Convening a Royal Commission - the rationale


CISTA was founded and exists to campaign to secure changes to drugs laws inspired by those that have been successfully implemented in recent years in US states, notably Colorado.

There are a range of ways in which such changes might be expedited here in the UK , but we have settled on campaigning for the convening of a Royal Commission. Its an approach that, we believe, is most likely to bring about much needed reform.

Royal Commissions have rather gone out of fashion in recent decades. We however have reached a settled view that engaging all mainstream political parties, the general public and expert insight through this process represents the best hope of achieving our goals. Changes in legislation will alleviate human suffering, improve public health, usurp criminal activity in favour of a regulated marketplace, divert police resources to address much more serious offences and provide a much needed fiscal boost to reduce the deficit and/or fund public services.

The public seem to agree.

When last asked if they favoured the convening of such a Royal Commission they were resoundingly in favour of this.

Further in December last year the Electoral Reform Society report Open Up found that:

· 67% believe the rise of smaller parties is good for democracy (against just 16% who think the opposite).

· 51% believe it is better to have smaller parties rather than two big parties (against 27% who think the opposite).

· 50% believe the era of two parties dominating British politics is over (against 32% who think the opposite).

The same poll showed that people are comfortable with the implications of a multi-party system, and prefer parties to work together in the common interest rather than continually attack each other.

· 78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on.

· 54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws.

There is a new public desire for consensual politics and CISTA is going with the grain of this new mood.

When Nick Clegg announced the new Lib Democrat policy position on drug reform last month, he said he had lost count of the number of MPs from all parties who, in private, have advocated a change to our abjectly failed drug laws. And yet we are still as far away as ever from achieving this goal with both main parties, Conservative and Labour, recalcitrant in the face the overwhelming evidence that supports the societal and economic benefits of legalising, regulating and taxing cannabis in the same way we treat alcohol.

It is time for a fresh approach and we believe we can now make a compelling and pragmatic case for change.

It is important to set out our position in relation to the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

We respect their respective policy positions and the conviction that underpins both. We just can’t foresee a trajectory where they will be able to legislate on their manifesto commitments.

Neither the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party are going to win this election.

Only the Conservative Party or the Labour Party can possibly win this election outright. Neither are likely to support our goals in their manifestos.

There was a time when we could safely assume that each election would produce a clear winner and that the winning party could legislate on its manifesto commitments.

Those days are gone.

There is a remote chance that the Green Party and a small chance that the Liberal Democrats could hold the balance of power at the outcome of this election. They might, under these circumstances choose to make their stated manifesto positions on cannabis reform a ‘red line issue but it unlikely; such reforms remain politically a ‘second order’ issue. It will be illuminating to see how prominent both the Greens and Liberal Democrats make drug reform in this campaign. Our guess is that, notwithstanding their manifesto commitments, they will not place drug reform at the forefront of their campaigns; but we hope we are wrong.

In the absence of either the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party winning this election, and making drug reform a ‘red line’ issue in any subsequent negotiations, how else are we going to advance our goals?

We might get lucky, and an incoming Prime Minister may decide to forge ahead with a reform Bill, even though it was not a manifesto commitment — as happened with David Cameron and same-sex marriage — but does anyone really think that is going to happen?

Instead we are left with an opportunity to create anew the conditions where the consensual, evidence-based approach the public want to see happens.

We are committed to engaging openly with all who support our aims and who share our passion. No politcal party will be excluded. We will work with each to facilitate that delivers change.

Vitally, we know that the public are right behind us as we do so.

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