#276 Cannabis Debate In The UK: Decrim Vs. Legalisation

Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2003
Subject: #276 Cannabis Debate In The UK: Decrim Vs. Legalisation


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #276 September 14, 2003

While drug czar John Walter’s reefer madness revisited campaign
continues to saturate US media, newspapers in Britain are debating
whether cannabis should be decriminalised or legalised outright. In
anticipation of UK Home Secretary David Blunkett’s cannabis
reclassification scheme taking effect in early 2004, the release of
new police guidelines has revived Britain’s enlightened cannabis
debate. Come January, cannabis consumers will no longer be prosecuted.

Instead of an arrest and possible jail time, consumers will have the
drug confiscated and a record of the incident will be noted by
officers. The new guidelines don’t specify a personal limit for the
drug and plans for a US-style “three strikes and you’re out” system
have been abandoned. Under the Association of Chief Police Officers
guidelines, police will still be able to arrest people who smoke
cannabis in public, consumers who are under 17 and anyone who uses it
near a school.

The guidelines apply to police forces in England, Wales and Northern
Ireland. Home Secretary David Blunkett argues that this
“softly-softly” approach to cannabis will free up police resources to
tackle hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine. Prior to Blunkett’s
groundbreaking reforms, Britain had some of the toughest cannabis laws
in Europe — and the highest rates of use.

For the many UK newspapers that have editorialized in favor of ending
cannabis prohibition, the incremental policy change underway, radical
by US standards, does not go far enough. In an excellent September
13th leader (editorial), The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s largest
quality daily, argues that Blunkett’s cannabis reforms are “the

Write the Daily Telegraph today to let them know you wholeheartedly
agree with their common sense take on cannabis. If you’re writing
from a country outside of the UK, be sure to let them know how closely
the rest of the world is watching and why.

To learn more about the new guidelines please visit:


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Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)

Contact: dtletters@telegraph.co.uk


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Pubdate: Sat, 13 Sep 2003
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Telegraph Group Limited
Contact: dtletters@telegraph.co.uk


There are two good arguments for the legalisation of cannabis. One of
them is practical, one moral. The moral argument is simple: here is
an activity that gives pleasure to many and relief to some (
sufferers, for example, of multiple sclerosis ); an activity whose
damaging effects on the health are confined to the user, which is less
addictive than tobacco and, probably, less damaging than alcohol. Why
not let grown-up citizens make their own decisions, as they do with
alcohol, tobacco and fatty foods?

The practical argument is that the country’s many, many millions of
cannabis users are already determined to ignore the laws that
criminalise their recreation – and that our legislature should take
sensible account of this. At present, smokers are forced to rely on
proper criminals to supply them with drugs, and are ill-served by a
market in which you have no idea whether your UKP15 is buying you
carbonised pencil erasers, dried oregano or terrifying genetically
modified superskunk. We waste police time and money on
cannabis-related prosecutions; at the same time, we allow the criminal
economy to benefit from what would be, properly taxed and regulated, a
vast source of revenue to the Exchequer.

Though very far from conclusive, both these arguments have merit. But
they are arguments for legalisation; not for decriminalisation, the
worst-of-all-possible-worlds fudge now proposed. To legitimise
consumption, while continuing to criminalise supply, is more than just
an intellectual nonsense. In moral terms, it is too incoherent to
claim any authority. In practical terms, it worsens rather than
improves the situation.

The removal of even the vestigial fear of prosecution for smokers will
enlarge demand – and do so to the sole benefit of the criminal
economy. The innocent, law-abiding dopehead will continue to be sold
Oxo cubes. And the law will continue to be an ass – and an
underfunded ass at that. It makes you wonder: what is David Blunkett



Dear Editor,

Your Sep. 13th leader was right on target. Home Secretary David
Blunkett’s reclassification of cannabis is merely a step in the right
direction. There is a big difference between condoning cannabis use
and protecting children from drugs. Decriminalisation acknowledges
the social reality of cannabis use and frees users from the stigma of
life-shattering criminal records. What’s really needed is a regulated
market with age controls. Separating the hard and soft drug markets
is critical.

As long as cannabis remains illegal and is distributed by organised
criminals, consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers
of hard drugs like crack cocaine. This “gateway” is the direct result
of a fundamentally flawed policy. Drug policy reform may send the
wrong message to children, but I like to think the children themselves
are more important than the message.


Juan Costo

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