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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Should cannabis be legalised?

The former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, Peter Lilley, has called for the legalisation of cannabis.

Mr Lilley would like to see the drug taxed and sold through special off-licences, similar to Amsterdam's coffee houses.

He believes the radical move would make the Conservative Party more desirable to young people and show Britons the party was open to new ideas.

Is Mr Lilley right? Is it time that cannabis was legalised? What are the cannabis laws like in your country? Do they work?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Legalise. We should aim to keep young people away from drug dealers where they learn about drugs, just as we try to avoid sending them to prison to learn about crime.
Hariet, UK

Drugs are much easier for youths to obtain when illegal

Tausif Kaderdina, Canada
Criminalisation of any recreational drug simply does not work. It goes against basic human freedom. It puts far too much money into the hands of criminals instead of creating a new business opportunity for many hardworking people. Billions of dollars are wasted jailing people who are in no way shape or form, a threat to society. May die from drugs that are laced with other poisons. Many more die from drug related dealings and having to purchase a simple drug for recreational purposes from usually violent criminals. Drugs are much easier for youths to obtain when illegal (I know from personal experience). Billions of dollars in tax revenues are lost. Medical research of the potential benefits of these drugs is hindered. There is no reason to criminalise a recreational drug.
Tausif Kaderdina, Canada

As a serving Police officer I often see the results of drug abuse/use first hand, the ruined lives and destroyed minds. I am all in favour of an informed debate to openly discuss the pros and cons of decriminalising cannabis. As for government shops selling dope and taxing it - that won't stop the dealers and the black market who will sell it cheaper "tax free"!
Clive Benson, UK

I believe that cannabis should be legalised, but restricted, much as smoking is now. That way it would free up so much in the way of police resources (as well as the extra tax revenue for more police) so as to be able to fight truly dangerous drugs and the evil people that supply them. Think of the knock-on effect on drug related crime if the police could target heroin or crack properly, without the distraction of prosecuting someone with a couple of joints in their pocket. Maybe London's streets may start to feel safe again!
Chris, UK

If cannabis is to be legalised it should only be allowed in private

Adam Dennis, UK
I believe that drug use is escapism. Maybe if the government improved the situation that the country is in and paid a bit more attention to what the country is doing rather that what the opposition is doing, there would be little use for drugs. If cannabis is to be legalised it should only be allowed in private. Public use should be banned, same as it should be for smoking of all descriptions. I find it offensive and if you want to ravage your own lungs, please don't take mine down with you.
Adam Dennis, UK

Cannabis is the biggest cash crop in this country, smoked by millions of people from all walks of life. Those who complain that legalisation or decriminalisation would lead to the use of harder drugs should consider how effective an attack on hard drug pushers we could create with the taxes we could gain from legalisation of a drug that is less dangerous and more prosocial than alcohol.
Toby Jones, UK

Look into the initial reasons behind cannabis prohibition in the US, and you find not an interest in public health, but a racist smear campaign by William Randolph Hearst to protect his wood pulp interests from cheaper, more competitive hemp products. Hemp was cultivated, used, and smoked for thousands of years with few ill effects, its reputation destroyed by a powerful US newspaper baron hell-bent on getting his way. The potential benefits of industrial hemp to the environment, paper and textile industries, and of smokable hemp to chronic pain sufferers and victims of many painful diseases, greatly outweigh any ill effects on society, many of which are the result of prohibition, not the drug itself.
Mark Bialkowski, Canada

It makes sense to take the hard drugs out of the equation

Pete Brown, UK
Up until November 2000 I was on 10/18 df118's + 8/12 paracetemol and anti-depressants for severe pain and discomfort(DAILY). I am now using cannabis (weed) and no longer use any tablets. I have no side effects and live as normal a life as possible. The reason some people move on to harder drugs is they have to go to the illegal dealer where more often than not other drugs are on offer. It makes sense to me to take the hard drugs out of the equation. You need somewhere to purchase cannabis totally free from temptation and peer pressure.
Pete Brown, UK

Whatever problems are caused by unregulated access to drugs pale into insignificance when compared with the problems caused by banning them. The people with most to gain from anti-drug laws are the organised criminals and those with most to lose are the innocent victims of drug-addicts forced into crime to feed their habit. Human societies have always used drugs for "recreational" and ritualistic purposes and this will not be stopped by legislation. Let's abandon all anti-drug legislation now and give people the right to take responsibility for their own actions.
Dick White, UK

I don't think society is ready to legalise cannabis just yet, because it is clear that, while it is relatively harmless for many people, it is deadly to others and destroys their lives (the same is true of alcohol however.) Legal cannabis would magnify all the health problems associated with booze. However, someday science may discover what the genetic markers are that indicate whether a person who tries something is likely to become an addict. Then all drugs could be legalised but only for people who have been "cleared" based on their genotype.

In the USA you have an additional problem however: dependence on the automobile. It is no coincidence that in most of the US you cannot drink until you are 21 - but you can drive when you are 16(!) and nearly everyone does. Stoned drivers would magnify the drunken driving problem that exists, and I don't see an easy way around this.
Kristin Ruhle, USA

The ridiculous comment from Emma (UK), concerning the "Kit Kat" craving from smoking cannabis should be condemned. This kind of attitude is both frivolous and demeaning to all wanting to enter a profound and serious debate on the cannabis issues. As every cannabis user will know, Dime bars are the far superior.
Will Hall, UK

Removing the threat of a criminal record from cannabis users would be a sensible first step

Jim, UK
It's important to understand the difference between legalisation and decriminalisation. There's certainly a strong case for decriminalising cannabis use (dealing is another matter) - after all, do we really want to be giving young people criminal records for smoking a joint? However, to actually legalise cannabis is a much bigger step - controlled sales of the drug through a system of off-licence style outlets would probably lead to a big increase in the number of people using cannabis, with the attendant health problems (mainly cancer). Perhaps removing the threat of a criminal record from cannabis users would be a sensible first step.
Jim, UK

