UK: Legalization Petition Secures Enough Signatures to Earn Debate in Parliament

Parliament may soon be forced to seriously consider the legalization of marijuana, especially with a petition circulating throughout the United Kingdom that has managed to collect more than 156,000 signatures in support of the issue over the past few days.

Recently an e-petition, which suggests that ending prohibition in the UK could generate in upwards of $800 million in taxes, save nearly $400 million in law enforcement resources, and create thousands of new jobs, was posted to the government’s website promoting democratic order. The petition says that cannabis is “safer than alcohol, and has many uses,” but despite being a product of society for over 4000 years, the herb was “made illegal in the UK in 1925.”

Similar to the White Houses’ We the People page, the UK petition site claims that any issue with the power to secure at least 100,000 signatures is to be awarded Parliamentary debate.

In spite of this appeal for pot reform being given until late January 2016 to collect the necessary signatures, it surprisingly managed to surpass the requirement over the weekend – accumulating well over 156,000 signatures by Monday morning.

Supporters must now wait for the topic to be picked up by the Petitions Committee sometime in September.

This successful plea, which may eventually have the House of Commons squirming to find a trap door, was mastermind by 25-year-old James Owen, a student of economics attending Aberystwyth University. The young activist recently told The Guardian that petitioning the government for answers in regards to the continued illegality of the cannabis plant is the result of drug policy actions taking place in the United States and Uruguay.
“There’s roughly 3 million adult [cannabis] smokers in the UK and I don’t think it’s right for the government to be criminalizing such a large section of society,” Owen said.

The petition was launched just days after Durham County crime commissioner Ron Hogg announced that his forces would no longer pursue small-time cannabis growers. The jurisdiction’s leading law enforcer said last week that unless a resident was blatantly disregarding the law or causing reason for complaint, the department’s new policy was to turn a blind eye to individuals growing weed for personal use. Instead, Hogg said his officers would be refocusing their efforts on bringing down the scourge of the illegal drug trade.

Later in the week, Alan Charles, the police and crime commission in Derbyshire, made a similar statement, arguing that although the government seems to have has a skewed vendetta against the use of illegal drugs, his department was going against the grain by prioritizing enforcement against drug traffickers and violent offenders.

So, what exactly is the prognosis for the UK’s pot legalization petition, which incidentally, is the second most signed document ever supported on Parliament’s website?

According to government rules, petitions that collect the required signatures “are almost always debated,” unless the issue has received a previous debate or is schedule for one in the future. Because of this, there is a possibility that a recent debate in the House of Lords regarding a Psychoactive Substances Bill could constitute a Parliamentary pass on the petition because the issue was technically already discussed. Yet, with overwhelming support pointing towards a repeal of the cannabis ban, the debate will almost be necessary in order to prevent some sort of unwanted retaliation.

Ultimately, however, even if Parliament does consider making changes to its overall policies regarding the cannabis plant, nothing is expected to happen until after the United Nations gathers in 2016 to discuss modifications to the international drug laws.


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