Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is set to become the first leader of one of Britain’s main political parties to call for the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.
Farron also declared that the war on drugs must end and he will endorse a motion which proposes extending legal cannabis use from medicinal to recreational.
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The motion, to be tabled by the former health minister Norman Lamb, will be debated after the release of the findings of an expert panel appointed by the Lib Dems to examine how a legal market for the use of cannabis would work in the UK. The panel has found that the legal use of cannabis could save the exchequer more than £1bn a year. It could generate between £400m-£900m in tax revenues and could save £200m-£300m in the criminal justice system.
The Lib Dem leader said: “The Liberal Democrats will be releasing a report in due course that lays out the case for a legalised market for sales of cannabis. I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health.
“The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”
Farron and Lamb, the two rivals for the Lib Dem leadership after Nick Clegg stood down when the party lost 49 of its 57 MPs, showed that they wanted to act in a radical way when they appointed the expert panel last October. The panel, whose members included the former chairman of the government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs, Prof David Nutt, was charged with examining how a legal market for cannabis could work in Britain.
The panel looked at evidence from Colorado and Washington State where the use of cannabis has been legal since 2012. Its work has also been backed by Lord Paddick, the Lib Dem peer and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, who led a pilot scheme in Lambeth which effectively decriminalised cannabis for personal use over a 12-month period.
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