Clive from Down Under warns of turning ourselves into a nation of "fuzzy-headed, crisp eating, TV watching vegetables". I consider that infinitely preferable to the current situation in town on a Friday night which appears to be fuzzy-headed, kebab-spewing, window-smashing traffic-cone throwing thugs.
Karl Peters, UK

This is a civil rights issue. The possible negative effects should be dealt with as separate issues - cracking down on drivers who are affected by any drugs, for example, as they endanger others. But where the harm, if any, can only come to the user, let the user decide what to do within his/her body. Use should never be encouraged, but I do not accept that the State has a right to interfere beyond giving advice.
Paul P, UK

Mass opinion is not always the same as informed opinion. In this case the majority argument seems eminently sensible. Progressive decriminalisation and control would please the law abiders; squeeze the black marketers; and swell Gordon Brown's coffers, with a probable net gain in social side effects.

It's not a perfect answer I grant you, but then Utopia was never around the corner. I just wish that someone would take the policy seriously instead of saying it for effect and popularity, before conveniently neglecting to put their money where their mouth is come crunch-time.
Paul S, UK

If you take the principle that if a law does not work you should legalise it then what about car crime, tax evasion, house breaking and oh yes, the oldest profession.
Dick Henry, UK

The cannabis laws are outdated in western Europe. Only the Netherlands recognise that cannabis is neither more harmful or any less socially acceptable than alcohol. In keeping with their mature attitude their policy of freedom of choice better reflects both the drug itself and the concept that in this modern age we should be treated as adults and allowed be allowed to make our own choices as free individuals.
Adam, United Kingdom

If cannabis was legal I wouldn't be downing half a bottle of vodka each night

Dave, UK
I have an alcohol problem, it started when I used it to wind down after work and to get to sleep and then got out of hand. It's been over three years since I smoked cannabis and prior to that I took amphetamine regularly for over a year. I couldn't face being caught with either so I stopped outright with no problems. A year ago the drink started and now I have real problems. Get the priorities right, if cannabis was legal I wouldn't be downing half a bottle of vodka each night.
Dave, UK

The legalisation issue is not really of concern to me as the drug is readily available and would no doubt be heavily taxed if made legal. I can't think of a single friend or associate who doesn't smoke cannabis and I believe that the figures often seen in surveys massively underestimate how widespread it's use has become. I see no harm whatsoever in smoking cannabis but do not believe that the Government is mature enough or secure enough to discuss the subject properly. It's seems to me that in the cases of Peter Lilley and others, their only real concern is how the subject will affect their chances of getting a nice new office in Downing Street. As a final point, if I were to bump in to a group of lads in a dark alley, I would feel a great deal safer if they had been smoking rather that drinking.
John, Berkshire, UK

Legalize Cannabis! I suffer from MS and it helps ease the pains. I know more ugly drunks than happy dopers. I believe the world would be a happier place if everyone tried it at least once in their life time. How many police get calls for domestic violence caused by smoking cannabis over those for drunks? I have dated too many drunks and gotten my fair share of bruises from them, but not from those who smoked dope. I agree that car accidents are related to drug use but it is caused by lack of common sense. Have you ever heard of someone killing another person over cannabis? Not me.
Dara, New Hampshire, United States

I smoke cannabis, but I do believe its legalisation is yet more "chipping away" at societies rules, without which society could not exist. Maybe the good of the majority outweighs our individual desires.
Ian, UK

Peter Lilley is to be commended for his good sense. Of course cannabis should be legalised. It is a nonsense to criminalize users of a drug that is less harmful than alcohol. Can anyone remember hearing of a case of domestic violence due to cannabis? It's strange that the zero-tolerance brigade have nothing to say about the huge numbers killed each year by alcohol or tobacco.
Jim Spence, UK

Aren't countries like Sweden that experimented with this idea now backtracking because its caused more drug related problems than its cured? Do we want to make another mind altering substance legal and add to the problems social acceptance of alcohol has given us? What message does this send to young people when we say that its OK to take something for no other reason than altering your state of mind, as opposed to dealing with the many problems we have in society? Wasn't the disintegration of the US army in Vietnam partly to do with endemic drug abuse, and what does that say for the effect of this drug on order and coherence in any society?
Mark Harrison, Canada

Legalising cannabis would be a disaster. Full stop. It saps the will to do anything when taken in even small quantities. If you want to turn Britain into a nation of fuzzy-headed, crisp eating, TV watching vegetables then go right ahead. And don't believe the people who tell you that it doesn't lead on to harder drugs - in a lot of cases it does - I've seen it.
Clive, Australia

I do not use cannabis, nor any other illegal drug, nor do I consume any alcohol. However I believe cannabis should be de-criminalized. They tell us it should be illegal because cannabis may be "harmful and dangerous" So are tobacco and alcohol - in the US these kill far, far more people than all illegal drugs combined. I'm sure the same is true in the UK
Harel, USA

Cannabis is the thing end of the wedge leading to harder and more deadly drugs. You also create an army of part time drug dealers stepping up to full time hard core criminals selling deadly drugs to the same customers. What would you do then legalise the harder drug as they become more "socially acceptable" . Just nip it in the bud and lock up drug pushers rather than give them more oxygen.
Alvin Gordon, Jamaica

There are an estimated five million uses in London alone. If they were paying the same tax as cigarettes the UK would be laughing. And it is hard to commit a crime when your world can be made perfect by the timely arrival of a Kit Kat.
Emma, UK

