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Kathy Gyngell: Tim Farron has one thing in common with Obama. He is soft on drugs


Anyone thinking that born again Christian Tim Farron might take an axe to the Liberal Democrats’ muddled drugs legalisation policy now that he has won the leadership context should think again.

Writing on his Facebook page just a few weeks ago he declared the (so-called) ‘War on Drugs’ must end. Without any irony he also promised: “If I am leader I will make the case based on evidence, not dogma”, citing Portugal, where drugs have been decriminalised and addicts are directed to treatment not to prison, as a model for the UK to follow.

I am not sure where he has been living but like Nick Clegg before him clearly not in the UK. He seems to be as oblivious as his predecessor to the fact that children’s drug use in Portugal shot up as a consequence and that ’treatment’ is what addicts get and have been getting in the ‘punitive’ UK too – for years. Yes, Mr Farron the vast majority of drug addicts here are hundreds of times more likely to get 12 weeks of treatment than twelve weeks in prison – or any other length of custodial sentence for that matter. He only has to check the National Drug Treatment Monitoring Statistics (official statistics published by Public Health England) to follow my drift. In 2013/14 over 193, 000 drug users, two thirds of the estimated addict population, got treatment. And prison was not even on the cards.

Nor should he be under any illusion that the final third of untreated addicts (roughly the same size as our entire prison population) are to be found in prison. The fact is that only a tenth of those serving custodial sentences are at Her Majesty’s pleasure for drugs offences – very few for simple possession, and hardly any at all for cannabis alone.

The idea that large numbers of low-level non-violent drugs offenders are incarcerated here or in the US is a very persistent myth – propagated by those who can’t wait for our far from punitive drug laws to be futher liberalised. They, like President Obama in the USA, push the victimisation myth – claiming that drug use in and of itself is harmless, that the only harm comes from the wicked and unnecessary ‘criminalisation’ of drugs. Never mind the shocking damage to health (mental and physical) and associated violent and anti-social behaviour.

Such was the American President’s belief in this popular myth that he declared his own war on this unjust sentencing when he took office. Now it turns out that he has been having a bit of struggle to find these low level drug using victims of ‘mass incarceration’ in his federal prisons, whose sentences he promised to commute.

The new Lib Dem leader would do well to acquaint himself with these US facts too.

For, in the seventh year of his presidency, Mr Obama has managed to add just 46 federal felons to the list of those whose sentences he has commuted. And were they the low level dope users he and his mentor George Soros still insist fill these prisons? Emphatically not. The men Obama has just released turn out to crack dealers, cocaine dealers, and methamphetamine dealers, some convicted of dealing more than 10 pounds of crack.

You might wonder why, with the Lib Dems in electoral oblivion and the battle for drug legalisation over in the UK, I am bothering to set these records straight for Mr Farron.

Well, however extraordinary it might seem, there appears be a weak link at the heart of the Conservative Party. The liberal Mr Oliver Letwin has been listening to the siren voices of Clear the pro-cannabis lobby, whose latest tactic is to legalise pot via the back door of medical marijuana. According to their website Mr Letwin has promised to “..investigate the question of prescription cannabis for relief of medical conditions.. (and)..will start the process of talking to people in MHRA, Public Health England and so forth to try to get a sense of the pros and cons.”

It is astonishing that Mr Letwin, given the Government’s freedom from batty Lib Dem pressure, is wasting his time on something for which it takes a small amount of research to find there is no medical evidence, but a lot of evidence of damage.

As Mary Brett wrote on this site last year, the pressure for so called ‘ medicinal’ cannabis has more to do with self-interest than with real concern for people who are ill. It is astonishing to think that Mr Letwin, who is always held up to be a clever man, could be fooled by Clear’s blandishments.

He should note that taking herbal cannabis as a medicine is the equivalent to eating mouldy bread to get penicillin or, for that matter, to chewing willow bark for aspirin; and that there are no scientific studies that establish  marijuana is effective as a medicine whether smoked or eaten.

It is not just that medical marijuana does no good it is also that it does active harm. In America teenagers report how easy it is to get hold of ‘diverted’ medical marijuana from adults’ prescriptions. This is worrying as their cannabis use has doubled and their perception of its risk has halved in the years since individual states allowed medical marihuana (there are now 23 of them).

This is not a scenario any right-minded person would wish on young people over here. As I have written on this site before, cannabis wrecks young lives.

How much more evidence will the clever Mr Letwin require, I wonder, before he kicks this idea into touch?

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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