Decriminalise personal drug use, top barrister suggests

A senior barrister has suggested that personal drug use should be made legal, but critics have slammed any such move saying it would send out the wrong message.

Nicholas Green QC, who is Chairman of the Bar Council, said it would be “rational” to consider decriminalising personal drug use.

However his comments have sparked criticism with Keith Vaz MP saying any such legalisation of drugs would “create the mistaken impression that these substances are not harmful, when in fact this is far from the truth”.


In Brixton a “softly-softly” approach to cannabis was tried out in 2001. It was a catastrophic failure with the then Chairman of the Police Federation saying crack abusers and dealers were becoming more visible and more active on Brixton’s streets.

And the previous Government’s downgrading of cannabis to a Class C drug in 2004 is widely accepted as a disaster. It was forced to reclassify the drug to Class B after widespread criticism.

Mr Green said that a move to make personal drug-taking legal would free up “huge amounts” of police resources, reduce crime and improve public health.

He also claimed such a move could be done “without any overall increase in drug usage”.


But Mr Vaz, who is also chairman of the Commons’ Home Affairs Committee, said decriminalising was “not the best solution”.

James Clappison MP said the QC’s remarks were “not entirely a helpful contribution to the debate”.

He commented: “There seems to be a very strong link between recreational drug use, leading to drug addiction leading to crime fuelled by drug addiction.

“I would have thought the chairman of the Bar Council would have seen that for himself.”


Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, added: “It is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs to take pressure off the police and the courts. That is an argument to legalise everything.”

And Debra Bell, whose son developed severe personality changes after smoking cannabis from the age of 14 with his friends, said: “There are children as young as ten getting involved in drug use.

“Recreational drugs are addictive – that is why they are controlled.”


Mr Green’s QC’s comments came his July 2010 Chairman’s Report.

He wrote: “Another political hot potato is drugs. Drug related crime costs the economy about £13bn a year.

“Again a growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences; it can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health.

“All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.”

Cannabis habit

Last year a father wrote to a national newspaper describing how his daughter had been “brutally murdered by a paranoid schizophrenic with a cannabis habit stretching back a decade to his early teens”.

Jason Braham continued: “Since then I have heard from parents who have had to witness the collapse of the personality of a child with a cannabis habit, as had the neighbours whose son killed my daughter.”

He added: “Parents and teachers need support as they exercise their duty of care in alerting children to the dangers of this habit-forming drug.”

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