After the quality online discussion on this page, I should think that you might have done justice to the issue on the BBC World discussion on TV on Sunday by including at least one proponent of the idea of legalisation in the panel. The discussion raised a number of cautionary points but few of the issues in favour.
Jon, UK

let the UK be a guiding force for the future


I have been a smoker for the last eight years, and still have not found any bad side-effects of the drug. Instead of increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, why not legalise and tax cannabis? Not too much though! Or I would imagine many people would go back to getting it from their old dealers, if the prices shot up.
Purplehaze, UK

I have never tried cannabis, but I know many people who do. Sadly, when people buy any illegal drug they can do so only by putting money into the wallets of evil drug barons who resort to violence or even murder to further their aims. We cannot stop people smoking cannabis, so we should at least allow them to buy it from a safe legal source.
Quentin Hawkins, UK

Cannabis should be legalised. I do not want to be labeled a criminal for smoking. However I would probably continue to purchase it on the black market if it were legalised because of the massive tax the government would no doubt put on it.
Andrew Rhead, uk

It is not, as a lot of people have said, astonishing that the Conservative party have aired this idea of decriminalisation. The Conservative Party, as anyone who has followed politics will know, has a libertarian tendency that at its most radical suggests the legalisation of all drugs. The Labour Party has never been associated with the liberalisation of anything.
John Adlington, UK

I am pleased to see that the ever-present "Gateway drug" theory is getting a good hammering. The anti-cannabis lobby has repeated this rubbish over and over again, never realising that it is not proven and is a total fallacy. I know dozens of cannabis users (myself included) who have never taken hard drugs.
Richard, UK

I can not really see the sense in not legalising cannabis. Anyone can obtain it, anywhere. It is used recreationally by millions of otherwise law abiding people who are all aware of its non-threatening, relaxing qualities. Every weekend I see people traumatized by the effects of a night using alcohol. The cannabis users I know dont appreciate aggression. Amsterdam is an eye opener, to see how a society has embraced change for the better. I truly believe the people of this country are more scared of 'change' than anything else. Give our country a chance to grow, ethically and financtuly. Let the UK be a guiding force for the future.
Gray, UK

Present smokers are more far more likely to take to smoking cannabis than non smokers. Cannabis is much more expensive than tobacco. Cigarette addicts are already depriving their families of income that could be better spent, and now these same families might be faced with a bigger hit if cannabis were legalised. Those of you who espouse freedom of individual choice, please start thinking of the spouses and children of addicts!
husband of a cannabis addict, Southampton

How dare David Davis state so glibly on Breakfast with frost that Holland is a drug based society? Not only is Holland, in general a more law-abiding society than the UK but hard drug use has declined there over the last ten years not increased as Mr. Davis insisted. I do not take drugs myself but I follow events closely and Holland is a beacon to the rest of the world for common sense programmes.
Dave Richardson, The Netherlands

Imagine all the good things cannabis tax revenue could be spent on. Imagine all the good things that the money wasted on policing cannabis users could be spent on. Imagine that cannabis users no longer have to come into contact with harder drugs. It is about time that we wake up and see that the United States policy of forcing the world to ban this drug has been disastrous.
Steve McCoull, England

Imagine all the good things cannabis tax revenue could be spent on.

Steve McCoull, England
Imagine the British image in the near future - a bunch of socialist, chain smoking, ecstasy dropping, pot head, lager louts rioting over some football match result. A fine healthy "socially progressive" reality for your future.
Stephen, US

I have been smoking cannabis for 20 years. The only problem that I have had with it is when I was busted with three grammes of hash and lost a good job because of having my name splashed in the local paper. If those in power really cared about our health, then they would have banned tobacco and alcohol products years ago.
Joolz, UK

The drug war is a colossal and corruptive failure that punishes the lower class unjustly. I believe alcohol and marijuana are parallel substances as well, except for the fact that alcohol is more of a plague on America what with all the drunk drivers who end up killing people and because of the violence that alcohol encourages. Industrial hemp needs to legalized more than anything as it is a viable resource that will save our forests.
Crystal , USA

After just leaving Amsterdam from a weekend tour I have changed my mind on the whole legalisation talk. I believe that "special outlets" similar to Amsterdam's coffee houses should be allowed, for the main reason that alcohol is not allowed in those places. Now think how many crimes are alcohol-related, and how many are cannabis-related! I think people are much more likely to go to these coffee houses than a bar. Therefore surely a reduction in crime may be the result.
Paul Jarvis, UK

When I smoke cannabis in the privacy of my home, I am not hurting or stealing from anyone

Legalise it to get it out of the hands of criminals, but ban it from improper use, just like alcohol or tobacco. Oh, and then we should be able to grow that useful plant hemp again.
Andrew Watt, UK

In more than 30 years of voting, I have never voted Tory. But if they adopt the policy of legalisation of cannabis, they may just get my vote. (Gulp...)
Stuart, Scotland

ALL drugs should be legalised. It is down to the individual's choice whether they want to destroy or kill themselves, not the choice of the government behaving like a nanny state, or campaigners and do-gooders constantly drumming down our throats how we should live and behave. Our society needs to take a long good luck in the mirror. We must stop dictating to people and getting wound up over peoples' actions and opinions.
Kev, England

It's good to see a range of opinions on this talkboard, because just as a hypocritical prohibitionist attitude to cannabis and other currently illegal drugs helps nobody, neither does the common attitude amongst young people that smoking cannabis does you good, and has positive effects on society. Like any drug, we use it, then rationalise our vices by exaggerating the positive side, and tend to forget that the mental effects of smoking cannabis (especially for people who have experienced forms of depression and the like) can be extremely traumatic. Like all forms of drug consumption, it is an inevitable but harmful practice in our society, and the law should take this into account by some form of decriminalisation, whilst using legalisation to exploit the potential benefits of its use for conditions such as Alzheimer's.
Pete Lalvani, Italy

I find it funny that some of the people that say it should be banned are the same people that smoke and drink, both are more harmfully to our bodies and society. Cigs are more addictive than heroin IMO, and booze is responsible for so much crime. And as the weed being a gateway drug, I would like someone to show me someone that didn't try booze or a cig first, THE REAL GATEWAY DRUGS!
Niki Cox

