Rt Hon Lord Lilley

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    Christine Percival (Peter Lilley?s office): 0207 219 4577
    Selina Chen (SMF): 0207 222 7060

    A senior Conservative politician today is calling for the legalisation of cannabis and regulation of its sale through government-licensed outlets.

    In a pamphlet for the leading independent think-tank, the Social Market Foundation, Peter Lilley becomes the first Tory ex-Cabinet minister to make the explicit the case for decriminalisation of cannabis use, and for the sale of cannabis to be made legal.

    “The prohibition of cannabis use in the UK is a failure. The current law is not only unenforceable – it is also indefensible. The arguments for criminalisation of cannabis that we hear so often crumble on analysis. The issue is no longer whether the law should be changed but how.?

    There is a strong Conservative case for the legalisation of cannabis. Laws that can neither be enforced nor defended undermine respect for the law. Conservatism should be about setting people free not locking them up. Wherever possible people should be allowed to make their own choices.?

    Lilley suggests scheme for government licensed outlets

    “The Runciman report (and the Lambeth pilot scheme) point in the right direction but they do not achieve the prime purpose of reform ? breaking the link between cannabis users and hard drug pushers. As long as trafficking in cannabis remains illegal it will tend to be handled by the same illegal channels that control heroin and crack. Nor can respect for the law be restored so long as it is out of line with what happens on the street?

    Lilley envisages that licensing magistrates could issue licences for outlets selling cannabis to persons over 18. Consumption would not be allowed on the premises or in public places. The outlets would also not be permitted to sell alcohol, and a maximum limit would be imposed on the amount sold. Cultivation for personal use would be permitted.

    “The whole logic of de-penalisation leads inexorably towards decriminalisation of possession for own use. That was clearly where the Runciman Commission was pointing even if it felt unable to spell it out.?
    Lilley pr.rel 06/07?/2

    Lilley urges Tory modernisers to seize the lead

    “The Conservative leadership needs to undertake some bold new thinking, particularly on social issues.

    On no issue more than cannabis are young people?s views and experience more out of tune with the policy consensus endorsed up to now by both major parties. Taking a principled and sensible approach to this issue would make young people look at the Conservative party in a new light.?

    “The facts, principles and public attitudes are on the side of legalisation, but neither Labour nor the Liberals have shown the courage to act on them. The field is wide open for Conservatives to take the lead?

    Philip Collins, Director of the SMF said,

    “Peter Lilley?s intervention is a clear-headed and well thought-out blueprint for reform that social liberals in all parties should endorse. This is an issue whose time has come. The fact that a senior politician has spoken out will go a long way to breaking the taboo that has prevented government and the political classes from reforming these ineffective and retrograde laws.?