Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2008
Viscount Bridgeman (Conservative)
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords agree that this debate has been in the highest traditions of this House, with an impressive spread of views, all sincerely held.
My noble friend Lord Waddington gave the House an impressive account of my party's attitude to this problem, which has been absolutely consistent since the declassification of cannabis to class C in 2004; that is, total opposition to its removal from class B. It will come as no surprise that we shall support the Government's Motion this evening.
The ACMD has done much admirable work but little has been said this evening about the minority report in the document. However, I draw noble Lords' attention to paragraph 13.5.1. It contains a comment on recommendation 3, which is that cannabis should remain a class C drug. It states:
"A minority of members of the Council remain very concerned about effects of cannabis on the mental health of users, especially in the light of the (now) wide availability and use of sinsemilla"—
that is, skunk. It continues:
"In their view the balance of harms more closely equates to substances in Class B than Class C".
I suggest that we can assume that the minority on that committee was as impressive in composition as was the committee overall. That is just one point that reinforces the Government's attitude to this matter.
Before concluding, I take this opportunity to mention my party's attitude to the problem of drugs. Although we support the order, we differ from the Government in our general approach to the problem, which the current Government see as one of maintenance and management rather than of trying to break the cycle of addiction. Drug treatment and testing orders have failed to tackle addiction, with 80 per cent of those given the orders reoffending within two years. If elected, we propose to introduce abstinence-based drug rehabilitation orders with residential abstinence-based programmes and, where appropriate, day-care programmes. Returning to the Motion under consideration, however, we on these Benches will support the Government.