The campaign to decriminalise a number of illegal drugs, put forward by a group of MP’s and backed by celebrities such as comedian Russell Brand and businessman Richard Branson, has hit a snag as Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected the idea. The campaign has been gathering ground in recent days and has met with considerable publicity, but the PM is set against the idea of using a royal commission to change the law.
The Home Affairs Select Committee had produced a report on the matter, but Mr Cameron appears adamant:
“Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference. Also, we need to do more to keep drugs out of our prisons. These are the government’s priorities and I think we should continue with that rather than have some very, very long-term royal commission.”
The committee had pointed to the situation in such as Portugal in which those found with illegal drugs are not always prosecuted, but this appears to have failed to sway Mr Cameron’s beliefs.
Nevertheless, while Portugal has not legalised drugs its methods of handling the situation clearly impressed MP’s who visited to see how it is done. The report states:
“We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system. It had clearly reduced public concern about drug use in that country and was supported by all political parties and the police. The current political debate in Portugal is about how treatment is funded… not about depenalisation itself. Although it is not certain that the Portuguese experience could be replicated in the UK, given societal differences, we believe this is a model that merits significantly closer consideration.”
The report also pointed to Colorado and Washington, in the USA, where there are plans to legalise the use of cannabis, and urged MP’s to keep a close eye on what happens in those countries. Uruguay is also looking at doing the same. A royal commission is an inquiry commissioned by the head of state into a certain, specific subject, and is overseen by a commissioner with certain powers. While drug use is seen to be at the lowest level since the middle of the 1990’s many MP’s are still concerned with the use of ‘legal highs’, some of which are in fact illegal and have been involved in the death of users.