By Andrew Lye, Jun 16, 2019 5:06


Andrew Lye

Chair - Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats


For over 3 years now, the national news has been dominated by Brexit and the UK leaving the EU. The referendum result claimed the political scalp of David Cameron who immediately resigned the result came through that we had voted by a narrow majority to leave. Now, 3 years on, it has claimed it’s second, Theresa May.


Whilst the news was dominated with the intricacies of the Brexit negotiations, it suddenly seems to have fallen off the radar and the main issue now is the drugs problem. We all know that drugs have been a serious problem for centuries. Except today, it has been the main news story for the past few days because of the past indiscretions of those hoping to become the next Tory party leader and thus our next Prime Minister. 6 contenders have made statements of their experiences and some have even called for Michael Gove to withdraw. Just now, I have read a tweet alleging Boris was busy snorting cocaine at a Knightsbridge party in the 90’s. Whether it is true or not, I guess we will find out in time as every Tory leadership contender is asked about their past.

It was just last month that Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb called for more resources for local police as they tackle ‘County Lines’ drug operations. These are where the local police fight organised criminals. Mr Crabb said in the Commons that these drug traffickers are increasingly targeting rural areas, including Pembrokeshire. These criminals travel from large cities, such as Bristol and Liverpool, to exploit young people.

I now wonder how some MP’s were feeling when discussing such issues, after what we have heard in recent days after the admissions from Boris Johnson, Rory Stewart, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom.

But I have become increasingly concerned at the number of convictions at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court for possession of miniscule amounts of cannabis. Even 0.5 of a gram worth a few pound coins is enough to land you in court and a criminal record. Reading the cases in the local press, they are mainly users with a medical condition and they take it to relieve pain. The police seem to be determined to remove every last gram of cannabis, despite the pain relieving benefits of the drug. We need to be told the cost of police and court time, wasted in pursuing these small time users who are not drug dealers, but now have a criminal conviction.

The Liberal Democrats pledged at the 2017 General Election to fully legalise cannabis and allow it to be sold on the high street as the fight against the drug was being lost. By creating a legal market, it will take the money away from the criminals who profit from it and tax will be raised for the Treasury. Successive governments have ceded total control of a significant health problem to organised crime. The honest and pragmatic response is to take responsibility for this situation and regulate the market. I accept that cannabis use can have a bad effect on some people and that stronger types of cannabis, such as skunk, can be risky. But the current situation means the drug dealers are the ones in control, not legalised places selling the safer product. But you have to consider that alcohol and tobacco are legal drugs and the misery, ill health and deaths THEY cause.

And myself? I have never taken an illegal drug. I was offered it at a student party in the early 1980’s, but I declined. Alcohol was sufficient. Makes me boring, I guess, but then I’m not standing to be Tory Party Leader and our next PM.

If we are to expect our political leaders to be totally unblemished in their younger days, we are going to have a small pool to choose from. I would say most of us have something in our past that we would prefer to stay in the past. But maybe we will need to consider the Liberal Democrats reasonable policy on legalising cannabis. Maybe then, the police will have some of the resources that it needs to fight the real criminals dealing in drugs that Mr Crabb spoke about.

Any comments, please contact me at [email protected]

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