The Liberal Democrats will continue to support the legalisation of cannabis, the party’s new leader has said.
Sir Vince Cable’s announcement signifies a continued long-term commitment to push for the drug to be legalised.
But the Home Office said it has no plans to relax the current law, saying there is “clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health”.
However, Sir Vince told BBC Newsbeat there were “serious negative side effects from driving it underground”.
He added: “The evidence is clear that if you want to stop abuse and damage to young people, you’ve got to bring the trade into the open and out of the hands of the criminal underworld.
“Common sense suggests to me that you should try to regulate and control this market, rather than just have a free market anarchy in the underground, which is what happens at the moment.”
The Home Office said its independent experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said using cannabis is a significant public health issue and can “unquestionably” cause harm.
It added that legalisation would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, and would send the wrong message to the vast majority of young people who do not take drugs.
The Lib Dem’s stance on the Class B mirrors a shift in global attitudes towards the drug, with a growing number of countries decriminalising it.
Legalising the drug was a pledge made in the party’s manifesto ahead of the General Election this year.
Regulating cannabis sales would ensure it contains more CBD (cannabinoid), which lessens the likelihood of psychosis linked to super-strength skunk, the party claims.
The pledge was welcomed by Lord Monson whose 21-year-old son Rupert killed himself in January after becoming addicted to a potent form of skunk.
The peer, of Burton, Lincolnshire, told the Standard: “Rupert took his life in violent fashion. In his last six months, he had become psychotic. Sectioned once, he suffered the full gamut: schizophrenia, false memories, paranoia and visitations. One was from a comedian, the rest of his mind’s gatecrashers were ghouls. Kill yourself, they commanded. So, he did.”