12 Oct No. 10 Suppresses Report on Benefits of Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis
Why Did The Sunday Times Choose This Picture To Illustrate An Important Story On Drugs Policy?
“Lib Dems needle Tories over drugs”
THE SUNDAY TIMES, 12th October 2014
This story appeared in different versions online and print. Unusually, the print version was longer with more detail.
The print version confirms that of two Home Office reports, suppressed by Downing Street, one sets out “the benefits of prescribing cannabis for medicinal purposes for people with certain long-term chronic conditions”.
For well over a year the Home Office has supposed to be publishing a report or reports on drugs policy. These rumours have now crystallised into two reports, which according to Norman Baker have been ready to go for a couple of months but which No. 10 is holding back. One is a comparative study of drugs policies in other countries. The second is on Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), often known as legal highs.
The online version is much shorter.
“DOWNING STREET has been accused by the Liberal Democrats of suppressing a Home Office report which suggests there would be benefits in decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use.
Norman Baker, the Lib Dem Home Office minister responsible for drugs policy, accused the Tories of “playing politics” with the report because the conclusions could upset traditional Tory voters. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, has weighed into the row, saying he will force No 10 to publish the report.
The study, completed in July, suggests the liberalisation of narcotics laws would not boost drug use and could save millions of pounds if users were treated for addiction rather than being jailed.
It highlights the benefits of the Portuguese drugs regime, where people found in possession of a small amount of drugs are referred for treatment, while others receive fines or community service, but do not gain a criminal record. The overall level of drug use in Portugal is below the European average and rates of HIV among drugs users have declined.
In the UK cannabis is classified as a class B drug, possession of which is punishable by up to five years in prison. The possession of cocaine, ecstasy, crack, heroin and LSD is punishable with up to seven years in prison.
Baker believes drug use should be treated as a health issue and wants the drugs portfolio to be transferred from the Home Office, which deals with criminal matters, to the Department of Health.
A second Home Office report is understood to propose tough laws to stop the sale of over-the-counter “legal highs”. It is believed to advocate banning synthetic psychoactive substances, except for medicinal use.
The Tories are expected to accept these proposals but block any attempt to liberalise drug laws. A Downing Street source said the reports would be published “in due course”.”