Commons inquiry into cannabis

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The Independent Online

The decriminalisation of cannabis is to be investigated by a high-powered Commons select committee as part of a wide-ranging review of Britain's drugs laws.

The Prime Minister has rejected calls for a Royal Commission on drugs, but the select committee will give opponents and supporters of more liberal drugs laws the chance to air their views. It is expected to launch the inquiry in the autumn and to take evidence from the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

The inquiry will ensure that the debate about drugs, sparked off by Michael Portillo's campaign for the Tory leadership, will be high on the political agenda for the next 12 months.

Mr Blunkett appeared to be slapped down by No 10 after calling for an "adult debate" – seen as a hint that the Brixton policing experiment not to prosecute cannabis-users could herald a shift of policy towards decriminalisation. Mr Blair's official spokesman insisted there would be no change of approach on drugs.

The select committee will also investigate the consequences of the legal bans on drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and heroin.