Orders of the Day — Drugs (Sentencing and Commission of Inquiry) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:51 am on 25th February 2005.

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Photo of Mr Paul Marsden Mr Paul Marsden Shadow Minister, Transport 10:51 am, 25th February 2005

On the contrary. I understand where the hon. Lady is trying to lead me, but she is wrong. Although it is our intention to legalise cannabis use, that could not come about because the United Nations convention on narcotics use would have to be amended. We would have to abide by international law, so we would not legislate to legalise cannabis because we could not.

We are also very mindful of the fact that, as I said, such a commission should conduct an ongoing review of the evidence. The long-term effects on mental health in particular—I have a long-standing interest in mental health issues—are not known. More research needs to be done and we need more information and data. If such evidence demonstrated further adverse effects on mental health, such a commission would have to take that information into account in making its recommendations.

I agree with the hon. Member for Ribble Valley that the current drugs laws simply do not work. The UK has one of the highest rates of illegal drug use in Europe. Some 4 million Britons reportedly used illegal drugs in the last year alone, and it seems that those who want drugs have no difficulty in obtaining them. Crime associated with illegal drugs costs the UK £16 billion a year. Such crimes range from burglaries and robberies by addicts trying to feed their habit, to the very serious violent crime, gun crime and associated culture that seems to be increasing, particularly in our cities.

The prison population is at a record level and the increases are largely due to the imprisonment of drug offenders. We want a policy that is effective: we want to see addicts break the cycle of drug taking and crime. We must shift resources from the targeting of users and crack down on dealers. We must find the dealers and ensure that they are punished. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley spoke of making them suffer, although I am not sure that we should go too far in that regard.