The Rt Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen: British MPs and Cannabis Use

2nd October 2020

Following Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister’s admission of consuming cannabis “a long time ago”, we took a gander at which British MP confessed the same in the past. From Boris Johnson and David Cameron to former prominent Labour senior cabinet members, many politicians have reportedly enjoyed the plant’s psychoactive properties.

Although medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, there is no real sign of easing laws to legalise recreational use.

Despite appointing the well-known cannabis advocate, Blair Gibbs as a political advisor, the government denied any rumours about Mr. Gibbs’ influence on future cannabis legislation.

They had to speak up after Mr. Gibbs and another advisor, Danny Kruger MP, reportedly had said they thought that cannabis would be legal in the UK sooner rather than later.

In a press release, No 10 pointed out that the comments “made by individuals before they joined the government and do not reflect government policy.”

While the vast majority of Tory and Labour MPs, former and current senior cabinet members, are usually (publicly) against cannabis use, some of the household names admitted that they had tried the drug before.

In 2007, future prime minister Boris Johnson said he had tried drugs, including cocaine and cannabis, while in college.

He said: “There was a period before university when I had quite a few [joints]. But funnily enough, not much at university.

“Yeah, it was jolly nice. But apparently, it is very different these days. Much stronger. I’ve become very illiberal about it. I don’t want my kids to take drugs.”

In an article written to The Times, former prime minister David Cameron also admitted cannabis use during his years at Eton College.

He wrote: “In my case — comically, as I now look back on it — three of us used to hire one of the school’s double scull rowing boats and head off to a small island in the middle of the Thames called Queen’s Eyot.

“Being quite small back then, I was the cox. Once there, we would roll up and spend a summer’s afternoon gently off our heads.”

Mr. Cameron, 53, added: “Because I was so keen not to implicate anyone else, I claimed — totally falsely — that I had only smoked cannabis once at Eton, and all the other times were at home in the village.”

Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State, said he also had consumed cannabis as a student.

He said: “At university, I tried cannabis, not very often as I was into sport. It was a mistake, particularly the more I know now about the link between it and mental health issues.

“But it was a long time ago, and was particularly few and far between and I have never taken cocaine or any class A drugs.”

Other prominent Tory politicians, such as Matt Hancock, Jeremy Hunt, Esther McVey, and Andrea Leadsom, have reportedly tried cannabis as well.

On the other side of the benches, Jacqui Smith, the Labour Home Secretary between 2007 and 2009, whose task was to head the UK’s drug strategy review, confessed she had consumed cannabis at university.

During Gordon Brown’s years in the office, a couple of ministers, his deputy (Harriett Harman), and backbench MPs came out with their stories.

Among those ministers were Alistair Darling (Chancellor of the Exchequers), Vernon Coaker (Minister of State of Schools), and Caroline Flint (Minister of State for Europe).

In 2007, it was revealed that a lot of leading Scottish National Party (SNP) politicians had consumed cannabis – reports found future first minister Nicola Sturgeon was one of them.

However, so far, the Liberal Democrats remains the only political party to have publicly backed the legalisation of the drug in the UK. Many hope that this will change in the near future as the public view of cannabis continues to become increasingly liberal.

Last year, three cross-party MPs travelled to Canada to assess the viability of the new legal cannabis industry there. On their return, Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb and Labour MP David Lammy predicted that cannabis could be legalised in the UK within the next five to ten years.

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