Home Office rejects former Tory leader’s call for legal cannabis

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The Home Office has firmly rejected calls from former Conservative leader Lord Hague for the legalisation of cannabis.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Hague urged the Government to review Britain’s “failed (and) unsustainable” cannabis laws, license medicinal use of the drug and consider creating a legal, regulated market for recreational users.

But the Home Office said the Government had “no intention” of reviewing the classification of cannabis, which would remain a Class B drug.

And it said: “Any debate within government about the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines 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.”

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the Government had no plans to legalise or decriminalise cannabis for recreational use, telling reporters: “The evidence is very clear – cannabis can cause serious harm when misused.”

The spokesman rejected claims that the “war on drugs” had failed, saying: “More adults are being treated successfully, waiting times for support services are down, greater powers have been given to police to remove harmful substances from our communities, drug use as a whole is lower than 10 years ago and we remain absolutely committed to reducing it and the harm that it causes.”

Theresa May is facing increasing political pressure to review the law on cannabis amid furore surrounding children who have been denied access to products which could alleviate life-threatening epileptic seizures.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid granted an emergency 20-day licence for 12-year-old Billy Caldwell to be treated with cannabis oil, after he was admitted to hospital with seizures following the confiscation of supplies his mother had brought from Canada.

Medical marijuana
Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy outside the Home Office in London (Yui Mok/PA)

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that the current laws on medicinal cannabis were not right, and said it was time to look for “a different way”.

But Lord Hague went much further, arguing that Billy’s case had shown the law to be “inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date”.

The Conservative peer – who led the party from 1997 to 2001 and was foreign secretary from 2010 to 2014 – said it was “beyond ridiculous” that border officials should be seizing medicines of clear benefit to patients because they contain a tiny amount of a banned product.

Mr Javid’s decision to return the oil showed that the Home Office’s position was “indefensible”, he said.

Arguing that the ready availability of illegal cannabis on Britain’s streets showed that any war on the drug had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost”, Lord Hague said that a “major change in policy” was now needed.

Licensing medicinal cannabis would be a step forward, but the Government should also consider legalising the drug, as Canada is on the verge of doing, he said.

Proposals being considered by the Canadian parliament would establish a legal market with licensed stores selling cannabis of regulated strength, with a strict prohibition on sales to teenagers, he said.

“If this works, it sounds more sensible than the current position,” said Lord Hague.

“Can British Conservatives be as bold as Canadian Liberals? We ought to be. After all, we believe in market forces and the responsible exercise of freedom, regulated as necessary. We should prefer to provide for lawful taxes than preside over increased profits from crime.”

On Monday, fellow Tory Crispin Blunt, who chairs the All-Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, urged the Home Office to “clear out of the way” and let the Department of Health take control of policy on medical cannabis.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable backs the decriminalisation of cannabis (Steve Parsons/PA)

“The second step would be to look at the various experiences of legalisation to make absolutely sure that we do not produce an epidemic, that we actually control use very considerably,” he said.

“The objective… is to prevent a situation where large amounts of this drug are in circulation in a very damaging form which is poisoning large numbers of young people and resulting in psychological damage.”

Billy was discharged from hospital early on Monday afternoon, but now Ms Caldwell, 50, from Co Tyrone, wants an urgent review of the law on cannabis oil, which is banned in the UK despite being available in many other countries.

Ms Caldwell credits the substance with keeping the boy’s seizures at bay, saying he was seizure-free for more than 300 days while using it.

She demanded a meeting with the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary “within 24 hours”.

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