William Hague coming out for legalising cannabis is a welcome new development, though he isn’t the first former Tory leader to do so. Back in his groovy WebCameron days David Cameron told Guido “If it can be proved that there are real benefits, medicinal benefits and scientific evidence for it, I would be relaxed about that… my decision would be to licence it if it could be proved to have benefits.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid was convinced by the scientific arguments to grant an exception for Billy Caldwell. What are the prospects for the exception becoming the rule?
The international context is important. With many US states decriminalising medical cannabis it is becoming more acceptable at government level. In Europe the experience of more liberal regimes can be shown to have improved rather than worsened matters. Countries are granting licences for medical cannabis more readily – Malta is introducing legislation to enable it to become the EU’s leading medical cannabis exporter. The spirit of the age is for liberalisation.
The normalising of cannabis use beyond dope smoking teenagers is becoming more widespread. Many people now have the personal experience of an auntie or granny who uses weed to deal with their arthritis pains, never mind those with more serious conditions like MS and cancer. This social development has made the perception of cannabis use less negative.
Domestically we now have a generation of politicians who have used and are familiar with the reality of cannabis use and don’t see it in the demonic terms that non-user politicians of the past might have. With the departure of Paul Dacre from the public stage they also no longer fear a monstering from the Daily Mail if they do speak out in favour of a more liberal, rational policy. Think tanks are now pointing to the tax raising potential of legalised cannabis. The stars are aligning for decriminalisation, though judging by the reported rows in cabinet, one Tory leader stands in the way…