200,000-strong petition to legalize cannabis gets dismissive govt response

Government ministers have slated a 200,000-strong online petition calling for the legalization of cannabis. In an official response posted on the parliamentary petitioning website, ministers said there are no plans to decriminalize the Class B drug.

The response claimed the drug, widely used for recreational purposes, constitutes a “significant public health issue.”

Petition signatories say legalizing cannabis could bring in £900 million (US$1.4 billion) in tax revenue each year, save money on policing and creating more than 10,000 new jobs.

“A substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses. It is believed to have been used by humans for over 4,000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925,” the petition reads.

It has to date garnered the support of 203,805 signatories, more than twice the requisite 100,000 to be considered by Parliament. But the response issued on Tuesday showed the government’s refusal to support the suggestions.

The latest evidence from the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is that the use of cannabis is a significant public health issue,” the response reads.

“Cannabis can unquestionably cause harm to individuals and society. Legalization of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families.

“Legalization would also send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people, with the potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs.”

The response recognizes the “potential opportunity” to raise money through taxation of the drug, but adds the “administrative, compliance and law enforcement” costs would not make legalization worthwhile.

It finishes by saying “we must prevent drug use in our communities,” and pledges its support to the ‘war on drugs’.

President of Clear UK, a cannabis policy group, called the response “dishonest, misleading and deceptive.”

“Despite the fact that [the petition received] more than twice the threshold required, MPs will fight tooth and nail to stop this being debated,” he said.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s executive director, Jason Reed, added the campaign had gathered publicity for the cause.

“There will be a preliminary debate which hopefully we’ll get MPs along to. This still serves a purpose on educating the public about the merits of drug law reform. There has been a groundswell of support in grassroots action and the public are starting to get it.”

An Ipsos Mori poll in 2013 found that 53 percent of the public supported a more relaxed drug policy on cannabis, including legalizing production and decriminalizing possession.