Legal cannabis should be "considered", according to the recently appointed Crime Prevention Minister. Norman Baker, who is became responsible for drugs policy following the cabinet reshuffle in October, was asked by the Home Affairs Select Committee to offer his views on drugs, specifically whether cannabis should be legalised.
Baker said: "It should be considered along with anything else. That's not my prime objective and I'm not advocating it at this particular moment. What I'm saying is there is a study on, an international comparative study, which is designed to look at all aspects of drug treatment, of drug policy, across various countries and we will follow the evidence and see where it takes us."
The Lib Dem MP was more taciturn when asked if the drug khat, favoured by the Somalian and Yemini communities, should remain banned (it was outlawed by the previous Home Secretary). Despite the Minister's reluctance to answer, committee member Paul Flynn said Baker’s "demeanour" suggested he was opposed to the ban.
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Cannabis is a Class B drug, meaning prosecution for possession can lead to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, and conviction for supply or production of the drug can lead to up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. It was upgraded from a Class C drug in 2009.
Baker has previously said cannabis is "no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco" and has urged resources to be channelled into tackling hard drugs. He told the Committee he supported the Home Office strategy to reduce demand for drugs, restrict their supply and support individuals addicted to them.
"The question is how do we get to those three objectives and maximise the return," he added. "I'm determined to say as I always have been to follow the evidence. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes it takes you to difficult places."
Flynn continued to press the minister on his views on khat, claiming Baker did not agree with its criminalisation and it was just a move to "boost the Tory vote by appearing to be tough on drugs".
Flynn added: "Anyone watching your demeanour, your body language, you don't believe a word of it, do you?" Baker said his time was "better spent on the future, rather than the past".
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