Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Time to reconsider drugs ban properly

The Daily Telegraph - 19 June 2001

Sir

The Metropolitan Police have announced an experimental period of de facto decriminalisation of cannabis possession in Lambeth, where in future only a warning will be given to users. But surely it is high time the Conservative Party had a full and frank, rational discussion of the laws on the recreational use of soft drugs (the case for the medical use is already made).

This must be based on a cool appraisal of the medical and scientific knowledge and unencumbered by emotions, prejudice or political pressures, and without prejudging the outcome.

It also seems inappropriate that the London police should render the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) locally a dead letter without discussion by elected politicians or a repeal by Parliament, and the potential injustice that cannabis users elsewhere in the country could still be imprisoned for similar offences.

We are very conscious that a guiding principle of the new Conservative Party is to respect what is done by private adult individuals and does not harm others, and a need to modernise by connecting with youth and broadening our appeal to ethnic minorities. This is germane in that most users are young people. There are many opinion formers, from the Economist to The Daily Telegraph, who support this liberalising approach and one great advantage would be the freeing-up of police time to fight violent crime and hard drug use and trafficking.

By removing criminal pushers who may currently deal in all classes of drugs, it is to be hoped there will be less scope for cannabis users to become addicted to more dangerous Class-A drugs such as heroin.

We - a doctor, a pharmacist, a former health minister, a lawyer and a local London councillor - call upon the new leadership of our party to develop sensible modern evidence-based policies in this area. In the meantime we are puzzled as to how the Metropolitan Police can go along with this new policy when its head, the Home Secretary, belongs to a government which is firmly opposed to such a move.

Dr Charles Tannock, MEP (Con)
John Bowis, MEP (Con)
Theresa Villiers, MEP (Con)
Bashir Khambai, MEP (Con)
Cllr Anthony Brown (Con)

London SW5