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Parliament to debate cannabis legalisation next month

Published 09/09/2015

Pros and cons of legalising marijuana will be explored by MPs
Pros and cons of legalising marijuana will be explored by MPs

Parliament will debate the legalisation of cannabis next month, House of Commons authorities have announced.

MPs will consider a proposal to make the “production, sale and use of cannabis legal” on Monday 12 October.

The debate will be held in response to an official petition on the Parliament website that has received over 211,000 signatures as of early September.

The debate, to be conducted in Westminster Hall, will be led by Labour MP Paul Flynn, a member of Parliament’s petitions committee.

Mr Flynn has previously called for the legalisation of cannabis for medical use, introducing bills in 1999 and supporting another in concert with Lib Dem MP Tom Brake in 2008.

Next month’s debate is unlikely to lead to any change in the law, though it could put pressure on the Government to act.

The Government’s official response to the petition was negative. It read:  “Substantial scientific evidence shows cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage human health. There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.”

It said legalisation would “send the wrong message”, and told it had no comment on whether it believed cannabis is more harmful than alcohol.

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However a study published this summer in the US found that cannabis users were no more likely than normal to suffer mental health problems including depression, psychosis, or asthma.

Jon Liebling, the political director of the United Patients alliance, which campaigns for medical cannabis, said: “We urge all of our MPs to participate in an informed, pragmatic, evidence-based, compassionate debate resulting at the very least in allowing sick people a legitimate, effective medicine that vastly improves their quality of life without fear of criminalisation.”

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While many countries across the developed world have moved to legalise or decriminalise cannabis use, the UK has moved to tighten restrictions on it in recent years.

In 2009 the last Labour government moved its classification back to a Class B drug, meaning anyone caught possessing it can be sent to prison for five years, while anyone who supplies it can be imprisoned for 14 years.


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