Will the UK legalise cannabis? After Canada makes marijuana legal, what is the current regulation?

Anyone supplying or producing cannabis in Britain can be jailed for a maximum of 14 years

Tom Parfitt
Thursday 18 April 2019 00:23 BST
People queue up to buy cannabis legally for first time in Canada

Canada made history earlier this week by becoming only the second country in the world to legalise cannabis for recreational use.

Following in the footsteps of Uruguay, whose pharmacies started selling the drug last year, the north American nation believes the move will help take profits away from organised crime.

Campaigners have urged the UK to adopt a similar stance, although the issue of legalising drugs remains a controversial subject politically.

Will the UK legalise cannabis?

The most commonly used illegal drug in the UK, according to the Home Office, around 6.5 per cent of adults aged between 16 to 59 used cannabis in 2016. This equates to roughly 2.1 million people.

It is classified as a class B drug, having been upgraded from class C in 2009, meaning anyone supplying or producing cannabis can be jailed for a maximum of 14 years.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are currently opposed to legalising the drug, meaning that Britain is unlikely to emulate Canada in the near future.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for cannabis to be decriminalised for medical use. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, meanwhile, are in favour of legalising cannabis.

Steve Rolles, a drug policy expert from the Transform think-tank, believes that the UK will legalise recreational cannabis within five years. Speaking last week, he said: “The tide has turned. Canada is a G7 nation and one of the largest commonwealth countries.

“We expect the UK and many others to follow suit in the next five years, so that they can put government, not gangsters in control of the production and supply of cannabis.”

Paul North, a spokesman for the think-tank Volteface, also told the Evening Standard: “We will certainly see a regulated cannabis market in the UK in the near future.”

He added: “The main challenge now is one of education so that the public are better informed of what we have to gain from reform. Canada gives us this opportunity and an evidence based to draw upon.”

Is medicinal cannabis legal in the UK?

Earlier this month, the Home Office agreed to relax the rules over the prescription of medicinal cannabis across the NHS. From 1 November, specialist doctors in England, Wales and Scotland will be allowed to prescribe cannabis-derived medicine to patients.

The changes to the law came after several high-profile campaigns which captured widespread media attention and evoked public sympathy.

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Among them was the case of Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old boy who suffers with a rare form of epilepsy, whose mother Charlotte said he needed cannabis oil to control his seizures.

In a written statement to parliament, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I have been clear that my intention was always to ensure that patients have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment.

“I stressed the importance of acting swiftly to ensure that where medically appropriate, these products could be available to be prescribed to patients.”

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