HL Deb 15 March 1979 vol 399 cc852-4WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they continue to be oppressive and repressive about cannabis and so lukewarm about curbing the greater evils of nicotine and alcohol, and whether considerations of revenue, commercial interest and employment lie at the root of this difference in attitude.


The Government's policy on cannabis has regard to its obligations under the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to restrict their use to legitimate medical and research purposes and to deal severely with illicit trafficking. At the meetings of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Geneva last month it was apparent that the consensus within the Commission was that research evidence gave no grounds for regarding cannabis as other than harmful and was strongly opposed to legalisation or "decriminalisation" of cannabis use or to any reduction of international effort to deal strictly with illicit trafficking.

In December last year the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs submitted a report to Ministers of its review of the classification of drugs and of the penalties under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In regard to cannabis the Council on a majority vote made recommendations for some reduction in the penalties in relation to its possession and trafficking but at the same time unanimously emphasised that there should be no legalisation or decriminalisation of its use in the United Kingdom. The Government are considering this report, which will be published.

While not accepting that there are simple parallels between the use of cannabis, nicotine and alcohol, Her Majesty's Government take very seriously indeed the health and social problems connected with smoking and with the misuse of alcohol. The Government believe that the more effective approach lies in promoting health education about the dangers of smoking and misusing alcohol and in devising methods of controlling the advertising, promotion, sale and availability of tobacco. In the case of cigarettes, this control is achieved mainly by means of voluntary agreements with the industry which Her Majesty's Government keep very closely under review. I informed my noble friend in my reply to his other Questions that the Health Departments are preparing a consultative document on preventing the misuse of alcohol.