It is down to the individual's choice whether they want to destroy or kill themselves

Kev, England
A comment on the theory that cannabis is a "Gateway Drug". It quite simply is not. Yes, it is true that every heroin addict, every cocaine user etc. has taken cannabis... But then, every meths drinker has had a pint of lager. One does not cause the other! Legalise cannabis now! It's a prohibition. It is hypocritical of the government to say No to legalising cannabis, but to allow the advertising of tobacco, a far more deadly drug.
Bo Downing, Wales

If the above quoted tax revenues are accurate, that combined with the money saved with police time, and decrease in criminal activity (because its no longer against the law) would certainly help the country. The health risks are not really any much more greater than smoking, and the THC in cannabis is NOT physically addictive; nowhere nearly as addictive as tobacco. In response to the unknown long-term effects of cannabis, as they are unknown, it is foolish to base a law on this - it would be easier to study long-term effects if legalised. I also believe it is also the individuals choice to take or leave the risk of smoking it; I find the nanny state becoming a little sickening, and more than a little irrational.
Tom Cutts, UK

I don't drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, but I do enjoy smoking cannabis. I believe it causes less harm than either alcohol (no violence) or tobacco (no addiction and less inhaled smoke per day). I also believe in freedom of individual action, along with responsibility for self-inflicted harm. Yes, legalise it.
Pete, USA

I want to see cannabis legalised, but not commercialised. The last thing on earth I want to see is the tobacco companies getting in on the act and promoting use of dope, although maybe Ken Clarke would disagree. I would like to see the law changed so that you can legally grow your own plants at home. I also agree that its simply crazy not to use cannabis as a crop, because it has so many uses.
Nick Smith, Scotland

I find it funny that some of the people that say it should be banned are the same people that smoke and drink

Niki Cox
It appears that the UK is ahead of the curve on drug decriminalisation. Kudos and keep up the good work! The political climate in the States is, as in George W's words: "Incarceration is Rehabilitation." Ah ok George, snort another line.
Tony, USA

YES. Because a government entity should not control peoples' choices... And how can someone have the ego to ban a natural plant? Do they believe they have the power of a god to control something like that? It's even safe for the human body!
Alexander Satya, USA

Never, never, never!
Peter Bolton, UK in US

Hats off to Mr. Lilley for using some rationale and logic in pointing out the absurdities and silliness of this "War on Drugs" garb. The message being conveyed by governments around the globe is pure psycho-babble. They can justify the use of tobacco and alcohol when the two combined kill over 500,000 people a year in the U.S. alone? If somebody would please present factual, documented evidence of the number of people killed as a result of MJ a year. I would love to see. No one has been able to provide this information so far. Seriously, a lot of people are getting really tired of it! A lot of tax money is being spent and little results are being produced. This is completely and totally unacceptable.
Kevin S, USA

I can't see this move working in the UK. It works in Holland apparently, but that is a completely different culture. The points about cutting out the underworld are very valid but people will still be able to get other drugs should they want to.
Mike, UK

Hats off to Mr Lilley

Kevin S
The problem with the legalisation of cannabis lies in the lack of an effective test for driving whilst drugged and the legal implications (in terms of financial liability) for any government legalising somthing that later turns out to be more carcinogenic than tobacco.
Paul Mitchell, England

I think it is really daft that people who like to "indulge" in using cannabis to relax and stimulate their mind should be classed as criminals - there's such a stigma attached to that but it is okay to drink every night and that surely damages your body more anyway? I also however think alternative ways of taking it should be investigated. So many of the negative comment mentioned here and the medical issues are because people smoke it primarily. What about a new line in alco-pops? From what I've heard the effect Redbull and vodka have on you is almost illegal so, why not? And a lot of people agree that it is much nicer to be in a group of stoned people rather than drunk people, much more calm and relaxed and less aggro.
Jessica, UK

Should drugs be legalised? Of course they should. The profits at present are enormous. Terrorist organisations use the profits for arms purchases. Drug Barons use the profits to intimidate those who threaten their income. The taxpayer funds the costs of customs and police operations. Then pays for the users and sellers to go to jail. The high cost of drugs are born by the community, but the gains all go elsewhere. If economics can be used as an argument to close hospitals, schools and throw people out of work it can surly be used to legalise drugs.
Eric, Australia

It's quite amazing to think that a Conservative minister would talk more sense on this issue than Labour. Now that it is obvious to all that New Labour = Old Conservative, perhaps New Tory will become a truly radical political force? Unlikely perhaps, but I certainly shan't be voting Labour again...
Dominic Al-Badri, Japan

Legalisation of MJ should be done to start a legalisation process all over the world.
Dreg, Ukraine

The overwhelming support here for legalising cannabis confirms my long-held suspicions about the kind of people who write to Talking Point.
Jim Hubbell, Texas, USA

It is a potent toxin which severely impairs our cerebral functioning

Brian, UK
End the hypocrisy
End the lies
Just legalise...
Lead on Britian.
Henry Chaney, USA

I believe that the education given to most people about what cannabis is, its uses and position as a so-called "drug" is greatly misleading. Firstly cannabis is not a drug, it cannot overdose and it is not addictive. The effective "high" cannot be a reason for criminalisation, since alcohol and all the arising "legal herbal highs" are present in legal, mass abundance. I know many people that use cannabis and none have ever used any hard drugs and are actually fully against cocaine and heroin. Cannabis is not a gateway drug.
Daniel, UK

Hemp has tremendous potential as a source of industrial, medical, nutritional and social benefit. The only reason I can possibly conceive for it not being taken full advantage of is that the "old money" corporations see how much money they could lose, and lobby strongly against it. Or am I just paranoid?
Gary, Canada

Cannabis is NOT just a mild and pleasant drug for some of us; it is a potent toxin which severely impairs our cerebral functioning. Taken repeatedly by such people it can lead to irreversible damage and even psychosis. Please don't forget this.
Brian, UK

You may disagree with what I do, but when I smoke cannabis in the privacy of my home, I am not hurting or stealing from anyone, so therefore, in the nicest of ways, mind your own business.

