By Roland Sebestyén
While more countries turn to cannabis to make up for the loss the coronavirus pandemic causes to their economy, the UK government has been awfully quiet on the topic. At the same time, the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer also has a somewhat firm stance on the drug.
On Sunday, Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News that he would not support any easing into the UK’s cannabis policy if he were elected to be the next prime minister of the country.
When asked about the potential of decriminalising cannabis, Mr Starmer didn’t hesitate to tell Sophie Ridge that he was against it.
He said:“When I was director of public prosecutions, I prosecuted many, many cases involving drugs and drug gangs and the criminality that sits behind, and it causes huge issues to vulnerable people across the country.
“I’ve never gone down that route. I wouldn’t immediately [decriminalise cannabis]. I have supported schemes where you’re not arrested for it, you’re not prosecuted for it. And I believe in that.”
Mr Starmer added he was roughly satisfied with the government’s drug policy but said there was room for improvement.
In response, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform tweeted: “This is the state of our so-called political leaders on drugs policy.
“We expect govt to advocate for the status quo, but when Keir Starmer, with a background in criminal justice, cannot manage a single new idea, it demonstrates a complete absence of leadership.”
VIDEO. This is the state of our so-called political leaders on #drugspolicy. We expect govt to advocate for the status quo but when @Keir_Starmer, with a background in criminal justice, cannot manage a single new idea, it demonstrates a complete absence of leadership. #cannabis pic.twitter.com/lJWYcxbRU2
— CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform (@CLEARUK) February 21, 2021
Mr Starmer’s comments sparked fury among all those calling for an eased, but regulated, drug policy in the UK. The belief that cannabis use should be treated as a health issue, as opposed to a criminal one, is catching on.
LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), a group formed by former law enforcement members, police chief constables and police and crime commissioners who were once working on drug offences, were among those calling out the politician for his words.
According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, LEAP co-executive director Jason Reed said that politicians and lawmakers have now more responsibility than ever.
He said: “Now more than ever it’s crucial that we look at the evidence around our drug laws.
“The diversification of supply routes is due to the fact that drugs have never been more profitable owing to the prohibition and a perpetual cycle: with every attempt to crack down, it only serves to increase prices at street level, with the next organised crime group ready to corner the market, and street-level violence also becomes an inevitability.”
“To address decriminalisation is to actually address a compassionate policy which acknowledges that addiction is something to be dealt with through health services and empathy and not punishment.
“It’s no wonder we have the highest drug-related deaths on record in the UK. Evidence-based reforms save lives, and this is why it’s always disappointing when policymakers fail to understand the issue in favour of the tried and tested look tough on drugs approach.”
Although Mr Starmer aims to distinguish himself from Jeremy Corbyn, the ex-Labour leader, he was part of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for years.
As we said in our article running up to the election, Labour’s politicians, who tried to gain some seats down South but failed miserably, were rather careful when talking about a change in cannabis policy.
Mr Starmer’s recent comments indicate that, while the leadership has indeed changed, politics hasn’t.