Labour has launched a new campaign to win over Liberal Democrat voters by attacking their party for being “soft” on drugs.
A new poster released by the party this week brands the liberals “soft on crime, drugs and thugs” and references their policy of ending prison sentences for drug possession.
Nick Clegg called for decriminalisation of drug use in a joint conference with entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson early last month.
But Ed Miliband has ruled out moving towards a decriminalised system, despite claims by observers that similar moves have led to impressive harm-reduction results in other countries.
The vast majority of voters Labour has won over since 2010 are former Liberal Democrats, according to data compiled by the British Election Study.
The group is seen as key to the party’s chances of victory in May.
Labour’s attempt to retain these voters by highlighting its illiberal credentials confused and dismayed some of the party’s activists and supporters, however.
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
MARCEL VAN HOORN/AFP/Getty Images
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
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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
RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
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
“Trust the Labour Party to attack one Lib Dem policy that is actually desperately needed. The war on drugs has failed,” tweeted Lily Jayne Summers, a Labour activist from Wales.
Fergus Boden, a student who lives in Edinburgh, said he was a “potential voter in a swing seat”.
“I live in what's predicted to be marginal Labour seat. Why are they making it harder by pandering to the right?” he tweeted.
The criticism of the poster comes days after the party released a commemorative mug celebrating “controls on immigration” which took fire for alleged xenophobia.
The British Election Study shows Labour has gained roughly net zero voters from the Conservatives since 2010 and probably needs disillusioned Liberal Democrats to form a majority.
The party has also lost a solid chunk of this group to the Green Party in recent months amid complaints that Ed Miliband is not taking Her Majesty’s Opposition a radical enough direction.
“I had left the Labour party to find the values that I thought that it once stood for, and I found them, in the Greens,” former Labour member Jack Monroe wrote in the Guardian newspaper last week.Reuse content