Taking drugs is a human right, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers who want to legalise the possession, purchase and growing of drugs.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform want to use human rights legislation to decriminalise drug use, claiming the "blanket prohibition" drug policy approach has failed.
In a new report it suggests that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlines rights to "private and family life", could be used by defendants caught with illegal drugs.
It says drug laws needed to “reflect the supremacy of human rights conventions" and suggests that as long as drug taking does not harm others, it should not be a criminal offence.
The group is an informal grouping of parliamentarians but its high profile and authoritative membership gives the group a significant degree of influence.
Its members include the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, former Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson and the former director general of M15 Baroness Manningham-Buller.
The report by the group could lead to a test case brought by a drug user but Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, who said the successful use of Article 8 of the ECHR could "open the flood gates" for people using the legislation to avoid prosecution against all kinds of crimes.
"This is novel as far as decriminalisation is concerned," he said. "One exemption, though minor, could open the floodgates. Human rights legislation is not designed to be used in this way."
The report by the group says: “For European countries the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 8, could be invoked in support of the argument that possession or purchase or cultivation of drugs for personal use, particularly in small quantities, do not injure other people's rights either directly or indirectly and therefore should not be criminalised.
“The interpretation of the Drug Control Conventions must take full account of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the impact of current policies in human terms.
“This applies fully to the response to the production, trafficking and sale of controlled drugs.
“When the existing unbalanced prohibitionist response to drug market activities breaches human rights, then adjustments must be made.”
A Government spokesman said it had "no intention of decriminalising or legalising 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