War on drugs has been ‘a catastrophic failure’, according to North Norfolk election candidate Norman Lamb
- Credit: Archant
Liberal Democrat candidate Norman Lamb was forced to defend his support for the legalisation of cannabis at the first hustings meeting of the General Election campaign in North Norfolk.
And, despite fears that the illegal drug can affect a user's mental health, he denied regulating its use conflicted with his campaign for improved health services.
The long-serving politician took part in a question and answer session, hosted by parish councillor Lesley Sparrow, at a packed Village Hall in Southrepps on Wednesday night, along with Conservative candidate James Wild and Labour candidate Stephen Burke.
Explaining his stance, Mr Lamb, who revealed he believes it should be taxed in a similar way to cigarettes and alcohol, said: 'I'm in favour of the legalisation of cannabis. The war on drugs has been a catastrophic failure across the world.
'We hand billions of pounds to organised crime and it ends up with people putting themselves at risk because they have no idea what they are buying. No criminal has an interest in your welfare. And so Canada has taken the bold but sensible step, with many other American states, to regulate it to control potency.
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'It is in the interest of public health and we have been supported by a serving chief constable and a retired chief constable in the arguments that we've put. They have concluded that we waste these police resources which could be better spent on tackling other crime, particularly violent crime.'
Defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, also raised the question while campaigning with Mr Wild in Holt earlier in the day.
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When asked if he was surprised by Mr Lamb's stance, the Conservative candidate said: 'I was a little bit surprised. As people in the audience said, it is hardly a frontline political issue, there are a lot more important things.'
A number of local and national issues were raised at the meeting, including the need to regenerate North Norfolk's market towns and improve broadband and phone connections to attract new business and jobs to the area.
Mr Wild was made out to be the 'pantomime villain' on the night amid concerns of school budgets being slashed and a cut in health workers' wages.
But, with the Conservatives - and their rivals - predicting a landslide victory, he claimed voting for him was the only way to guarantee a better deal for North Norfolk.
Mr Burke, however, pointed out he is the only candidate that lives and works in the constituency
Mr Lamb said: 'I've always lived in Norwich, my mother lived in Holt, my father lived in Holt; I stand on the work I do here and the fact that I'm always here, I'm not an absentee. 'I've committed myself totally to this place.'
The meeting ended by praising the candidates for putting themselves forward for election on June 8.
When asked who won the debate, Councillor Sparrow said: 'I think they all more or less behaved themselves. They've all got different ideas and different policies and, at the end of the day, we are just going to have to wait and see how the public vote.
'We had some very good questions and it was nice that they agreed on some things, even though they disagreed on others.'