Political opinion on drug discrimination
UK Parliamentary debates


3 Dec 1998: Medicinal cannabis [Lords]
Earl of Carrik: "An editorial in the Lancet recently noted ... that "
The desire to take mood altering substances is an enduring feature of human societies world-wide and even the most draconian legislation has failed to extinguish this desire ... and this should be borne in mind by social legislators". Either society is making a mockery of the law by disobedience on such a massive scale, or the law is making a mockery of society by criminalising over half a million people over the past 25 years".

9 Nov 2001: Cannabis reclassification
Hawkins: "I do not think that there is much difference of view between the parties about the serious evil of those who supply drugs". Owen Jones: "The hon. Gentleman speaks about the evil of people selling cannabis, but ... did it ever cross his mind that there was an enormous hypocrisy in the law that categorised those people as deserving 14 years in jail, while someone who sold tobacco, which kills huge numbers of people, got, if he was successful, a peerage or a Queen's award for industry?" Hawkins: "I do not accept for one moment his totally fallacious assertions". Lloyd: "If we view legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco as being all right, and all illegal drugs as being bad, we make a profound mistake about the damage that drugs do to society. Our drugs laws have criminalised a huge section of society".
King: "Which drugs harm us most? Every year in Britain, 10 people die from taking ecstasy and 2,100 from taking other illegal drugs; 30,000 die from alcohol use; and 120,000 die from smoking. No one in Britain has ever died from taking cannabis. Lilley: "All that increases the contempt for the law felt especially by young people, who see the differential treatment of cannabis, alcohol and nicotine as essentially hypocritical and demeaning. I believe that the state should intervene only when an activity does clear social damage, when there is widespread support for trying to prevent that activity by law and when the law can achieve some practical purpose. None of those three is true in the case of cannabis". Wishart: "many are irritated by what they see as the hypocrisy at the heart of our debate. We are prepared to legislate and launch campaigns on illegal drugs, but are not prepared to deal with the much more serious problems caused by alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency". Prisk: "we should address the hypocrisy—as it seems to most young people—of the way in which we deal with alcohol, prescribed drugs, tobacco and cannabis. We must also ensure that any drugs strategy is founded firmly on a balance between an informed freedom of choice for adults and the promotion of personal responsibility".

19 Mar 2002: Education
: "Certainly, the legalisation of cannabis—if it takes place—is one way in which some of the problems associated with our young people could be reduced. ...
a lot of the problems associated with drugs stem from the fact that we treat alcohol and tobacco—comparatively dangerous drugs—in an entirely different way from cannabis, which is less dangerous".

29 Apr 2002: Tobacco advertising
: "Between 1971 and 1996, tobacco consumption fell by more than 37 per cent. and prevalence fell by 40 per cent. Policies to reduce advertising were complemented by better public health education and taxation policies that made smoking progressively more expensive and reduced consumption". "My party's position on cannabis is entirely rational. What is irrational is allowing the legal sale of a product—tobacco—that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year while seeking to restrict the sale of cannabis, despite the harm done by thus driving cannabis users into the clutches of those who want to push more dangerous drugs. The irrationality lies in supporting the legal use of one and not the other. That is an important point.
We believe that drugs policy should include tobacco and alcohol. The committee advising the Government on these things should have a wider remit. The current situation is nonsense". "Twenty-one per cent. of all tobacco sales in this country are illicit, and many are sales to children".

5 Dec 2002: Updated Drug Strategy
: "the issue goes beyond illegal drugs and includes alcohol, tobacco and so-called medicinal drugs that can also become addictive, such as amphetamines". Lilley: "It is bizarre to let people get drunk on alcohol, which is far more likely than cannabis to lead to violence, but to criminalise them for smoking one relaxing joint". Djanogly: "I note that not enough is being said here today or generally about alcohol abuse. There is a lack of clarity surrounding the Government's policy on how drugs and alcohol policy combine. The two cannot be detached". Wishart: "
What has underpinned successive strategies in the past three decades … is our unshattering belief in prohibition—that by keeping drugs illegal we will keep people off drugs. Drug use has spiralled almost out of control under prohibition. We need to focus on the greatest killer of all drugs, the drug that causes us the greater number of problems and poses the greatest associated health risk, and that is alcohol. We know that alcohol has almost a monopoly on the legal drugs market". Stinchcombe: "some prohibited drugs are less harmful than drugs that are legal. Alcohol is addictive, leads to violence, is damaging to health, and kills between 5,000 and 40,000 people every year in England and Wales—yet it is lawful to buy, lawful to sell and lawful to use, subject only to constraints on age and access. Tobacco is lawful too, even though it is addictive, causes cancer and kills 120,000 people every year in the UK. If we were brave enough, we could take the trade in cannabis away from criminals, license it, regulate it, tax it and make it safe".

11 June 2003: Effective Drug Policies [Lords]
Lord Cobbold
: "One has to ask to what extent it is the responsibility of the state to protect individuals from damaging themselves. It is clearly the duty of the state to prevent injury and damage to third parties and to property. ...more sensible to treat drugs in the same way as we treat alcohol and tobacco. Supply would be regulated and subject to tax and, very importantly, to quality control. Tax revenues could be applied to healthcare and educational campaigns on the dangers of drug use.

10 Feb 2004: Cannabis reclassification debate
: "Surely we want a completely drugs-free zone and policy in this country, too". Flynn: "I hope ... that from today he stops selling cigarettes from the convenience store in Swansea in which he has an interest—that he will stop his own drug pushing".