With the campaign to decriminalise Cannabis surpassing 200,000 signatures I felt it was important to take stock of where the various political parties stand on the issue, so let’s start with the most obvious one.
The Conservative Party: at 330 seats the Conservatives are enjoying a majority government and are by far the most outspoken on the side of keeping cannabis illegal. To quote the home office
“There are no plans to legalise or decriminalise cannabis or any other controlled substances.”
Reading their drug policy in the Conservative manifesto reveals a startling level of ignorance on the topic of drug misuse and treatment. They maintain that abstinence should be the main goal of treating drug addiction and still oppose the use of subsidiary drugs such as methadone to treat addictions, particularly with substances such as heroin. Clearly in this debate the Conservatives are going to do everything they can to block this petition from becoming law, and with a majority of 16 seats there seems very little that we can do to fight them on the issue.
There is, however, an interesting statement from David Cameron, years before he became Prime minister, where he criticises politicians for using a hard stance on certain issues such as drug possession as a political tool to gain some kind of advantage. He rapidly changed his tune with his rise to power where he condemned cannabis use in 2011 interview. It could well be a case of what I spoke about in may last article, that politicians are still using this as political leverage for the time being, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it. I don’t expect him to change his mind now, or any time soon, so the British public can expect to continue to be ruled by the whim of what the Conservative party “believes in”.
Take for example their stance on the Gay Marriage bill, 136 Conservatives voted against the bill, compared to 126 in favour. If ever we needed a perfect example of how personal prejudice and opinion dominates politics rather than actual science or logical reasoning, then we need look no further than that particular vote.
The Labour Party: At 232 seats Labour remain the main opposition to the Conservative party, but they are annoyingly vague on the issue at the moment, and what with all of the turmoil surrounding the leadership at the moment we are unlikely to get much of a response out of them on the issue any time soon. They are against decriminalisation for the most part, and certainly Ed Miliband openly condemned the use of cannabis while he was the Labour leader, but they aren’t quite as hardline as the Conservative party.
Jeremy Corbyn has actually spoken out in favour of the decriminalisation of cannabis on several occasions, the earliest being 15 years ago, years before this argument was gaining any traction on a global scale. He hasn’t come out and declared his position on the debate recently, and he could well have changed his mind, but with this new Left wing approach to the typically centre left politics of Labour, there may well be a chance for serious opposition to the Conservative blockade in the future.
SNP: With 56 seats the SNP changed the face of Scottish politics this election and have become a legitimate threat to the Conservative majority. Their hatred for Tory politics runs deep within the party and the supporters, and we may see them fighting the Conservatives on this issue in the future. The problem we have at the moment is that the SNP doesn’t seem to have much of a stance on drug policy at all right now. Their manifesto doesn’t mention a change in the current drug policy and they haven’t really addressed the issue recently. They are, however, coming under increasing pressure to fight on this issue due to their openly aggressive attitude towards the Conservative government, but as it stands right now the SNP have not thrown in their lot with either side yet. Instead they would prefer to have the power to reform law and order themselves, and create a drug policy that is better suited to Scottish society.
The Liberal Democrats: Having plummeted from 56 seats to just 8 the Lib Dems are barely even a mainstream party, but they remain supporters of the idea of liberalising the national drug policy. In 2014 Nick Clegg became quite outspoken on the issue of decriminalising Cannabis use and possession, causing friction within the coalition government. He even joined forces with Sir Richard Branson, an advocate for the decriminalisation of cannabis, and released a joint article on the subject in early March of this year.
Their influence in government may have been greatly reduced after the election, but they are still an old party with considerable support in certain areas, so it is important that we don’t necessarily discount the Lib Dems as a has-been party.
Plaid Cymru: With 3 seats Plaid Cymru are actually the largest party to be actively campaigning for the decriminalisation of cannabis in the UK. Speaking two years ago in 2013 Leanne Wood said that
“Plaid Cymru is for the decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal use and to free up police time.”
The party remains adamant that decriminalisation would free up police time and that the resources saved from policing cannabis offenders could be diverted into a much more effective programme of rehabilitation. Their “Million Ideas Project” has also warranted some support among their voters for the idea of decriminalising cannabis.
UKIP: With 1 seat UKIP, fortunately I might add, has almost no influence at Westminster. As our most right wing party, it is quite surprising to find that they are actually in favour of some kind of reform to the current drug policy. In 2014 the party leader Nigel Farage spoke out on several occasions, calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis, and stating how the war on drugs had failed. This, however, caused a great deal of tension within the party, and they have since retracted their stance to the highly ambiguous single statement in their manifesto:
“We will not decriminalise illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”
This pretty much allows them to jump either way, depending on the direction the wind seems to be blowing. On the one hand they aren’t pushing for decriminalisation, but on the other they want to have some kind of reform, which they could easily turn into full on drug reform if they wanted to, without causing too much embarrassment for them.
The Green Party: Staunch supporters for decriminalising cannabis. They gained a considerable number of votes this election, but they only managed to hold onto their 1 seat. A lot of the pro decriminalisation camps are giving the Green Party considerable support, so their 1 seat is slightly misrepresentative of the truth of their actual influence. Hopefully we’ll see the Green Party make their mark on politics with a renewed sense of vitality during this government.
- Owen Jones, “David Cameron, you were right about drugs. Don’t err and stray now”, (2015) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/david-cameron-drugs-legal-highs-poppers-madness
- Zachary Siegel, ” What does a Conservative Majority mean for the IK’s Drug Policy”, (2015) http://www.thefix.com/content/what-does-conservative-party-majority-mean-uks-drug-policy
- Nick Clegg and Richard Branson, “We have been losing the war on drugs for four decades, end it now” (2015) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/war-on-drugs-british-politicians-nick-clegg-richard-branson
- Georgia Grahams, “Nigel Farage: I have never taken drugs but they should be legal” (2014) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ukip/10744924/Nigel-Farage-I-have-never-taken-drugs-but-they-should-be-legal.html
- “Legalise cannabis and ecstasy as medicines, expert tells Scots” (2015) http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13209578.Legalise_cannabis_and_ecstasy_as_medicines__expert_tells_Scots/
- Avanish Tharor, “The burning conservative case for legalising cannabis”, (2015) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/28/conservative-case-legalising-cannabis-david-cameron-economic-sense
- Quick guide to each party’s stance on drugs.
- One Million Ideas Project
- Leanne Wood Speaking to the Clear Campaign