The government has responded to a 200,000-strong petition calling for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK by saying it has no plans to change the law.
In response to the petition, which was hosted on the government’s official e-petitions website, it said: “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.”
Legalisation would “send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people”, it added. However, the number of signatures the petition attracted means that MPs must consider debating the issue in parliament. All petitions that reach 100,000 signatures are given such consideration.
The petition’s argument that legalising cannabis would bring in £900m in taxes and reduce policing burdens was also rejected by the government. It said such benefits would be outweighed by the cost of administrative, compliance and law enforcement activities, as well as drug prevention and health services. Peter Reynolds, president of Clear UK, a cannabis policy group, said the government’s response was “dishonest, misleading and deceptive”.
He added: “Despite the fact that [the petition received] more than twice the threshold required, MPs will fight tooth and nail to stop this being debated.”
Jason Reed, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Leap) UK, said even if the debate didn’t make it to parliament, the issue had gained publicity. “There will be a preliminary debate which hopefully we’ll get MPs along to. This still serves a purpose on educating the public about the merits of drug law reform. There has been a groundswell of support in grassroots action and the public are starting to get it.”
In 2013, an Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by the drugs-policy reform group Transform showed that 53% of the public supported a softer stance, such as legalising the production and supply of cannabis or decriminalising its possession.
By Rebecca Radcliffe - The Guardian/Aug. 25, 2015