SNP and cannabis: will openness lead to the devolution of drug laws?

With further devolution talks under way many areas of public policy is being scrutinised by academics, politicians and journalists. Devolution is a messy and confused business. For instance, Westminster accidentally devolved Antarctica (seriously). But on more serious matters many of the devolved and reserved powers overlap. A striking example of this is drugs. Scotland’s drug legislation is currently legislated on at Westminster yet Health is a devolved issue. Many would argue this leaves Scottish Governments dealing with the problems drug use creates yet not having the power to create solutions to these issues of Scottish public health.

Many members of Scotland’s governing party the SNP have been surprisingly open in the past about their drug usage (solely cannabis) which perhaps could lead to an open discussion on the possible devolution of drug legislation.  In 2007 the MSPs below respondonded openly to journalist Tom Gordon’s questioning.  Indeed 50% of the SNP’s shadow cabinet in 2007 admitted to smoking cannabis.

Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s new First Minister has spoke of her relationship with cannabis in the past. Her student days at the University of Glasgow are often remarked as her training ground for politics with her involvement in the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association. Moreover, her time in Glasgow also resulted in the First Minister dabbling in weed:

“I experimented when I was a student, but it made me sick, so I didn’t use it (cannabis) again. It and I didn’t get on.”

Furthermore, Sturgeon pledged her support in a 1999 survey of MSPs for the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical use. Speaking as the SNP’s Shadow Minister for Justice in 2004, Sturgeon reiterated her support for medical cannabis usage in her weekly local newspaper column:

“I have never understood, for example, why cannabis can’t be used for medical purposes if doctors think it can help relieve suffering.”

Drug laws are currently a ‘reserved’ matter which is decided at Westminster. Sturgeon and the SNP could potentially push for these powers to be devolved in the Smith Commission devolution talks which are currently being held.

Shona Robison

Promoted this week in Nicola Sturgeon’s first cabinet reshuffle, Shona Robison is another SNP cabinet member who has publicly admitted to using cannabis. Scotland’s new Health Secretary admitted to trying it also in her student days:

“I think it was a party and it might have been getting passed around. I tried it once, didn’t like it, and had a puff as everybody did, and that was it”.

It appears then the Health secretary will not be prescribing a joint to the Scottish nation.
Bruce Crawford

Bruce Crawford is an MSP for Stirling and member of the ‘Cross-Party group in the Scottish Parliament for Scotch Whisky’ (which sounds like a fantastic group). Crawford admitted to trying a joint on the trip home from a Scotland v Spain match in his twenties.
Fergus Ewing

The most unlikely name on the list. Renowned for his social conservatism, demonstrated by him abstainment on abolishing Section 28 and fighting against an outright ban on foxing, Ewing really does fit the ‘Tartan Tory’ tag which once lampooned many SNP politicians in the 1970s. The Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism was once suspended for two weeks as a 16 year old for being caught smoking a joint at his prestigious public school, Loretto.   Naughty Ewing.

Tricia Marwick
Elected MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes in 2011, Marwick gave up her long standing SNP membership when she was appointed the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer (essentially the speaker as in the Westminster parliament). Marwick said she tried the drug “at a flat party in Edinburgh” and that she “choked and I coughed, it was the most disgusting thing I ever tasted”. We unfortunately can’t expect any stoned chairing of First Minister’s Questions then.

Quotes taking from:
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Test/politics/article63936.ece
Evening Times, Nicola Sturgeon, ‘Cannabis law is still open to confusion ‘January 27th 2004
Evening News (Edinburgh), Ian Swanson, ‘TORY CHIEF IN CALL FOR LEGALISATION OF CANNABIS’, November 2nd 1999.

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6 Responses to SNP and cannabis: will openness lead to the devolution of drug laws?

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