Have our puritanical politicians learned nothing from the Prohibition period?
David Bennet, temporarily resident in Pakistan

If only the Tories had tried the tolerant stance pre-election I'd have voted for them

Paul Nagle, England
Yes cannabis should be legalised, otherwise alcohol and tobacco should be outlawed. But prohibition leads to terrible problems, as we already know. I used to be a long-term dope smoker and heroin addict. The only reason I started taking heroin was because it was supplied by the same illegal dealers whom I used to be obliged to visit to buy my dope. Otherwise it would never have crossed my mind to embark on 18 years of pumping poisons into my veins. Those people who repeat "parrot style" that smoking dope leads, automatically, to hard drugs clearly haven't sat down and given the subject any real thought or taken the time to study the infrastructure of the illegal drug culture.
Richard, France

No it should not be legalised because it IS addictive, and living with someone who sometimes "needs" 50 pounds worth of the stuff a week is depressing and expensive. Not to mention increased health risks and less safe driving. More people on cannabis would cost the health service an absolute fortune. For god's sake DON'T DO IT.
S, England

It is difficult to argue that drug laws have been in any way effective over the last 30 years. It seems that the law has completely failed to control what is generally perceived to be a problem. Therefore in order to move forward, new ideas must be examined. Whilst we are all too aware of tragedies that have occurred as a result of drug use, it is rare that the media represents those people who use recreational drugs in a sensible manner and have an enjoyable experience with minimal risk. These people form the majority of drug users.
Brendan MacLean, UK

Decriminalising cannabis would have more positive effects than negative. It could reduce the level of violence in our society. People would be a lot less likely to get into fights on a Saturday night as they would be "chilled out". I am a cannabis smoker and I am pushed into contact with criminals due to its prohibition. I am not a criminal in any other aspect I just like to smoke dope. I am a decent responsible person, just like thousands of other pot smokers.
Rob, Burnley, UK

Cannabis consumption DOES lead to hard drug use

Mike , UK
The "weed" did wonders for the likes of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. May be it can do wonders to other people also. So, legalise it!
Chibamba Douty, Zambian student in Brunei Darussalam

Why pretend that cannabis is illegal for any other reason than economics? Cannabis makes big money. The alcohol and nicotine "cartels" already sell us the legal drugs, which cause more harm than cannabis in terms of health, violence and days off sick. The only hold up on legalisation is surely allowing for the proper marketing of cannabis by the over ground drug barons, rather than the "underground". Any government worth its salt would be already making deals with the big boys, it makes economic sense to do so, so we must assume some of the these big "legal" dealers are already embarking in the back room deals which will ultimately lead to the supply shifting from "under" to "over ground". In the meantime, about 80%+ of us have to remain criminals whilst the fat cats get ready to cream off the profits.
Brendan, UK

A Tory politician bringing this into debate is quite astounding - and impressive. The automatic "No debate" response is a reflection of the lack of open politics this country suffers from and why so many people did not vote in the election. As to some of the entries here, with things such as cannabis is worse than alcohol effects, shows that like many of the people administering the prohibition, the people making entries have no knowledge of the subject or experience of users. I do not smoke dope at present but appreciate its better effects than drink in terms of violence and character change.
Noel, UK

I agree that cannabis should be decriminalised. By doing this, police time is freed up for more important things. This does not mean that cannabis is a safe drug, however. From my own experience, long-term cannabis smokers tend to lose the drive to achieve, suffer from cognition problems and will probably be a considerable burden on society when they reach old age. Visit Christiania in Denmark to see the long-term effects of daily cannabis use: It's not pretty. But, it's a question of moderation, isn't it? What gets me is the government's disingenuity about the issue... I can't imagine the current pilot project in the Met police area going ahead without Whitehall's blessing. Furthermore, Radio 4 is increasingly carrying content which is cannabis-friendly. I think public opinion is being prepared for decriminalisation within this parliament. After all, it's hard to riot when you're stoned, unless you have a full supply of chocolate bars.
Matthew Hannagan, UK

As usual, the pro-cannabis lobby always think of their selfish needs. The countries that produce the crop, are probably the poorest in the world. "Liberation Armies" or mafia gangs control the taxation and production. These countries already owe billions to the World Bank, because so much land is turned over to the production of drugs, and food production gets left behind. Every time you take a drag on your spliff, have a thought for the producers, who get none of the profit, but get all the misery. Decriminalising drugs would simply encourage farmers and others in third world countries to give in to the drug barons, and cultivate the plants. Making the production like a cash crop, will not solve their problems either.
Alan Cameron, Scotland

I am a cannabis smoker and I am pushed into contact with criminals due to its prohibition

Rob, Burnley, UK
Cannabis consumption DOES lead to hard drug use. I chose to use cannabis from my own free will about 10 years ago. Since that time I have dabbled in other drugs like amphetamines, Ecstasy, etc, etc. Why did I do that? Simple, they were being sold by the same people who sold me cannabis. Break the link and bingo, lower hard drug use. Now ordinarily I don't agree with Tory policies but...
Mike , UK

Think of countries like Saudi Arabia, where people would be horrified to consider allowing off-licences to be built to sell alcohol to over 18s, but what is out attitude in the UK towards alcohol? Some countries may be horrified at the thought of their populations becoming alcoholic, like the UK, but we live quiet happily with it and society accepts it here, so why does the government worry about us becoming a "mildly druggie nation" if cannabis was legalised? If anyone really wants to use cannabis, they can get it now quite easily, so why not simply let the individual person be credited with the intelligence to choose for themselves and let the state benefit from the taxation benefits, rather than the drug dealers?
Richard Pearce, UK

