Former Tory leader Lord Hague urges Theresa May to legalise cannabis
The war on cannabis has been "comprehensively and irreversibly lost", former Conservative leader Lord Hague has told Theresa May, amid a growing Cabinet row over the drug.
The Tory grandee said the case of Billy Caldwell, a 12-year-old boy with epilepsy whose medicinal cannabis was seized by border officials last week, had revealed Britain's ban on the Class B substance to be "inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date".
Writing in the Telegraph, he urged the Prime Minister - who yesterday agreed to set up an expert panel to advise ministers on whether medicinal cannabis could be prescribed - to "be as bold as Canadian Liberals" and move towards legalisation of the drug.
Canada's parliament this week voted to scrap its ban on cannabis - moving the country a step closer to becoming the first G8 nation to legalise the drug.
"After all, we believe in market forces and the responsible exercise of freedom, regulated as necessary," Mr Hague said.
"We should prefer to provide for lawful taxes than preside over increased profits from crime.
"And we are pragmatists, who change with society and revise our opinions when the facts change.
"On this issue, the facts have changed very seriously and clearly."
The ex-foreign secretary argued that the current ban on cannabis - which can see people found in possession of the drug face up to five years in jail - had resulted in the potency of street drugs rising "sharply", and created "a multi-billion pound black market for an unregulated and increasingly potent product".
"The only beneficiaries are organised crime gangs," he warned. "It is absolutely unacceptable to allow this situation to continue."
The intervention from Lord Hague marks a clear shift from his own hardline stance against the drug as Tory leader, and comes as Theresa May faces pressure for a cannabis rethink from her own cabinet.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt used a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday to urge the Prime Minister to launch a full review of Britain's laws on medicinal cannabis.
The meeting came just hours after Mr Hunt took to the airwaves to say the Caldwell case showed Britain was not "getting the law right".
According to The Sun, the three interventions from the pair were initially rebuffed by Mrs May, who was known for taking a strong position against the drug when she was Home Secretary.
But the Prime Minister later confirmed that the Home Office will mount a limited review of whether it can speed up the granting of licenses for medicinal use of the drug on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking on Monday, Mrs May said: "What we need to ensure is that we're listening to clinicians, we're listening to people as we do that.
"Do we need to look at these cases and consider what we've got in place? Yes."
But she added: "There is a very good reason why we’ve got a set of rules around cannabis and other drugs because of the impact they have on people’s lives, and we must never forget that."