U.K. Conservatives at Odds Over Brexit and Legalizing Cannabis

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Hopelessly divided over Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives are now also publicly arguing about the merits of legalizing marijuana for medical use.

On the eve of a key vote that could deliver May a humiliating loss in Parliament, the government is struggling to show unity on any number of issues, from how to fund a boost to the National Health Service to whether to review its approach to medicinal cannabis.

The latest controversy is over the confiscation of medicinal cannabis oil, banned in the U.K., to treat a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy. Following the high-profile case — the drug was returned by the home office — Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday it was time to look for “a different way.”

While May is said to have shut down a Cabinet discussion on Monday, former Conservative leader William Hague angered her office by writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper Tuesday that her government should legalize cannabis and create a regulated market for its sale. Currently the penalty for possession of the drug is five years in jail and for supplying it 14 years. The ready availability of illegal cannabis on Britain’s streets showed that any war on the drug had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost,” he wrote.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid issued a statement to say that “any debate within government about the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines does not extend to any review regarding the classification of cannabis and the penalties for the illicit possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis will remain the same.”

Since promoting Javid in April, he has been determined to show his independence of his boss. He has sided with the pro-Brexit faction in her Cabinet committee on future customs arrangements with the bloc. In his first keynote speech as home secretary, Javid struck a conciliatory note with the police, a marked contrast to May’s combative approach.

In the endless speculation on who could come after May, both Hunt and Javid are recurring names.

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