According to the rules of a new petitions site set up by the UK government only last week, parliament will now have to consider the legalisation of cannabis for debate.
The petition, which aims to make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal in the UK has received 154,092 signatures at the time of writing. Rules governing the new petition site stipulate any petition that receives over 100,000 signatures must be considered by parliament for debate.
Petitions that reach 100,000 signatures “are almost always debated”, claims the petitions site. Petition may not be put forward for debate if “the issue has already been debated recently or there’s a debate scheduled for the near future”.
“Legalising cannabis could bring in £900m in taxes every year, save £400m on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs,” writes James Richard Owen, who started the petition. “A substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses. It is believed to have been used by humans for over 4000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925.”
The only petition to so far bring in more signatures is one calling for a debate over a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The government has already responded to the petition — something it must do when petitions reach 10,000 signatories. “The government is committed to delivering seven day services to make sure that patients get the same high quality, safe care on a Saturday and Sunday as they do on a weekday,” it wrote.
Other popular petitions include a bid to allow transgender people to self-define their legal gender and a plea to immediately halt the use of Neonicotinoids on crops in order to save the UK’s bee population. Both are currently awaiting responses from the government.
Multiple petitions call for votes of no confidence in Iain Duncan Smith, prime minister David Cameron and the Conservative government as a whole.
One flaw in the petitions system, which is still very new, is that there seem to be multiple petitions calling for the government to ban puppy farms in which beagles are bred for testing. While a significant number of people care about this issue, the duplicate petitions are undermining the chances of the issue receiving a response from the government or being considered for debate.
A couple of petitions also bring a touch humour to the service. One calls for correct grammar and punctuation to be used in adverts. Another insists the word for bread roll must be standardised across the UK and the EU to the word “cob”. This petition has been rejected on the grounds that “petitions cannot be used to request action on issues that are outside the responsibility of the government”.
Even though only two debates have acquired the number of signatures to be considered for debate, MPs can also consider petitions for debate before they reach 100,000 signatures.
Those setting up petitions should also be aware that the Petitions Committee could contact them to take part in further discussions with MPs or ministers — something to keep in mind before launching a “comedy” petition about the price of milk.