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War on cannabis ‘comprehensively and irreversibly lost’, William Hague says

Current policy is 'revealed to be inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 19 June 2018 12:49 BST
Billy Caldwell's mum welcomes UK allowing cannabis oil epileptic son

William Hague has urged Theresa May to consider legalising cannabis as he claims the war on the drug has been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost”.

The remarks from the former foreign secretary heap political pressure on the prime minister amid an escalating row in the cabinet over the government’s approach to medical cannabis and growing outrage over a 12-year-old epileptic boy’s use of the drug.

The intervention from Mr Hague – Tory leader between 1997 and 2001 – also comes after Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, suggested a “different way” was required after cannabis oil was confiscated from Charlotte Caldwell.

Ms Caldwell had purchased the drug in Canada to treat her son, Billy, who was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster hospital on Friday evening in a critical condition having suffered multiple seizures. It led to Sajid Javid, the home secretary, granting a 20-day emergency licence of the oil.

Lord Hague said the case of Billy Caldwell demonstrated that current policy is “revealed to be inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date”.

He said Mr Javid’s decision to return the medicine to the 12-year-old boy at the weekend meant the Home Office had “implicitly conceded that the law has become indefensible”.

“It must now be asked whether Britain should join the many other countries that permit medical-grade marijuana, or indeed, join Canada in preparing for a lawful, regulated market in cannabis for recreational use as well," he added.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he joined those who have called for a change in approach over cannabis, claiming the idea the narcotic can be “driven off the streets and out of people’s lives by the state is nothing short of deluded”.

He continued: “It’s time to acknowledge facts, and to embrace a decisive change that would be economically and socially beneficial, as well as rather liberation for Conservatives in showing sensible new opinions are welcome.

“First of all, as far as marijuana, or cannabis, is concerned, any war has been comprehensively and irreversibly lost.

“Everyone sitting in a Whitehall conference room needs to recognise that, out there, cannabis is ubiquitous, and issuing orders to the police to defeat its use is about as up-to-date and relevant as asking the Army to recover the Empire.

“This battle is effectively over.”

Urging the prime minister to be “bold”, he added: “And while not advocating the recreational use of any drugs at all, I think it is right that people of all persuasions should now focus on sorting out a failed policy and an unsustainable law, and replacing both with new ideas that might just command respect and success.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Labour supported the legal prescription of cannabis oil for medical purposes, saying: “Children have been put at risk and experienced extraordinary suffering because this government drags its heels and refuses to grant cannabis oil licences.”

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

But asked about the law Mrs May was more cautious, saying: “Do we need to look at these cases and consider what we've got in place? Yes.

“But what needs to drive us in all these cases has to be what clinicians are saying about these issues.

“There's a very good reason why we've got a set of rules around cannabis and other drugs, because of the impact that they have on people's lives, and we must never forget that.”

12-year-old Billy Caldwell & his mother Charlotte Caldwell (Getty)

A spokeswoman for the Home Office added: “There is strong scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can harm people's mental and physical health and can damage communities. The government is clear - we must prevent drug use in our communities and help those dependent on drugs to recover, while ensuring our drugs laws are enforced.

“The government has no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis and it will remain a class B drug. Classification is completely separate to scheduling regulations.

“Any debate within government about the efficacy and therapeutic use of cannabis-based medicines emphatically does not extend to any review regarding the classification of cannabis and the penalties for the illicit possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis will remain the same.”

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