Pubdate: Sun, 10 Mar 2002
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Marie Woolf


Liberal Democrats yesterday voted for the most radical drug policy of any 
mainstream political party by voting to legalise the use of marijuana and 
end jail sentencesfor possession of all other drugs, including cocaine, 
ecstasy and heroin.

The supply and use of cannabis should be legalised and regulated, the party 
decided, opening the door to an Amsterdam-style "coffee shop'' culture in 

Prosecution for growing cannabis for personal use should be abolished and 
adults who supply "spliffs'' to their friends should not be charged, the 
party decided yesterday. Drugs such as ecstasy should be reclassified from 
Class A to Class B.

In a heated debate at their Spring Conference in Manchester, delegates 
voted to redirect police time to catching drug traffickers and to end 
prison terms "for personal use of illegal drugs of any class".

They voted for stiffer penalties for dealers who sell drugs near schools or 
psychiatric hospitals and to make roadside drug testing of motorists 
official party policy. The vote, which would mean that the use of any drug 
would no longer be a criminal offence, received overwhelming support.

The Lib Dems committed themselves to renegotiating international treaties 
"in the longer term'' to allow Britain to "put the supply of cannabis on a 
legal regulated basis''. They also voted to accept an amendment calling for 
doctors to be given the power to prescribe heroin to addicts.

Yesterday, doctors and students joined MPs and barristers in voting to 
liberalise Britain's drugs laws. Mark Simons, a member of Liberal Democrat 
Youth and Students and a cannabis user, said it should be "legalised as 
soon as possible". "Relaxing with a spliff is just as natural as with a 
glass of wine,'' he said.

Chris Davies MEP, who is facing prosecution for possession of cannabis, 
argued that devoting 70 per cent of drug-related police time to cannabis 
users was "the policing priority of a madman''.

His view was supported by Dr James Walsh, a GP who said that it was 
"hypocrisy'' to allow alcohol and tobacco use while outlawing cannabis.

The party also voted to make cannabis available by prescription for 
medicinal use after drug trials.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "With so many 
people using cannabis regularly it is self-delusion to pretend that 
prohibition is working. The evidence is that cannabis does less harm than 
many other current illegal drugs, let alone legal drugs such as alcohol and 
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