Yes. People use it. And have always used it. Why does it still have to be severely punished all around the world?
Serge, Russia

Britain is proud of its reputation of tolerance. 30 years ago, homosexuality was illegal, and the same arguments were used to keep it illegal - since homosexuality is illegal then all homosexuals are by definition criminals. The same applies to cannabis - while it is illegal then users are forced to associate themselves with criminals. The real reason that it will not be legalised in this country is that the brewers pay the politicians vast sums to keep it illegal, because they realise that if cannabis were legal then people would prefer it to alcohol.
Richard Marks, England

In 1983 I was arrested by two plain-clothes policemen in the street in Brixton and charged with possession of 1.04 grams of cannabis. I was fined 30 pounds when I appeared at the magistrates court. Since I consider the law against cannabis "petty, archaic and misguided", I refused to pay the fine. I was given a week in Pentonville Prison as a reward for my protest. That happened in the Nanny State of Britain 20 years ago, and yet that "archaic" law I objected to still applies. If the Conservatives had put the legalization of cannabis on their list of promises during the last election, Tony Blair would have had a serious challenge to his leadership. As it is, "Cool Britannia" is just a sham.
Michael Dickinson, Turkey

As usual, the pro-cannabis lobby always think of their selfish needs

Alan Cameron, Scotland
If only the Tories had tried the tolerant stance pre-election I'd have voted for them. Politicians have enough to do trying to run the country - they should leave running my life to me. I enjoy pot, I avoid tobacco - my choice based on facts rather than hype. It should be legal for all adults and sold in coffee-shop-type outlets like in Holland. Maybe there will be a few more mellow people around at first but this is a Good Thing. I mean, there's nothing actually wrong with giggling, talking about God and asking your friends to "write this down, it's soooo deep!" If we had a real debate over this with real facts, cannabis would be seen as the marvellous plant it is. And yes, I "am" a musician.
Paul Nagle, England

I strongly believe that cannabis should be legalised. At the moment for cannabis users the biggest risk is the possibility of getting a criminal record, not a health risk! But apart from that I think that legalisation would also lead to a change in attitude to the other benefits of cannabis- it is easy to grow and has many uses- as a replaceable source of fuel for the future when our natural fossil fuels run out, fabric- apparently to use hemp instead of cotton most fabric manufacturers would have to make small changes to the machinery, also detergents and plastic products. It is a shame that such a raw material has been virtually ignored due to its druggy connotations, and propaganda generated by the oil producers.
Nicola Dranovski, Israel

I have smoked cannabis since 1976 and since then I have met people from ALL walks of life around at the dealers house. I'd bet some of the high profile people who are opposed to cannabis would faint if they knew who some of them are! Believe me or not the FACT is that they span the entire social and employment spectrum. The most pleasing thing I've noticed over the years is that when we're all sat around the table enjoying a smoke we all seem to have an equality and an ability to laugh with each other. To this date I have never seen a fight between any of these so-called criminals and I do wish I could say the same for people I have seen drinking alcohol together. LEGALISE CANNABIS NOW YOU HYPOCRITICAL PEOPLE!
Steve Stone, Derbyshire U.K.

"Cannabis is dangerous, it does cause medical problems, cancer, hallucinations - therefore the position has not changed," the prime minister's official spokesman said on Friday. Well I'm afraid beer causes liver damage, stupidity and violent behaviour. And for cigarettes... well read the side of the pack, so why does the government not want cannabis legalised??? As for the argument for cannabis leading to hard drugs, I say this: The first time most people smoke cannabis is at a party after consuming alcohol. Makes you think that alcohol is truly the stepping stone to other "drugs", but it's O.K. because alcohol is a socially acceptable drug like cigarettes.
Alan Coholan, Ireland

Of course it should. The whole concept of prohibition of drugs needs to be reassessed. It doesn't work, it never can work and there is no reason to believe it is desirable. Those who argue against this simply do not understand how prevalent drug use is. For those born today, drug use as a means of recreation will be absolutely the acceptable norm - regardless of upbringing, class, morality etc. The sooner we adapt our attitudes to this, the better able society will be to integrate drug use in a sensible, safe, productive and practical way.
Josh Bayly, UK

The argument that cannabis should not be legalised because it leads to harder drugs is fallacious

Paul Barber, Canada
The argument that cannabis should not be legalised because it leads to harder drugs is fallacious. The reason cannabis leads to harder drugs is because it is not legalised and so many users assume that other illegal drugs are also innocuous. Make cannabis legal and you are creating a creating a much clearer distinction.
Paul Barber, Canada

I do not think that drugs should be legalised, but if you are in possession of them you should not be classed a criminal or sent to prison. For addiction with the harder type drugs you could be offered rehabilitation, because I am sure that people like to take drugs but not be addicted to them. I don't accept that mind and behaviour altering substances should be seen as acceptable in our society today - whilst the adverse physical affects may be limited, the mental effects of drug use over a prolonged period are definitely bad for individuals and societies. How can we achieve a solution, giving free will to individuals without ruining our social fabric for future generations? I don't know - decriminalise yes, legalise no.
Stuart, UK

If it were useful as a medicine, I would say yes. But just a doctor should decide in which case cannabis should be taken. But for public use, I definitely say NO! It is more than disgusting when someone is smoking a joint next to you. And by the way, the smoke is disturbing for non-smoking people. A pint hasn't that effect. To legalise cannabis and open it for the public, so that everyone could buy it, means a step backward in development. Cannabis smoking people are always comparing it with drinking alcohol. But there's a big difference between smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol. People who smoke cannabis are just doing it to get stoned. But drinking a pint is just for getting rid of thirst.
Martin Bernstein, UK

