Tory Hopefuls Break Party Line on Cannabis

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jun 25, 2001.

  1. By Gaby Hinsliff and Euan Ferguson
    Source: The Observer

    Three of the leading contenders for the Tory leadership last night broke with the party's traditional hardline opposition to drugs by calling for a major debate on the legalisation of cannabis.
    In a dramatic attempt to outflank the Labour Party over its refusal to engage in debate on the issue, the leadership contenders all signalled their willingness to reflect public opinion on the use of 'soft' drugs.

    David Davis was the first to break the party line, arguing that politicians owed it to anxious parents to be open about drugs. His stance was backed by his leadership rivals Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Ancram, both seen as traditionalists but anxious to shed any image of stuffiness.

    Only Michael Portillo refused to discuss drugs directly. However, he gave a strong hint of his sympathies in a statement, saying that he wished to foster 'the broadest and most stimulating debate' on policy for 25 years.

    The new twist in the Tory contest not only turns the party's drugs policy upside down but poses a serious challenge to Tony Blair, with Labour now the only party resisting even discussing a change in the law.

    Asked about cannabis legalisation, Davis insisted he was not personally in favour, arguing that in The Netherlands it had led to problems with harder drugs. But he suggested that this should not prevent open discussion.

    'I do think we should have the debate. There are an awful lot of people - parents - who are terrified out there, about the truths and myths of drugs, and I think we owe it to them to have the debate so facts can be aired,' he added.

    A source close to Duncan Smith said that, while he has always been seen as a hardliner on social issues, his real views were more liberal.

    'We must address this situation where for medical reasons people need it,' the source said. 'No one has put forward the argument to him yet where he would feel that legalisation would be right, but the answers are still there to be discussed. He is much more concerned about dealers than he is about ordinary people.'

    A spokesman for Ancram said he accepted there should be a discussion on changing the law. A Portillo spokesman said he wanted the party to initiate a broad policy debate.

    None of the contenders were among the nine senior Tories who confessed last autumn to having used cannabis in the past.

    Special Report: Drugs in Britain

    Source: Observer, The (UK)
    Author: Gaby Hinsliff and Euan Ferguson
    Published: Sunday, June 24, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The Observer

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