Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on marijuana?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election.

Of all the drugs consumed in the UK, marijuana is the most widely used. Possession, consumption, or sale can be met with an unlimited fine or a jail sentence of up to 14 years, although most police officers are advised to use discretion and treat marijuana use proportionately – somebody smoking a joint on the street will not face the same punishment as somebody who grows enormous amounts in their basement.

In 2009, marijuana was reclassified from a Class C drug to a Class B drug, meaning police now deal with it more severely. Drug law reformists argue that marijuana is safer than alcohol to consume and has wide-reaching medical benefits, and should be decriminalized and even outright legalized.

The Conservative Party: Former Conservative Party leader Peter Lilley recently called for the decriminalization of marijuana in order to adhere to Tory principles of freedom, but his calls were largely ignored by Conservative officials. [Source]

The Tories lament the fact that drug-related offences put such a strain on the police and health services, and a party-affiliated think-tank recently called for the decriminalization of marijuana to attract young and ethnic minority voters to the party. The Tories have yet to publicly consider the findings of the think-tank. [Source]

From the manifesto: No mention of marijuana is made.

Progressive-o-meter rating: 2.

The Labour Party: In 2014, Ed Miliband stated that he does not favour a review or decriminalization of marijuana, either for medical use or recreational use. Miliband stated that a worrying message would be sent out to young people if the UK decriminalized any drugs. [Source]

Labour MP and party drugs advisor Bob Ainsworth once described the war on drugs as “nothing short of disaster”, but Miliband distanced himself from these comments. [Source]

From the manifesto: No mention of marijuana is made.

Progressive-o-meter rating: 1.

The Liberal DemocratsIn 2014, Nick Clegg called for the abolition of prison sentences for marijuana uses, and claimed to be open not only to decriminalization, but to cannabis shops on the high street. Clegg decried the “knee-jerk prejudice” people have towards drugs and called for a commission to fully explore the effects of legal marijuana use. Additionally, the Lib Dems promise to hand over drug policy to the Department of Health [Source] [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay in relation to public health and criminal activity […] [We will] enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use” (pg. 126)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 7.

The UK Independence Party: A representative for UKIP told the marijuana advocacy group UKCIA that arresting people for marijuana is not a priority, and more time should instead be spent making sure ethnic minorities are not pushing their agenda in the police force. [Source]

In 2014, Nigel Farage told the media that while he dislikes drugs, criminalization doesn’t seem to be the solution. Farage called for a Royal Commission to explore decriminalizing certain drugs, and suggested that examining places like Portugal and select American states (which have decriminalized marijuana) may yield results. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • UKIP’s manifesto makes no specific mention of marijuana, but states “We will not decriminalise illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law” (pg. 55)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 4.

The Green PartyThe Greens believe that growing, selling, and using marijuana must all be decriminalized along the Dutch model. Marijuana would become a fully regulated, tradable good subject to the Royal Commission, and police would be advised to refer users to health services instead of making arrests. Possessing pipes associated with inhaling marijuana would no longer be a criminal offence. [Source DU405]

From the manifesto: No mention of marijuana is made.

Progressive-o-meter rating: 8.


2 thoughts on “Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on marijuana?

  1. Marijuana causes mental health problems cancer and is undoubtedly a harmful substance. Ed Miliband is right to support its non-legal status. That said, Marijuana causes only a small number of problems compared to the violence and health issues that (strangely legal) alcohol does.


    • Studies show that marijuana only causes mental health problems with long-term use in those who are suceptible to mental health issues. As for the cancer claim, the substance is actually being used in cancer treatments not only as a pain reliever, but trials show that cannabinoids can have an anti-tumour effect and may one day be used as a preventative.

      Miliband believes people should go to prison for marijuana use. Hence the progressive rating of 1.


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