List of British politicians who have acknowledged cannabis use

Colorful painting of five people standing in a stream retting hemp. A woman and child stand along the stream in the background. A pastoral setting surrounds the stream, with trees and bushes, a cottage, a blue sky, and fields of yellow and green.

The retting of raw hemp in a stream

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants with species that have long been used for fibre (hemp), for medicinal purposes, and as a drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber and minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive molecule that produces the “high” associated with cannabis as a drug.

Pre-prohibition[edit]

Cannabis may have been known in Britain as far back as the Bronze Age (ca. 2800 BP) when pieces of textiles and string were found at a site at St. Andrews in Scotland. Microscopic inspection showed that the fibres of these items appeared to have several different characteristics to those of flax.[1]

The first hard evidence of hemp in England are seeds that have been identified as cannabis sativa found in a Roman well in York.[2] Palynologists then find an increasing pollen curve in sediments, dating from the early Saxon period and peaking between 800 AD and 1200 AD.[3] Hemp cultivation was widespread and appears to have been concentrated around the coastal areas of Britain which would indicate its importance for making nets, sail-cloth and rope.[4]

However, to satisfy the increased demand for rope and sailcloth for King Henry VIII’s new navy, he decreed (1533) that all landholders set aside one-quarter acre for the cultivation of flax or hemp for every sixty acres of land that they tilled in order to provide the necessary fibre. Queen Elizabeth I reintroduced the law (1563 AD) to expand her navy and imposes a £5 fine for any eligible landlord who failed to comply. From then on the demand increased and the hemp industry became very important to the British economy. Indeed, it was their need to improve the supply of this strategic raw commodity that come the 1630s the British sped up their colonization of the new world.[5]

Furthermore, cannabis also became an important medicine. There are claims that Queen Victoria took tincture of Cannabis to ease the pain of childbirth but these have been disputed.[6][7]

Name Lifetime Notable positions held Party Ref.
David Urquhart 1805–1877 Member of Parliament Independent [8]
Parties

  Independent

Legislation[edit]

In order that Britain could ratify international treaties which it signed up to, it added tincture of cannabis to the list of drugs which already required an importation or exportation licence, granted by the Home Secretary. This took the form of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920.

Secondary legislation was introduced to ensure better standardization and quality of cannabis tincture. This was achieved by tight legislative control over sourcing the raw materials, processing and distribution. An effect of this control was to restrict the use of tincture to purposes that were strictly medical or scientific. Other forms of cannabis were not affected.

One of the regulations to maintain quality is briefly alluded to by Maud Grieve in her book A Modern Herbal, where she mentions in the section about Indian Hemp that “two-year-old ganja is almost inert, and the law requires it to be burnt in the presence of excise officers.”[9]

The League of Nations was put in charge of international drug control after World War One. Cannabis was not initially subject to international control but was controlled as part of the 1925 Geneva Opium Conventions . Control came about due to the local situation in Egypt and the desire of the new leaders of the country to embarrass their former British rulers by claiming that its use had led to widespread insanity.[10] Due to its importance as a medicine and its other industrial uses, this proposal was reduced to prohibiting the unlicensed possession of cannabis. Britain ratified this agreement by amending the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 with the Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 which added some other of cannabis hitherto ignored. Namely, cannabis resin, cannabis oil (hash oil), cannabis leaf, flower-heads and the raw plant itself. However, whole seeds, seed oil (hemp oil) and fibre are not included. They can still be used for baiting fish, feeding birds, cooking, making strong ropes and high quality paper. In order that the government could avoid paying out compensation, enforcement of the act was delayed until 1928, thus giving people time to legitimately dispose of their stock which contravenes the new Bill.[11]

Following the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) the cultivation of cannabis ceased in the UK.

Cannabis tincture was finally removed from the British National Formulary in 1971 by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

During prohibition[edit]

Politicians that have admitted to recreational use following prohibition include, Members of Parliament, Home Secretaries and other Ministers, Peers, and Mayors.

