On the 23rd March 2016, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, Mr. Norman Lamb, made a historic proposal in a ten minute speech to the House of Commons.
Mr. Lamb outlined and endorsed a system of total regulation and legalisation of cannabis in the UK, focusing primarily on the recreational cannabis with peripheral reference to medicinal cannabis.
The proposal included a threefold approach to production of recreational cannabis: ‘unlicensed home growing for personal use, small scale licensed production for membership based ‘cannabis social clubs’, and larger scale licensed production for retail sales’. You can read the full report here.
The Lib Dems lost a significant amount of public support since the coalition, with many resenting the broken promises made by Nick Clegg especially with respect to student university fee’s, however they have a new face and are winning a lot of support among drug users for their sympathetic stance on drug regulation. Whilst there are many within the cannabis community who took issue with several stipulations in the proposal (namely a cap on THC content – ~15% – and a minimum CBD content – ~4%, and a limit of 4 plants per household), most of us are agreed that this proposal was pretty positive by the Lib Dems. It’s the first time such a detailed proposal has been made in the House of Commons and by a mainstream party. The Ten Minute Rule (the official name for this speech) was unanimously approved and thus due for a second reading on the 13th May 2016.
Sadly, it didn’t make it.
I was trawling the internet for any whisper of the second reading on the morning of the 13th. Many of us were genuinely excited, believing that this second reading could be the moment we’ve been waiting for – the first big step towards reform. We then found this message :
‘The 2015-16 session of Parliament has ended and this Bill will make no further progress’
Furious, I immediately wanted to know why, so I wrote to the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP and got this response from his Parliamentary Researcher Ed Keyser:
‘Unfortunately, Parliament prorogued (dissolved) last week, at which point all remaining bills lapsed. This unfortunately means that the Cannabis Bill will not receive a second reading. However, Norman remains firmly committed to continuing the campaign for cannabis legalisation in the new parliamentary session, both inside and outside of the Commons. The Cannabis Bill made a powerful contribution by highlighting the issue and generating debate.’
It seems that the Cannabis Regulation and Legalisation Bill 2016 was not the only Bill to not achieve its second reading, as over 70 bills met a similar fate, perhaps reflecting a failure of Parliamentary organisation. Still, as Ed Keyser rightly says, the Cannabis Bill has made a powerful contribution to the UK debate on cannabis, and will serve as a springboard for future consideration of our cause.
Stuart Harper of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws UK made comment on the bill. “Even though the bill was never highly likely to be successful, it builds on the steady progress made over the last few years.
“From the Home Affairs Select Committees to the local Police crime commissioner elections, cannabis is a topical subject, both at home and abroad. It is highly likely that even without this bill we will see some progress over the next 18 months in the UK, most likely on the medical cannabis front and, linked to justice reform, seeing some changes to the way the criminal offence of possession works.” he added.
Moral of the story? Don’t lose hope that we didn’t get our second reading – we must keep doing what we do, keep setting a good example of cannabis use, and we will have the justice we seek.