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Liberals on pot? That’s exactly what we need

October 12, 2015 7:50 PM
By Suzanne Moore in The Guardian

We need a party that believes in personal freedom - and we need to end the hypocrisy on drug laws. Step forward, the Lib Dems

War on DrugsAfter the disastrous election result for the Lib Dems, they could have vanished in a puff of smoke. But no: they are back now setting up an expert panel to try to establish how a legal market for cannabis would work. They are looking at becoming the first party in the UK to back its legalisation.

Good. This seems the sort a thing a party of liberalism should be doing, instead of acting as they did in government, as a party continually holding back the Tories: "Leave it, Dave, the underclass is just not worth it." We were supposed to accept that they made policies that cut benefits to the bone, threw under-25s on the scrapheap and impoverished women somehow more humane than they would otherwise have been. Were they on drugs? Now that the Lib Dems are basically a bunch of blokes who could all fit in Harriet Harman's pink bus, liberalism is revealed as strangely devoid of equal opportunities - so they may as well go back to some core values and actually be liberal. While Ed Miliband's resignation speech was basically "Woe is wonderful me". Clegg's was a staunch defence of liberalism. But it was too late.

This new panel, though, is more like it, wanting to look at how a regulated market for cannabis may reduce criminal activity. It will look at what has happened in Colorado, where cannabis was legalised is 2012. On the panel will be Professor David Nutt, the former drug tsar sacked for proposing evidence-based policy. The panel is backed by Norman Lamb, a champion of mental health issues, and former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police Brian Paddick, who led a pilot scheme in Lambeth that effectively decriminalised cannabis for personal use for 12 months. He argued this would help the police deal with more serious crime, which fell over that period. He was vilified at the time by the rightwing press who used all sorts of information about his private life to undermine him.

If the Lib Dems have any function now it's on issues such as drug decriminalisation, child detention, prison reform, surveillance: civil liberties.

With Jeremy Corbyn's Labour we have a puritanical left where personal freedom is less important than some holier-than-thou posturing. The hair shirt opposite of Theresa May's nastiness. She won't even look at any relaxation of the drug laws.

These people never walk the streets of the cities they govern where the smell of weed is everywhere and people act like it's as legal as drinking. It's not my thing, but as most senior politicians admit to having had a toke, why can't we be grown up?

We could do with a party that believes in personal freedom. It's a shame it's led by the semi-vicarish Tim Farron, but if they can puncture some of the hypocrisy on drug laws, good for them. This is hardly radical, just sensible. The political class are so out of touch with reality and so paranoid about what others think, the drug of power appears to have very worrying side-effects indeed.