Following a fact-finding trip to Canada, three cross-party MPs predict the UK will fully legalise cannabis for recreational use within 5–10 years. The trip was organised by UK campaign group Volte Face, which wants the UK to legalise the drug.
Canada became the first G7 country to allow recreational use of cannabis in 2018. Labour’s David Lammy, Conservative Jonathan Djanogly and Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb were all filmed on their journey for a Radio 1 Newsbeat documentary called Legalising Cannabis: Canada’s Story. Of the three politicians, one had a significant shift in his position.
Tottenham MP David Lammy now backs legalisation, against his party’s official stance.
“I want the market legalised, regulated and taken away from crime gangs”, he said. “For young people not to be criminalised by use and properly educated. I want to see the strength of the stuff reduced, labelled and properly organised in this country.”
Cannabis is designated as a Class B drug in the UK and anyone caught with it could face up to 5 years in prison. However, a change in the law now means that Doctors can legally prescribe medicinal cannabis. The new regulations came into force last November, following an outcry over two young epilepsy sufferers who were denied access to cannabis oil, despite their parents saying it helped control their seizures.
It’s argued that where cannabis has been legalised for medical use, authorised recreational use often follows.
The Liberal Democrat Party already officially backs legalising cannabis in the UK. The party’s MP for North Norfolk, Sir Norman Lamb, used cannabis oil to try to help him sleep whilst in Canada. He was very aware that such a product would be illegal in the UK, and may indeed be the only serving British MP to ever openly take a cannabis product on camera.
“Taking this oil is purely for sleeping for relaxation, I will take it before bed and before my flight home.”
This product is different to the cannabis oils available legitimately in the UK because it contains Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gets users high.
“I was really anxious because I was chairing the Technology and Science Select Committee and I was travelling back over night, and I thought if I get back with no sleep it will be a challenge”, said Sir Norman Lamb. “I slept incredibly well.”
The trip to Canada was part sponsored by a big North American cannabis company called MPX. Newsbeat suggested that it was trying to use its money to influence UK politicians.
“We’re moving it away from organised crime to a legitimate commercial industry”, said Scott Boyes, Chief Executive Officer of MPX.
Mr Boyes says his company wants to make a profit out of selling cannabis responsibly in the UK
“We’ve had a lot of UK investors invest in our company and we’re moving into six countries. A lot of the money we have raised has come out of the UK, so I don’t consider it interfering with other people’s politics and a lot of the expenses have been borne by themselves.”
Sir Norman Lamb and David Lammy funded their own flights and accommodation.
But the MPs also realise Canada’s experience has not been without problems. Around half of the cannabis bought in Canada still comes from illegal sources.
“I think we have got a lot to learn before the legalisation of recreational cannabis, which I think will happen at some point”, said Conservative MP for Huntingdon, Jonathan Djanogly. “I think we’re on a 10 to 15-year cycle which would mirror what has happened in Canada.”
The other MPs felt it would happen sooner and closer to 5 years.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The legalisation of these substances would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery they can cause to families and society.”
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An in-depth article on cannabis oil can be found on our Learning Centre.
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