HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cannabis Bill Passes First Hurdle
Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2001
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2001
Author: Hamish Macdonell, Scottish Political Editor


CANNABIS was thrust back on to the political agenda yesterday when a bill 
to legalise the drug passed its first parliamentary hurdle.

A private member's bill to decriminalise cannabis was given an unopposed 
first reading in the Commons.

This means the bill will be debated when parliament returns in the autumn, 
but it stands almost no chance of becoming law without government backing, 
which it does not have.

The government has privately signalled its intention to pursue a softer 
line on cannabis, but, at least for the moment, ministers have no intention 
of changing the outright legal block on the drug's use.

The bill is being piloted by Labour's Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff Central), who 
won ninth place in the ballot of back-bench MPs to introduce their own 

His Legalisation of Cannabis Bill seeks to "legalise and regulate the sale, 
supply and use of cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes".

It comes amid growing back-bench calls, including from the former Tory 
Cabinet minister Peter Lilley, for liberalisation of cannabis laws.

Mr Owen Jones wants to raise the issue as a point of discussion, but it is 
bound to cause controversy when the bill comes up for its second reading, 
probably in October.

The whole issue of decriminalising cannabis was highlighted earlier this 
month with the launch of a pilot project in Brixton, where police officers 
were told they could ignore cannabis use.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, approved of the scheme and said he 
would assess its success before deciding whether to extend it.

Cannabis also dominated part of the Tory leadership campaign, as first Mr 
Lilley came out in support of decriminalisation and then Michael Portillo 
said he believed the advocates of legalisation had "made their case".
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