THE leader of the Liberal Democrats in Bolton has backed the wider party in calling for cannabis to be legalised.
The councillor for Smithills ward, Roger Hayes, explained that his position was influenced by ‘the arguments that Marijuana is no more harmful than tobacco and alcohol’.
The Liberal Democrats earlier this month called for the legalisation of cannabis, allowing the sale to over-18s with packaging, price and strength restrictions.
Currently the drug is classified by the government as class B, meaning those in possession could face up to five years imprisonment and up to 14 years for supplying it.
Coun Hayes said: “Cannabis is a minor part of the problem and every town has a problem with drugs, not just Bolton.”
He said the war on drugs is a struggle the police are not succeeding in and the legalisation of cannabis would take money out of the hands of criminals and allow police extra resources to catch them.
“(Legalisation) would cause a big problem for criminals as it would stop police chasing minor offenders.”
He said the way forward was to rethink the approach to drugs, saying that any changes must be well thought through.
He said cannabis was as harmful as tobacco and alcohol, which had not been made illegal and that did not make sense.
He said: “You have to be careful, everything is harmful in excess.”
“There are risks with decriminalising, but there are more with keeping it criminal.”
FRANK, the government’s drug education service claims that long term use of cannabis leads to an increased risk of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and lung disease.
Following a parliamentary debate on legalisation last year the government said: “There are no plans to legalise cannabis as it would not address the harm to individuals and communities.”
BBC’s Newsnight obtained an internal treasury report which indicated that legalising cannabis could generate hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax revenue and cut costs for the criminal justice system.
The drug’s legalisation in the US state of Colorado has shown the potential tax returns from legal cannabis, more than £60 million of tax was collected in the first eight months of 2015.
This money has been put back into public services in a state that has a population of just over five million people.
By Matt Henderson