I think it's high time it should be legalised

Andrew McCormick, UK
Yes, I think it's high time it should be legalised. In fact I predict it probably will be legal in a few years' time anyway, or at least available from licensed hash bars in places like Soho or Brixton. Incidentally, I'm surprised that the percentage of 16-29 year olds quoted is that low. If you've been to university, you've almost certainly come into contact with it, and most people will probably recall seeing it at parties when they were still at school. There are downsides to using "the weed" just like there are with excessive boozing, but in all honesty I can't see any overriding reasons for booze to be legal and cannabis to be illegal. Hard drugs, though, that's a different matter.
Andrew McCormick, UK

Cigarettes now hold public health warnings, people are already unbelievably suing tobacco companies - why? Smokers take up hospital beds, they waste our GPs' time and they don't mind inflicting smoke on other people then disposing of fag ends recklessly. Do we really need to go through it all again with another self-induced drug? Leave the drugs to the medical profession.
Sarah, UK

I don't want to see cannabis legalised at all

Julian, UK
I don't want to see cannabis legalised at all. I've seen people whose personalities have been altered after smoking it and the effects are worse than alcohol. Smoke this, get behind the wheel of a car and drive under its effects and the consequences are barely worth thinking about, especially if a young child or other drivers are victims.
Julian, UK

I agree with Phil, UK. I am not a conservative but if the Tories were the only party standing on a legalise policy I would vote for them.
Chris Lyon, UK

If cannabis was legalised would the "packet" come with a government health warning?
Steve, London

This is a really difficult subject. On the one hand, cannabis has proved to be useful in treating pain for MS sufferers, for example. On the other hand, there are always going to be stupid people who misuse the drug, and in the wrong hands it can lead to more serious drug abuse. But then also if it was legalised, maybe people would have a more sensible attitude towards it!
Charlotte, UK

Let's stop wasting police time and legalise and tax the use of cannabis

Neil, Wales
I agree, let's stop wasting police time and legalise and tax the use of cannabis. Personally I wouldn't use it as long-term use has been linked to memory loss, paranoia and certain studies have found it to be more carcinogenic than tobacco.
Neil, Wales

Why not legalise the stuff? A startling percentage of the voters of this country smoke it - should we not at least have the democratic right to put the issue to referendum? I will continue using it regardless of legal status but I would feel happier if it was legalised.
Huw, UK

Not only should cannabis be legalized, it should be fully exploited. It is the world's most efficient "bio-converter" or producer of biomass per sq. acre. It produces fine cloth, though it uses none of the pesticides or herbicides that cotton does. It can be used more efficiently than corn to produce ethanol for clean-burn engines. Its seeds have the perfect essential fatty acid mix for the human body. Perhaps best of all, it has the promise to end the world's dependency on fossil fuel with a renewable resource that can produce four crops per year in a place like Canada. On top of it, you can sell recreational marijuana for one-tenth the current "street price", cut the criminals out of the equation, and get the tax money.
Ravi Karumanchiri, Canada

I take my hat off to Mr Lilley for having the courage to at least address [the issue]

Steve Wigglesworth, London, UK
It's about time! So much hypocrisy and ignorance surrounds the drugs debate and I take my hat off to Mr Lilley for having the courage to at least address it. The sooner it is legalised, the sooner the British public (and would it be too hopeful to include other societies round the world )will realise that all the other lies about drugs are just that. Prohibition will fail absolutely.
Steve Wigglesworth, London, UK

5 million people x 5 pounds per week (in duty) x 52 weeks per year = 1.3 Billion pounds of money to spend on public services each year.
Dave, UK

I think cannabis should be made legal and then all the MPs in parliament be forced to smoke it!!!!!
Darren Wallace, UK

I am not a Tory voter but would if the plans put forward by Peter Lilley were put into practice

Rob, England
I am a business director and regular user of cannabis. I am not a Tory voter but would if the plans put forward by Peter Lilley were put in practice. I agree that people are being pushed toward the drug underworld, and for young users getting the option of other class A drugs is inevitable.
Rob, England

I smoke cannabis fairly regularly - I socialise with my friends, have a good time with great conversation and many laughs all in the comfort of the front room at home. I don't stagger out of pubs, urinate or vomit in alleyways, spray take-away food litter on the street or get into fights. Nuff said!
Elliot, London, UK

In the present situation, large-scale smuggling and dealing in cannabis is under the control of some very unpleasant individuals. This means that a lot of the money spent on cannabis at the moment is also being funnelled into prostitution, racketeering and hard drug smuggling and dealing. I don't know about the rest of the UK, but in Edinburgh and Glasgow, cannabis means a dubious tarry substance of unknown origin and composition. It certainly bears little resemblance to real Hashish as seen in Amsterdam. Regulation of the trade would reduce harm to people who choose to use cannabis by supplying a higher quality product enabling people to get as stoned as they wish to on less smoke.
Chris Boyne, UK Scotland

What kind of society are you becoming? Are you mad???

John Pires, USA
England is a sick country. First you got mad cow disease, then foot and mouth, now you want to legalise drugs. What kind of society are you becoming? Are you mad???
John Pires, USA

How many dope smokers smoke cigarettes because they have to mix the resin into a joint and so become addicted to nicotine? If the leafy version of cannabis was readily available, how many people would stop smoking tobacco? The smell of cannabis is not unpleasant, whilst tobacco and the people who smoke it stink! I vote for legalisation of cannabis and criminalisation of tobacco, if only to preserve my nostrils.
Chris, UK

As a scientist, my greatest fear about legalising cannabis is the number of extra lung cancers that will come as a result.
Jason, UK

Don't legalise cannabis. Leave the law on this as it is. It's bad enough having to passively smoke normal cigarettes, I do not want to find myself in a pub or on the tube passively smoking someone else's fix. Politicians should concentrate on more important policies like the repeal of section 28 and not be bothered about a law which unfortunately, obviously isn't being adhered to anyway.
Rob, England

