but only in specified coffee shops
Although in some states of America cannabis has now been legalised, prior to the legalisation, police in the U.S. could make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds, according to US News and World Report. The country also used to spend around $3.6 billion a year enforcing marijuana law, the American Civil Liberties Union notes
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Despite cannabis being officially illegal in Spain, the European hotspot has recently started to be branded, ‘the new Amsterdam’. This is because across Spain there are over 700 ‘Cannabis Clubs’ – these are considered legal venues to consume cannabis in because the consumption of the drug is in private, and not in public. These figures have risen dramatically in the last three years – in 2010 there were just 40 Cannabis Clubs in the whole of Spain. Recent figures also show that in Catalonia alone there are 165,000 registered members of cannabis clubs – this amounts to over 5 million euros (£4 million) in revenue each month
In December 2013, the House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill legalizing and regulating the production and sale of the drug. But the president has since postponed the legalization of cannabis until to 2015 and when it is made legal, it will be the authorities who will grow the cannabis that can be sold legally. Buyers must be 18 or older, residents of Uruguay, and must register with the authorities
Despite the fact that laws prohibiting the sale and misuse of cannabis exist and is considered a habit only entertained by lower-income groups, it is very rarely enforced. The occasional use of cannabis in community gatherings is broadly tolerated as a centuries old custom. The open use of cannabis by Sufis and Hindus as a means to induce euphoria has never been challenged by the state. Further, large tracts of cannabis grow unchecked in the wild
In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the use of all drugs, and started treating drug users as sick people, instead of criminals. However, you can still be arrested or assigned mandatory rehab if you are caught several times in possession of drugs
9/12 Puerto Rico
Although the use of cannabis is currently illegal, it is said that Puerto Rico are in the process of decriminalising it
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The US state became the first in the country to legalise marijuana in January 2014. In February 2015, President Obama recently said he expects to see more states "looking into" legalisation. However, it is illegally to grow more than six cannabis plants and to possess more than 28 grams of the drug
Oaksterdam in Oakland, California, is the world's only university dedicated to the study and cultivation of cannabis. If you are court in California with anything up to an ounce of cannabis, you will be fine $100, but you will not get a criminal record, nor will you have to appear in court
Cannabis is grown in the wild and has been used to treat conditions such as gout and malaria. But, officially the substance is illegal to consume, possess and sell
Treatment would still be available and those who sold drugs could still be punished, depending on the specifics of the legislation.
Such an approach has been tried in Portugal, where it has produced largely positive but also mixed results.
The country has seen reduced deaths amongst drug users since instituting the policy as well as increased uptake of treatment.
Critics however note that general drug use has increased, though proponents say that “problem” drug use is in fact down.
The country has additionally seen significant savings to the criminal justice system.
In the United States 23 out of the country’s 50 states currently permit medical cannabis, with more states pending legislation.
The Liberal Democrat 2015 election manifesto contained a slightly less emphatic pledge to ensure that no one arrested for possession of drugs for personal use ended up with a criminal record.
The party had also said it was keen to establish a review to assess the effectiveness of cannabis legalisation in some US states and Uruguay.