When Norman Baker appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, it would appear he had undergone a lobotomy to remove from his brain all his previous views on drugs. Maybe this was a requirement when he was appointed Drugs Minister in October 2013. Indeed this was a question I put to him.
In 2001, Mr Baker said: ‘traditional drugs laws aren't working’ and that he ‘would like to see resources concentrated on hard drugs, which cause such damage to society, without police being distracted by having to deal with millions of cannabis users who use a drug which is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco’.
He even signed two of my Early Day Motions on relaxing cannabis possession laws and supporting the use of medicinal cannabis in the same year! They are available at: https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2001-02/61 and https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2001-02/59
In October 2013 however, the lobotomy was complete when Mr Baker announced that: ‘cannabis has become more potent over the years and long-term use has been linked to increased risks of mental illness. […] Our current drug laws are based on the best available evidence’. Not only are his final two points false but it is quite a contrast to his earlier statement that cannabis is ‘no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco'.
He also said: ‘I think it [the legalisation of cannabis] needs to be considered along with anything else, but that is not my prime objective and I am not advocating it at this particular moment. What I am saying is that there is an international comparison study going on, which is designed to look at all aspects of drug policy across various countries and we should be prepared to follow the evidence—to use that phrase again—and see where it takes us'.
Anyone watching his demeanour and body language could see he does not believe a word of his recent remarks so I wonder at which ‘particular moment’ will Mr Baker remember his views on drugs? Maybe after the next election is a date to put in our calendars.