Cannabis should be legalised but approached in the same way as alcohol. There should be laws preventing driving under the influence, as the reactions are impaired. You never see cannabis users rampaging through towns on Friday and Saturday nights, fighting and causing general unrest. Alcohol is much more anti-social than cannabis will ever be.
Steve, UK

There is no medical evidence that cannabis causes anywhere near the problems alcohol consumption does

Phil Clarke, England
The time has come for cannabis laws in the UK to be reviewed. 1 in 10 adults smoke cannabis and that's a fact. Why should people smoking cannabis in the safety of their own home, or in a pub, be disallowed by law? I really don't understand why this is. Alcohol can cause violence and long-term health problems, yet there is no medical evidence to show that cannabis causes anywhere near the problems alcohol consumption does. The fact is that most people go on to harder drugs because they are available from their cannabis dealer. if you cut this link, drug dealers will be unable to catch young people into the web of class A drugs. Better still, enable the legalisation of cultivating cannabis for personal use, and it cuts out any money changing hands whatsoever. Imagine the revenue the government could make from cannabis tax?
Phil Clarke, England

Have you ever seen a stoned person starting fights, or causing trouble? I think not.
Phil Jones, UK

I know you can take cannabis by other means, but most people smoke it. I think it should not be legalised since it would encourage smoking, which is far more dangerous. Find another safe delivery method and I would have few objections.
Andrew Torrance, Wales, UK

Take the dealer out of the link and you eradicate the risk of use of harder drugs

Julian, UK
Cannabis should be made legal along with other illegal drugs. The government have lied to the general public for 30 years on this issue. The UK spend upwards of 3 billion pounds last year on the war on drugs. The reality is prohibition creates a black market that supplies bad quality drugs and introduces users to dealers that try and push more addictive drugs. The argument that cannabis leads to harder drugs is only true because of the way it is supplied - the dealers encourage the use of more addictive higher-profit drugs. Take the dealer out of the link and you eradicate the risk of use of harder drugs.

Morphine (heroin) is proved to have no adverse effects on the body (except constipation). Street heroin contains all sorts of contaminates and the doses are not controlled (thus overdoses occur). A new approach to the use of drugs is needed. In a controlled (taxable) environment lives would be saved and people's health would not be at risk.
Julian, UK

Cannabis should be legalised. It's not true that it necessarily leads to harder drugs, just as it's ridiculous to claim that your first pint of beer will lead you to alcoholism. Anyway, I think that if English football supporters smoked the weed instead of gulping down 14 pints of lager, perhaps we would not been seen as violent thugs but as chilled out and happy, man!
Dan Brett, Cambridge UK

The present system of illegality works!

Dan Cupid, UK
It's important to separate what a law says from what a law does. By legalising cannabis you change the nature of the system, and therefore the problems associated with that change. The present system of illegality works! People are effectively free to smoke cannabis in the privacy of their own homes; but as soon as you legalise cannabis you change the culture of cannabis use, which is bound to bring with it all sorts of new social problems. The law is merely a technicality that is used to keep things stable, and with cannabis it is clearly working in a useful way.
Dan Cupid, UK

Don't the government realise that once cannabis is made legal then they'll have an endless source of taxable income to cream off society? How many hospital beds are worth one joint then?
Ian, United Kingdom

Two points: 1) If you smoke a lot of cannabis you're going to fall asleep, if you drink 10 pints you're going to be a danger to yourself and others. 2) Anti-legalisation people say all those on hard drugs started on cannabis; you'll probably find they also smoke, drink, eat red meat, watch TV, drink water etc etc.
Paul, UK

I do not believe that a more stoned society would be a better society

Matthew Salter, UK
I drink alcohol and I have smoked cannabis on two occasions about ten years ago. I did inhale and I did enjoy it. Nevertheless in my opinion cannabis should not be legalised, for the simple reason that there are already enough mood-altering substances circulating in society as it is. I am very familiar with the well-rehearsed arguments about cannabis being less dangerous than alcohol, but it is naive in the extreme to think that if it was legalised all the alcohol users would switch to the substance. If legalisation occurred, consumption of all legal (and as a knock-on, illegal) drugs would increase. I do not believe that a more stoned society would be a better society.
Matthew Salter, UK

Yeahhh..... maaaan!!!!
Steven, UK

The argument that something is OK just because something else is cuts both ways. If, as Rob Harris says, alcohol and tobacco are as harmful as cannabis, then they should be 'criminalised' too.
Matthew, UK

It's time to face the facts

Andy, London, UK
It's time to face the facts. Cannabis is so easily available and legalisation would remove many criminal gangs in one go. Also the issue of drugs needs to be addressed. I don't do any hard drugs but through my 'dealer' I know it would never be a problem to get whatever I could think of. Politicians and the establishment need to pull their heads out of the sand, they have been talking rubbish about the war on drugs for years.
Andy, London, UK

I have never voted Conservative in my life, but if the party officially adopted a pro-legalisation stance, they would have my vote in the future without question.
Phil, UK

The war against cannabis, hasn't worked. It's about time my tax paying pounds were spent elsewhere - like on health/ education. Let's take drug profits away from the criminal underworld.
Craig Timmis, UK

There are more than 5 million regular cannabis users in the UK alone. These people are citizens and should demand their right to choose to use cannabis. After all, it's well known that it is no more problematic than alcohol or tobacco. The idea that cannabis should be illegal by default - no discussion - and that some kind of medical justification is needed to end the persecution of users is inherently undemocratic, and requires a grossly puerile, elitist and megalomaniacal authoritarian mindset.
Rob Harris, UK

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06 Jul 01 | UK Politics
'Legalise cannabis' says Lilley
05 Jul 01 | Health
Cannabis 'not medical panacea'
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