Criminalising people for possessing small amounts of cannabis 'not a particularly good idea’, says Corbyn

'Cannabis oil use is clearly beneficial to people and that should be decriminalised and made readily available as quickly as possible'

Mattha Busby
Sunday 01 July 2018 13:06 BST
Jeremy Corbyn advocates the availability of cannabis for medicinal purposes

Jeremy Corbyn has said “criminalising people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not a particularly good idea”, although he stopped short of backing any change in the law regarding recreational use, even though he signed an early day motion in 2000 calling for the possession of cannabis to be decriminalised.

On Sunday, however, Mr Corbyn would not be drawn on whether he would support such a move and when asked whether cannabis should be decriminalised for recreational, as well as medical use, he said: “I think at this stage we should say that medical use of cannabis is good.

“Cannabis oil use is clearly beneficial to people and that should be decriminalised and made readily available as quickly as possible.”

Mr Corbyn stressed the importance of considering the health concerns that arise from all drug-taking and told Sky's Sophy Ridge that "no drug is without consequences when people take it".

“Personally, I don’t take any drugs at all and I think we should just think about it quite carefully but let's go with what’s proposed now which is the availability of cannabis for medicinal purposes," he said.

“I think criminalising people for possession of small amounts of cannabis is not a particularly good idea and does lead to great difficulties, particularly for young people in communities like mine, so I do think the debate is moving on.”

The Labour Party recently announced its support for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, in a significant u-turn.

Billy Caldwell's mum welcomes UK allowing cannabis oil epileptic son

The home secretary Sajid Javid had intervened and granted two children the right to access cannabis medicine after the issue was thrust into the spotlight when a severely epileptic boy’s mother had six months worth of cannabis oil medicine confiscated at Heathrow airport.

Cannabis medicine can improve the symptoms of intractable epilepsy – a third of whom do not respond to the medicine provided by the NHS – and a government-appointed expert panel recently began accepting applications from senior clinicians to prescribe cannabis-based medicines.

The debate around medicinal cannabis prompted former Conservative leader William Hague to announce his support for the decriminalisation of cannabis for recreational use after Canada became the second country to legalise the plant.

In an article in The Telegraph, he said Theresa May should pursue a major policy change because it is deluded to think cannabis can be “driven off the streets” and only gangs benefit from the substance remaining illegal.

Police forces across the country are no longer enforcing the law if cannabis possession is limited to personal use, leading to The Times to declare cannabis is being “decriminalised by stealth”.

The chief constable of Durham police last week called for an end to the ban on cannabis and argued it damages public safety, puts users in more danger and gives millions of pounds to organised criminals.

“The status quo is not tenable. It’s getting worse,” Mike Barton told The Guardian. “Drugs are getting cheaper, stronger, more readily available and more dangerous. I have come reluctantly over the years to the conclusion that we need to regulate the market. If you can regulate the market you can make sure it’s old-fashioned cannabis – not skunk or spice.”

A leading right-wing think tank said on Friday that legalising cannabis could save more than £1bn in extra taxes and savings drawn from public services.

Britain’s cannabis black market is worth £2.6bn annually and 255 tonnes of it was sold to more than 3 million people last year, according to the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Labour announced earlier this month that if elected it would allow the use of cannabis oil on prescription, for medical purposes, a departure from its previous position.

Several Labour MPs are set to launch a campaign for drug policy reform in early July.

“We believe this country’s drug policy is letting down the people Labour is set up to represent,” read an email sent to the media.

“Whether it’s children being exploited by dealers to sell heroin on our estates, BAME people being disproportionately imprisoned for possessing cannabis, or treatment services struggling under the weight of austerity, it’s the most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt of the UK’s failed drug policies.

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