By Emily Ledger
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. Our first article will look at the Conservatives’ 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 Conservatives’ View of Cannabis
Despite the party’s roots as a party for the individual, the Conservative party has, for the most part, maintained the view that Cannabis should remain an illegal substance. However, last year, the party rescheduled Cannabis to allow for the prescription of medical Cannabis.
Medical Cannabis Policy
Nevertheless, the move was criticised for raising the hopes of would-be medical Cannabis patients, with little significant change to accessibility. In fact, reports show that there has been only a handful of medical Cannabis prescriptions provided since the change. What’s more, it cost many of the patients hundreds or thousands of pounds through private clinics.
Hopes of legalisation supporters were once again sparked, as it was announced that well-known Cannabis advocate Blair Gibbs had been appointed as a Government advisor. However, the Government was quick to shoot down claims that this would lead to policy change.
A spokesperson for the government stated:
“Comments made by individuals before they joined government do not reflect government policy.”
The Conservatives have also been criticised in the past for allowing the export of medicinal Cannabis while maintaining that patients in the UK should not have access to these medications. In 2016, it was reported that the UK exported the most medical Cannabis in the world.
The party’s current policy plans make no mention of changes to the status of medical Cannabis or Cannabis-based medical products.
Recreational Cannabis Policy
In June 2019, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and former Conservative MP Rob Wilson set up the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, which has since carried out independent reviews of public opinion, and campaigned for a “drugs policy which is evidence-based, credible with the electorate, compatible with our core values and reduces harm.”
However, last year, Theresa May’s spokesman dismissed calls for legalisation and decriminalisation from former leader, William Hague. Since then, the party has consistently debunked calls for policy change in the area.
In June 2019, three cross-party MPs made an educational trip to Canada to assess the country’s legal Cannabis sector. During the trip, they visited Cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centres, and met with politicians, cultivators, and users. Following the trip, two of the three MPs claimed that they would support a change in Cannabis legalistion in the next five to ten years.
These MPs were Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, and Labour MP David Lammy. The only MP not to voice support of reform was Conservative MP, Jonathon Djanolgy. However, Djanolgy did say that he thinks legalisation will happen at some point.
“I’m not convinced that we have the research or the knowledge about how to replace the criminality that currently goes with it.”
The Conservatives have currently made no claims about plans for recreational Cannabis policy reform.