04 Nov Why Legalising Medicinal Cannabis Is Now A Vote Winner

Norman Baker MP

“The genie is out of the bottle”

Norman Baker MP, October 2014

Following last week’s drugs policy debate in Parliament, we should acknowledge and pay due respect to the first government minister in a generation to approach drugs policy on the basis of honesty and evidence. Every other Home Office minister since 1971 has either ignored the evidence or distorted and manipulated it, irrespective of the truth or the consequences for public health and safety.

With yesterday’s resignation, we now know the price that Norman has paid for his courage but he has achieved more in his short tenure at the Home Office than most politicians achieve in their entire career.

Public and media opinion is clearly in favour of reform. No doubt, both Tory and Labour front benches will do their best to re-establish their 40 year cover-up but the tide is against them. They are as King Canute’s advisors; more out of touch, more the subject of contempt and derision by the day.

Now is the time for legalisation of medicinal cannabis to take centre stage. It is now a vote winner for all parties. This is the issue that politicians can support, be seen to follow the evidence, be seen to be progressive, merciful, compassionate and caring but still be seen cautious and small-c conservative on the controversial subject of drugs. It’s a win-win for any politician, in any party. Let us hope that it is a breakthrough for the one million UK citizens who use cannabis as medicine and who have been criminalised and left in pain, suffering and disability.

There are many things to celebrate about last week’s debate. Perhaps, most of all, simply that it took place. After a generation of evasive, cowardly, procrastinating ministers, at last this policy that costs the UK at last £15 billion per annum was subject to some scrutiny. Possibly the most significant development is that The Sun has come out strongly in favour of reform.

The bad news is that only 21 out of 650 MPs bothered to show up – and this to a debate that was called for by a massive petition of 135,000 signatures. Clearly, therefore, a matter of widespread public concern as confirmed by all the polls. The contempt that MPs show for the electorate is disgraceful. It is matched only by the contempt in which we hold most of them.

Norman Baker is an exception to this rule. He has a place in history as a UK politician of courage, integrity and honour, qualities virtually extinct in Westminster in 2014.