SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has admitted he smoked cannabis as a student as he insisted his party’s plans to legalise the drug were not just aimed at grabbing headlines.
The party’s UK manifesto for the General Election includes a commitment to introduce a “legal regulated market” for the drug, which would be sold at “licensed outlets” to over-18s.
Questioned about this by callers to BBC Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye phone-in programme, Mr Rennie said he would rather the government had “some control over the sale of this stuff than the gangs controlling it”.
One caller said to Mr Rennie: “I’d be happy if more politicians said ‘you know what, when I was at university I had a joint, I had a few ciders’, we all done it.”
The Scottish Lib Dem leader responded: “Well, I did.”
Ms Adams clarified with him: “You did smoke cannabis at university and you’re happy to say that.”
He said he did but when asked if he still used the drug, he said: “No.”
Mr Rennie quipped: “I might look like it, but I don’t.”
Another caller branded the policy as “very cynical” and claimed it was in the manifesto because it was “headline-grabbing stuff”.
However, Mr Rennie said his party had been in favour of the move “for a long time”.
He explained that under their proposals, cannabis would be sold in regulated stores, saying: “It would be controlled, the strains that were sold would be controlled to make sure that some of the more dangerous strains that have perhaps come on the market would be excluded.”
The stores would be state-controlled, he said, adding: “There would be no need for people to grow their own because there would be these regulated stores.”
The Lib Dem MSP said: “This is a difficult issue and people have got very strong views about drug misuse, and I understand why they’ve got strong views.
“We can say ‘nothing works, so let’s just leave it as it is’. I’m not prepared to do that.
“I have been round the drugs projects in Glasgow, I have seen how people’s lives have been blighted by the fact that this drugs policy we have just now has failed.”
He continued: “In terms of the legalisation of cannabis, what that does is it takes away the harder drugs and deals with them separately, so you can deal with cannabis in a regulated way, so that you take it out of the hands of the underworld, the gangs, that import and traffic kids into this country to act as slaves to farm cannabis in this country.
“I want to take that out of the cannabis trade and if you regulate it, you control the substance, the strains, that means you have a better way of stopping the transition from people taking cannabis into hard drugs because you are separating the markets.”
In the 2015 election the Liberal Democrats lost 10 of the 11 seats they had held in Scotland, with the party returning just one MP north of the border.
Mr Rennie claimed there are “many seats” in Scotland where the Lib Dems “have got a really good chance of victory against the SNP”.
When asked to rate his campaign out of 10, Mr Rennie scored it at 11.5
“I’m eternally optimistic because I think we’ve got a cracking message and we’ve got some really good candidates,” he said.