'Cannabis Policy Cannot Continue'

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 6, 2002.

  1. By BBC News Online's Ollie Stone-Lee
    Source: BBC News

    Cannabis could be sold legally in the UK within 10 years because the government's drugs policy is unsustainable, says former Conservative deputy leader Peter Lilley.
    The ex-cabinet minister, who has called for cannabis to be legalised, says ministers' plans to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug will make it easier to deal in more dangerous drugs.

    In an interview with BBC News Online, Mr Lilley, who backed Michael Portillo's leadership challenge, also argues attitudes to his party are beginning to change.

    He suggests Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith could prove better placed to take forward Michael Portillo's reform agenda for change than Mr Portillo himself.

    The Conservative leadership is a long way from endorsing Lilley's call for licensed outlets to be able to sell cannabis legally. His argument is that this would break the link with hard drug suppliers.

    Soon after Lilley added fuel to the drugs debate with the proposal last summer, Home Secretary David Blunkett signalled he wanted to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C.

    Hard Drug Dangers

    Mr Lilley says: "It is a step in the right direction but it creates an unsustainable situation where cannabis use and supply remains criminal but won't be effectively enforced.

    "Therefore people would still only be able to get their supplies from illegal outlets who will also tout hard drugs."

    Efforts to crack down on cannabis dealers are likely to be downgraded, he says, making it easier for those suppliers also selling hard drugs, he argues.

    Legalisation is inevitable over the course of time, predicts Mr Lilley, who says it is "certainly not unlikely" licensed suppliers will be selling cannabis in a decade's time.

    He is pleased by the "depth and breadth of support my call has had within the Conservative Party".

    His party leader remains opposed but Mr Lilley welcomes other shifts towards policies more in line with "setting people free" than locking them up.

    Echoes of Nixon in China

    As one of the Portillistas who wrote of the need for "deep changes of attitude and outlook" in the aftermath of the leadership poll, Mr Lilley admits he naturally had reservations about Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Portillo's other opponents.

    Now he appears pleasantly surprised by the way the Tory leader has begun the "immense task" of building a Conservative comeback.

    As a right-winger, Mr Duncan Smith could prove better suited to "bring the Conservative Party kicking and screaming into the 21st century", he argues.

    He says: "Iain Duncan Smith does seem to be setting about doing the very things I wanted to see done and I initially supported Michael Portillo because I thought he was as committed to them.

    "He may be better placed to do it than Michael was - I have to confess that - just as only Richard Nixon could get the Americans to recognise Communist China."

    The scale of the transformation required was underlined recently by shadow cabinet minister John Bercow, who said the Tories were still seen as "racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-youth".

    Mr Lilley acknowledges the problem but is optimistic: "We have certainly still got some way to go to change those perceptions but clearly the general approach that Iain Duncan Smith has been adopting is helping."

    'No Xenophobes'

    He sees two definite phases to a Tory recovery: first, the policy review focusing on public services; second, demonstrating that although the decision on the euro will be taken at a referendum, the party is pro-European.

    The decision to look abroad to solutions for the UK's public service failures has "dramatised the fact that we are not xenophobes".

    But, as the man who in 1999 infamously urged his party to recognise the limited role for "privatisation" in public services, surely Mr Lilley should be worried the Tories are examining social insurance healthcare models?

    Battle lines are being drawn on the NHS

    Mr Lilley disagrees, predicting the lessons that will be learnt from the Continent will centre around providing local autonomy, choice, and diversity of provision.

    He accuses Labour of stealing Tory rhetoric on such issues while doing the opposite.

    Sometimes the way taxpayers pay for healthcare abroad is called social insurance "but what's in a name?"

    "It is effectively a tax which comes from people according to their income and is spent on patients according to their need."

    The Conservative message must be that no one will be expected to need their credit card to be treated in a casualty ward.

    And most health and education provision should continue to be collectively financed, he argues, countering the accusations Labour will pursue as the next election approaches.

    Task Ahead

    Mr Lilley believes victory in that election is "absolutely" possible, but amid talk of a Tory revival stresses it would be foolish to imagine the changes already made are anything more than the first steps.

    He knows the difficulty of reform. His stewardship of the post-1997 policy renewal came to an abrupt end when he was asked to resign from the front bench in the aftermath of that 1999 speech on public services and the Thatcherite backlash it caused.

    Three years later, he warns that only a sustained campaign can provide a real breakthrough and, showing his well-known love of verse, quotes EE Cummings: "You shake and shake and shake the bottle, first nothing comes and then the lottle."

    With his belief the public are losing faith in Labour and looking for an alternative, Mr Lilley is hopeful electoral history will not rhyme for a third time.

    Duncan Smith is adopting the right tone, says Lilley.

    Lilley did not expect the government drugs shift so soon.

    Note: Licensed outlets should sell cannabis, says Lilley.

    Note: It creates an unsustainable situation where cannabis use and supply remains criminal but won't be effectively enforced -- Peter Lilley on reclassifying cannabis.

    Source: BBC News (UK Web)
    Author: Ollie Stone-Lee
    Published: Monday, February 4, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 BBC
    Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
    Contact: http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/

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