Sense on drugs is a reminder of the Liberal Democrats’ value to Britain


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The Independent Online

If anyone were in any doubt as to why the country still needs the Liberal Democrats, then Norman Baker’s latest contribution to public debate provides it. Mr Baker, who, as a Home Office minister in Theresa May’s department, must feel like the only hippy at an Iron Maiden concert, spoke honestly about the so-called war on drugs – a war that, Mr Baker points out, is certainly unwinnable, if not actually lost.

As the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said in relation to immigration, at least one mainstream party in Britain needs to challenge the lazy prejudices that pervade so much of our public debate: “Our party has a massive responsibility – to be the voice of sanity, seriousness and sense. Standing up to the purveyors of panic, prejudice and pessimism.”

The use of cannabinoids for medicinal purposes is one such sane, serious, sensible proposition. This is an issue of compassion and medical good sense rather than crime and punishment. There is plenty of evidence that people who have distressing conditions find the use of cannabis or cannabis-derived medicine to be a great comfort. Even the most hardline politicians wouldn’t dream of depriving the dying of a dose of morphine to dull the pain; so why, logically, would they stop people suffering from Aids or multiple sclerosis having an equivalent palliative?

The answer, of course, is that anyone who speaks sense on cannabis is immediately labelled by elements of the press and political opponents as “soft on drugs” – just as, no doubt, Mr Baker will be in the days ahead. So Mr Baker is to be commended for taking a brave and principled stand, and one that’s ahead of its time. It is worth noting, however, that it will not win the Liberal Democrats much in the way of votes in Clacton on Thursday.