Jeremy Corbyn Would “Decriminalise Medical Cannabis” Should He Become Prime Minister

Speaking at a Labour leadership debate last week in Glasgow, Jeremy Corbyn vowed to legalise medical cannabis should he become Prime Minister. He told the audience, “I would decriminalise medicinal uses of cannabis.” Before adding, “I would also want to look at supporting people who want to get out of the drugs trade in other parts of the world because there is the horrors of the drugs war that’s going on in Central America, and very large numbers of people who have died as a result of it.”

By adding his support to the growing movement for medical cannabis in the UK, Corbyn has become the second leader of a major political party to support serious drug policy reform this year. However, he was not prepared to go as far as his Liberal Democrat counterpart Tim Farron, whose party pledged to fully legalise and regulate cannabis – for both medical and recreational use – at their Spring conference back in March.

Corbyn’s rival in the Labour leadership race, Owen Smith, did not share his views on cannabis. “I think that I’ve seen in my constituency too many people who’ve been hard hit by the use of recreational drugs” he explained at the debate, “I know the argument that’s made all over the world about taxing and licensing and not driving the drugs trade underground, and I’ve thought very hard about those things. But I think for my children and for future generations I don’t think it’s the right step.”

For any Labour members who support drug policy reform, then, there is a clear choice to be made. Unfortunately, as is often the case in these matters, it’s an all-too-familiar choice between two ‘evils’. Because Corbyn, despite wanting to legalise medical cannabis, and being clearly aware of the horrors caused by the war on drugs, has no intention, at present, of going any further than that. Full legalisation is not, it would seem, on the table with him as leader. Nor is the decriminalisation and/or regulation of any other currently illegal drug.

His position is slightly more enlightened than that of Owen Smith, but not by much. Voters making their decision based on candidate’s views on drug policy – if there are any – shouldn’t be expecting big things from either candidate. They have both shown themselves to be ignorant of the real issues at play, and whilst they could well be persuaded to change their opinions, anyone expecting Labour to follow the Lib Dems in endorsing legalisation looks likely to be very disappointed.

Having said that, should Corbyn win – and it looks likely that he will, despite Labour’s efforts to purge his supporters – it will be a step in the right direction for the Labour party. Ed Miliband was against any kind of reform, telling voters in 2015 that he had never tried cannabis, but had ‘read about it.’ It is perhaps a sign of the times, and of how far the debate has come, that now, barely a year after he made that statement, we have two leaders of major political parties advocating at least some form of cannabis legalisation. 

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