Former minister launches attempt to legalise sale, supply and use of cannabis

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Indy Politics

A former Labour Minister launched a House of Commons move to legalise cannabis on Wednesday.

Although Jon Owen Jones's backbench Bill received an unopposed first reading, it would need to win Government support to become law.

His Legalisation of Cannabis Bill, modelled on laws in the Netherlands, seeks to "legalise and regulate the sale, supply and use of cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes".

He admits that cannabis can damage health, but that it should not be Government's role to outlaw harmful substances. He argues that prohibition of the substance has patently not worked.

Mr Jones, a former Welsh Office Minister, recently admitted smoking cannabis in the past and enjoying the experience.

He said: "I smoked it on several social occasions when I was a student and a young man, as did many of my friends and colleagues. I would not have taken it more than once if I did not like it."

Mr Jones, a science teacher before being elected for Cardiff Central in 1992, said he had not used drugs for more than 20 years, but now it was time to review drugs legislation.

He drew up his Bill after winning ninth place in the ballot of backbench MPs to introduce their own legislation. Most Cabinet Ministers fiercely oppose relaxing the laws on soft drugs, but David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has said Britain needs an "adult, intelligent debate" on the subject.

The issue emerged as a central theme of the Conservative leadership contest when Peter Lilley, a former deputy party leader, argued that laws on cannabis use were "unenforceable and indefensible" and called for it to be sold through regulated off-licences.

First on the list of Bills, and with a a strong chance of success, is a measure piloted by John Randall, the Tory MP for Uxbridge, to give more environmental protection to marine species. He wants to see marine conservation areas given the same legal protection as areas designated sites of special scientific interest.

Third is the Age Equality Commission Bill through which Candy Atherton, Labour MP for Falmouth and Camborne, seeks to set up a commission to advise ministers on discrimination issues in relation to older people. The former Health Secretary, Frank Dobson is introducing a Bill requiring companies selling tobacco products in the UK to disclose the scientific and market research they have carried out.