Cannabis Policy of the Political Parties – the Labour Party

2nd December 2019

With yet another General Election fast approaching, we’ll be looking at the stance of some of the UK’s political parties on both medical and recreational Cannabis. This series will include analysis of policies from parties including the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats. Next up is the Labour party’s views and current policy.

Brexit and the economy are harbouring the majority of news coverage and party speeches on the run-up to the December 12th election. Yet, legalisation advocates and would-be medical Cannabis patients continue impatiently campaigning for Cannabis policy reform.

Since the rescheduling of Cannabis to allow for medical prescription and research last November, little has changed. So, what do some of the largest political parties in the UK have to say about Cannabis policy?

The Labour View of Cannabis

Following the Conservative-enacted rescheduling of Cannabis in 2018, the Labour party expressed their support of the move. In the past, however, the party famously changed Cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, only to move it back again shortly afterward.

Despite openly acknowledging that current drug policy, in general, requires amendment, for the most part, the party has been vague about what those changes should be.

Medical Cannabis Policy

In 2018, the Labour party invited its members to voice their opinions and help to shape the party’s drug policy. Prominent members of the party have acknowledged that the ongoing war on drugs has failed, and suggested that the issue of Cannabis (and other illicit drugs) would be better dealt with as a public health issue, as opposed to a criminal one.

In relation to the medical use of Cannabis, members have shown support for extended use of Cannabis-based medical products. The Labour party’s current stance on medical Cannabis was defined in its election manifesto:

“We will progress clinically appropriate prescription of medical Cannabis.”

Despite the vagueness of the statement, Corbyn, along with other members of the Shadow Cabinet including Dianne Abbott, has expressed support for increasing the availability of medical Cannabis products on the NHS.

Recreational Cannabis Policy

Members of the Labour party have been careful about voicing the party’s outright support for Cannabis legalisation or decriminalisation. However, changes to the country’s drug policy would be likely, if the party was elected.

If Labour is elected in the upcoming election, they will carry out a Royal Commission into the legalisation of drugs. In theory, this could lead to the decriminalisation of Cannabis.

Earlier this year, three cross-party MPs travelled to Canada to assess the country’s new legal Cannabis sector. Labour MP David Lammy and former Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb predicted future Cannabis policy reform.

MP David Lammy claimed in an article for The Guardian:

“I want the market legalised, regulated and taken away from crime gangs, for young people not to be criminalised by use and properly educated. I want to see the strength of the stuff reduced, labelled and properly organised in this country.”

However, this stance does not necessarily reflect the view of the party. Yet, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has denounced the criminalisation of Cannabis as “not a particularly good idea“. Additionally, he signed an early day motion in 2000 to decriminalise the possession of Cannabis.

Nevertheless, the Labour party has not currently announced any concrete plans for Cannabis policy reform.


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