Key
  Conservative       Labour       SNP       Liberal Democrats       Plaid Cymru
Name Lifetime Notable positions held Party Ref.
Peter Ainsworth b. 1956 Shadow Secretary of State Conservative [12]
Hazel Blears b. 1956 Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Labour [13]
Andy Burnham b. 1970 Secretary of State for Health
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Labour [13]
Charles Clarke b. 1950 Home Secretary Labour [14]
James Cleverly b. 1969 Member of Parliament Conservative [15]
Vernon Coaker b. 1953 Minister of State for Schools Labour [13]
Yvette Cooper b. 1969 Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Labour [16]
Bruce Crawford b. 1955 Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy SNP [17]
Alistair Darling, Baron Darling of Roulanish b. 1953 Chancellor of the Exchequer Labour [13]
Fergus Ewing b. 1957 Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity SNP [17]
Caroline Flint b. 1961 Minister of State Labour [13]
Thomas Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde b. 1960 Leader of the House of Lords Conservative [12]
Harriet Harman b. 1950 Leader of the House of Commons Labour [13]
John Hutton, Baron Hutton of Furness b. 1955 Secretary of State for Defence Labour [13]
Fiona Hyslop b. 1964 Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
SNP [17]
Bernard Jenkin b. 1959 Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Conservative [12]
Boris Johnson b. 1964 Foreign Secretary Conservative [18]
Jon Owen Jones b. 1954 Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Welsh Office Labour [19]
Ruth Kelly b. 1968 Secretary of State for Transport
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Labour [13]
Liz Kendall b. 1971 Shadow Minister for Care and Older People Labour [20]
Susan Kramer, Baroness Kramer b. 1950 Minister of State for Transport Liberal Democrat [21]
Norman Lamont, Baron Lamont of Lerwick b. 1942 Chancellor of the Exchequer Conservative [22]
Oliver Letwin b. 1956 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Conservative [12]
Tricia Marwick b. 1953 Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament SNP [17]
Francis Maude, Baron Maude of Horsham b. 1953 Minister for the Cabinet Office Conservative [12]
Stewart Maxwell b. 1963 Minister for Communities and Sport SNP [17]
Tony McNulty b. 1958 Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform Labour [13]
Mo Mowlam 1949–2005 Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Labour [21]
Archie Norman b. 1954 Shadow Secretary of State Conservative [12]
Shona Robison b. 1966 Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport SNP [17]
Jacqui Smith b. 1962 Home Secretary Labour [13]
Nicola Sturgeon b. 1970 First Minister of Scotland SNP [17]
Matthew Taylor, Baron Taylor of Goss Moor b. 1963 Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesman Liberal Democrat [21]
Chuka Umunna b. 1978 Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Labour [23]
David Willetts, Baron Willetts b. 1956 Minister of State for Universities and Science Conservative [12]
Leanne Wood b. 1971 Member of the National Assembly for Wales Plaid Cymru [24]
Tim Yeo b. 1945 Shadow Secretary of State Conservative [12]

David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and former leader of the Conservative Party, has not clearly communicated whether he has used cannabis but he has said that he is “not issuing denials” about the stories on the front pages of several national newspapers claiming that he had. He did however, while Leader of the Opposition, say, that he supports the legalisation of medical cannabis.[25][26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ryder, M. L. (1993). “Probable hemp fibre in Bronze Age Scotland”. Archeological Textiles Newsletter (17): 10–13.
  2. ^ Wild, John Peter (April 2003). Textiles in Archaeology. United Kingdom: Shire Publications. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-85263-931-3.
  3. ^ Fleming, M. P.; Clarke, R. C. (1998). “Physical evidence for the antiquity of Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae)” (PDF). Journal of the International Hemp Association (5): 80–92.
  4. ^ Whittington, Graeme; Edwards, Kevin J. (December 1990). “The cultivation and utilisation of hemp in Scotland”. Scottish Geographical Journal. 106 (3): 167–173. doi:10.1080/00369229018736795.
  5. ^ Deitch, Robert (2003) Hemp: American history revisited: the plant with a divided history. page 12. Algora Publishing. Accessed 2010-01-16
  6. ^ A pharmacy of her own: Victorian women and the figure of the opiate by Aikens, Kristina, Ph.D., TUFTS UNIVERSITY, 2008, 276 pages; 3304089
  7. ^ Berridge, Virginia (2003-01-01). “Queen Victoria’s Cannabis Use: Or, How History Does and Does Not Get Used in Drug Policy Making”. Addiction Research & Theory. 11 (4): 213–215. doi:10.1080/1606635031000135604. ISSN 1606-6359.
  8. ^ “Cannabis Use and Abuse By Man: An Historical Perspective” (PDF). Overseas Publishers Association N.V. 1998. p. 20. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  9. ^ Grieve, Maud (1931). A modern herbal. Johnathan Cape Ltd. p. 396.
  10. ^ V, Berridge, (2013-01-01). “Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs”. researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  11. ^ Dorn, Nicholas; Murji, Karim; South, Nigel (20 December 1991). Traffickers: drug markets and law enforcement. Routledge. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-0-415-03537-8.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h “Eighth Tory admits cannabis use”. BBC News. 10 October 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j “Top ministers admit cannabis use”. BBC News. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  14. ^ Booth, Jenny (19 July 2007). “Puffing politicians: list of cannabis confessions”. The Times. London: News Corporation. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  15. ^ “Tory MP reveals he smoked marijuana and watched online porn”. The Guardian. 1 November 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  16. ^ “Cannabis laws ‘too strict’ say doctors”. BBC News. 2 November 2000. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Gordon, Tom (29 April 2007). “Half of SNP cabinet used cannabis”. Sunday Times. London: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  18. ^ “Boris: I took cocaine and cannabis”. Oxford Mail. 4 June 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  19. ^ “Cannabis-smoking past of Cardiff MP”. BBC News. 12 October 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  20. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/22/jeremy-corbyn-could-lose-frontbenchers-if-elected-labour-leader
  21. ^ a b c “Senior Lib Dem tried cannabis”. BBC News. 24 January 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  22. ^ “Minister admits cannabis past”. BBC News. 14 October 2000. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  23. ^ “I smoked marijuana, admits Chuka Umunna”. The Daily Telegraph. 1 July 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  24. ^ Leanne Wood: Plaid Cymru leader ‘took drugs as student’. BBC NEWS. Published 15 May 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  25. ^ Reuters UK (10 February 2007). Cameron smoked cannabis in youth – papers. Accessed 2009-01-18
  26. ^ Reuters UK (11 February 2007). UK opposition chief won’t deny he smoked cannabis. Accessed 2009-01-18