MPs - including one from Cambridgeshire - head to Canada to find out what legalisation of cannabis looks like: could it happen in this country?
PUBLISHED: 12:29 01 August 2019
Cambridgeshire MP Jonathan Djanogly says he has "mixed views" about the legalisation of cannabis following a fact-finding trip to Canada.
The Conservative MP for Huntingdon visited Canada as part of a BBC Newsbeat documentary discussing the potential legalisation of cannabis in the UK and said that he believes that it could be legalised within the next 10 to 15 years.
Canada became the first G7 country to allow recreational use of the drug in 2018.
Mr Djanogly, alongside two other cross-party MPs, were filmed on their journey for the documentary called Legalising Cannabis: Canada's Story.
Labour's David Lammy and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb also made the trip, with Mr Lammy backing legalisation, against his party's official stance. The Liberal Democrat Party already officially backs legalising cannabis in the UK.
However, Mr Djanogly has said that he has "mixed opinions" about the legalisation, but feels that it could be legalised within the next decade.
Before the trip, he told the BBC: "In my own constituency, in the last year more young people smoked cannabis than they did tobacco. So people seem to be voting with their feet, and that says to me that I have got to take an interest in this.
"I certainly go into this with an open mind, both in terms of legalisation and regulation."
Currently, cannabis is classed as a Class B drug in the UK and anyone caught with it could face up to five years in prison.
However, there has been a shift in approach towards medicinal cannabis products, which can now be legally prescribed to some patients.
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The documentary followed the argument that where cannabis has been legalised for medical use, authorised recreational use often follows.
The trip was organised by a UK-based campaign group, Volte Face, which wants the UK to legalise the drug. It's part-sponsored by a North American cannabis company called MPX.
Mr Djanogly said: "I think we have got a lot to learn before the legalisation of recreational cannabis, which I think will happen at some point.
"I think we're on a 10 to 15-year cycle which would mirror what has happened in Canada."
The other MPs felt it would happen sooner and closer to five years.
At the end of the documentary, Mr Djanogly said: "From what I have learnt so far, I am not convinced that we have the research or the knowledge about how to replace the criminality that currently goes with it and I think that we have a lot to learn before we move towards the legalisation of recreational cannabis which I think will happen at some point given that we have already legalised medical cannabis."
He also told online news organisation Capx he felt that Canada was not considering the impact that legalisation could have on children.
He said: "It may be that this is because children in Canada have, for many years, had easy access to cannabis and this has resulted in it becoming fairly normalised among the general public. Hopefully, regulation will challenge ideas of who should and shouldn't be using cannabis, much like the UK has done with alcohol."
Mr Djanogly did also say that he felt that the legalisation could lead to thousands more jobs, and "significant" economic growth.
"There have been significant economic benefits to Canada, where the contribution of legal cannabis to GDP is 0.4 per cent and rising. Cannabis is delivering thousands of new jobs, often in the most deprived areas of Canada. We heard clear evidence of how cannabis production is benefiting the type of post-industrial areas that are so familiar to us also in the UK," he told Capx.
"My visit to Canada raised as many questions as it gave me answers. However, given that the wall has now been breached with the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the UK, having seen the Canadian experience, my instinct is that like it or not we will move to legislate for recreational cannabis use within the next decade."