14th June 2021
By Roland Sebestyén

Of all people, the former director of public prosecutions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, should know what the UK’s failing policy on  cannabis and drug use means for millions of users and patients across the country.

However, in February the leader of the about party revealed that he was against decriminalisation – a policy that is becoming widely accepted in the US and considered in other countries around the world. If he were interested in the impact cannabis decriminalisation would have on users and the black market, there are ample studies out there to be read.

In an interview with Sky News, Starmer 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.

When asked about the potential decriminalisation of cannabis, Starmer replied: “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.”

I don’t understand it. Does this mean he doesn’t want you to be arrested or prosecuted but you should get fined or sent to a drug abuse treatment service? If so – is this not what decriminalisation is?

It should come as no surprise that at Westminster everything is about politics. Every move, every word from a politician is seen as an attempt to gain something from it.

By stating his opposition to cannabis decriminalisation – implying his opposition to cannabis in general – I think Starmer is attempting to send a message to voters.

Labour has taken a beating in the North – a trend that the leader of the party doesn’t want to see continue – so Starmer may well be looking to avoid any potentially controversial subjects. In a word, this may be an attempt to say: “see, you can trust me, under my leadership, the streets won’t be ruled by cannabis gangs.”

keir starmer against cannabis decriminalisation

We all know that the best political messages are simple. You don’t want to confuse the electorate. Regardless of your political beliefs – for example, I’m an EU citizen living and working in the post-Brexit UK –, “Get Brexit Done” was one of the best and most effective slogans you’ll ever come across. That’s a fact.

Sir Keir, as someone who is working to be the next prime minister of the country, wants to send a clear and simple message as well. To be fair, he did and some might be relieved that even if he became the next PM, the UK wouldn’t tolerate the stoners.

However, here at Canex, we have been vocal about the millions of patients who need access to cannabis to mitigate the impact of the conditions they are living with.

That’s one thing. The other thing is that cannabis policing has gone overboard over the last few years/decades, and we need to stop pursuing people with a small amount of cannabis on them.

While decriminalisation may still sound scary to some, such a policy would not mean that drug dealers with whole cannabis factories in their living room would go unprosecuted. It would, however, mean that people with small amounts of cannabis for personal use would no longer receive criminal persecution.

More likely would be the use of civil penalties such as fines and direction to treatment services where necessary.

While it is true that we still need more studies on the question, the government and politicians with high office ambitions should assess the studies and surveys that are available now.

Sir Keir Starmer should know better than this. If he wants to get to No. 10, there are at least two million patients who need medical cannabis in the UK. He could start by working for and with them!

Sir Keir should embrace cannabis – heck, even champion it. If he’s worried about the media coverage, I’m here to tell that while some may be uneasy, there are literally millions of people that would be grateful.

I’m sure he’d like to see two million more votes in 2024 under his and his party’s name. The ball is in his court.

Please, don’t smash it in the net this time!

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