Parliamentary candidate Alistair Carmichael has given his backing to the Lib Dems “pragmatic” plans to legalise cannabis if the party is elected.
The policy was unveiled on Friday ahead of the publication of the party’s full election manifesto. Mr Carmichael said it would take the cannabis market out of the hands of criminal gangs.
The approach would allow cannabis, currently a class B drug, to be sold in regulated premises.
Growing the plant would no longer be a crime and small-scale cannabis “social clubs” would be permitted.
The Lib Dems backed a regulated market for cannabis at their spring conference in 2016.
Mr Carmichael today said the policy recognised “that cannabis is freely available and widely used in an unregulated black market”. Controlling its sale would prevent criminals exploiting the black market which he said was estimated at £7 billion a year.
The Westminster hopeful said it was a policy that was used in several countries.
“In making this proposal we are following the practice of other countries in Europe and elsewhere. Canada is about to take the same step.
“It is not a step that we propose lightly but rather is policy that we have formulated after careful consultation with senior police officers, drugs policy analysts and public health experts. It is a policy that is based on evidence.
“If I thought that it was the wrong thing to do then I would not be supporting it.
“As a father of two young men – 16 and 20 twenty years old – I want them to grow up and to mature in the safest possible environment. I hope that they would not use cannabis but that is a decision which they will doubtless make for themselves in due course.
“There are no circumstances under which I would want to see them brought into contact with the organised criminals that currently control this market.”
Mr Carmichael said users would be able to buy cannabis in much the same way that people buy alcohol or tobacco.
“That is to say it would be sold only to people over 18 years of age and they would know exactly what they were buying. Someone buying a bottle of whisky or gin in a shop knows that they are buying alcohol that is, for example, 40 per cent by volume.
“Few people would think it sensible these days to buy illicitly produced alcohol, the strength of which would be completely unknown.”
He pointed out that dealers don’t do age checks or check quality or strength, adding: “Its unregulated use is leading to a growing incidence of mental and physical health problems.”
The proposals were drawn up following the completion of a report co-authored by Sir David Nutt, a former UK government drugs adviser. It argued that cannabis should be taxed – bringing in up to £1 billion a year in taxes.