Political Attitudes Regarding Cannabis Changing In UK

Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000
Subject: Political Attitudes Regarding Cannabis Changing In UK

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 157 January 30, 2000

Political Attitudes Regarding Cannabis Changing In UK


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 157 January 30, 2000

The battle to change marijuana laws in Britain continues to gain
momentum, especially after the government’s new head of anti-drug
efforts Mo Mowlam admitted she smoked marijuana while she was a student.

The oped piece below from The Times of London offers an interesting
look at the forces that seem to be driving the push toward a more
reasonable cannabis policy. Earlier in the week another newspaper, the
Daily Mail, published a story about an area police force that has not
only admitted that the government’s drug war is a failure, but also
suggested the legalization of drugs as a viable alternative (see

As the Times oped notes, if politicians say they don’t have enough
evidence to soften drug laws, they haven’t been looking very hard.
Please write letters to either paper to offer support for changes in
marijuana policy.

Thanks for your effort and support.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


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Source: Times, The (UK)

Contact: letters@the-times.co.uk


Please write a letter to the Daily Mail in response to the article
about police admitting the failure of the war on drugs

Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Contact: letters@dailymail.co.uk

Please note: Newshawks in the UK inform us that the Daily Mail
generally prints shorter letters, while The Times is more inclined to
print longer letters.


UK: OPED: A New Political Generation Is Ending The Cannabis Taboo
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00.n131.a04.html
Newshawk: Eric Ernst
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jan 2000
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd
Contact: letters@the-times.co.uk
Address: PO Box 496, London E1 9XN, United Kingdom
Fax: +44-(0)171-782 5046
Website: http://www.the-times.co.uk/
Author: Mary Ann Sieghart
Bookmark: MAP’s shortcut to UK items:

You’re Only As Old As Your Reefer

What I like about Labour’s attitude to drugs is that they say one
thing and do another. They say they are acting tough, when in fact
they are focusing more on treatment than punishment. Mo Mowlam says
she tried cannabis and disliked it, when we all know that, like most
fun-loving people of her generation, she must have enjoyed her toke or

Attitudes to drugs – and cannabis in particular – are cast along
generational lines. The last Government was made up of politicians
brought up in the 1950s, for whom it was a scary, alien substance. I
can no more imagine John Major smoking dope than I can imagine Mo
Mowlam hating it. It was not just because they were Tories that they
opposed any relaxation in the laws. I find that my liberal views are
shared with more younger Conservative MPs than older Labour ones.

The cusp comes round about 50 years of age. Dr Mowlam, who turned 50
last year, is one of the oldest ageing hippies in the Cabinet. Jack
Straw, a visceral anti-legaliser, is on the wrong side of 50. So are
David Blunkett, another social conservative, and John Prescott. Only
Clare Short jumps the age barrier, by calling for a debate on
legalisation from the other side of 50.

The other factor is political ambition. Those who knew from their
early youth that they wanted to run the country might well have been
more circumspect. No surprise, then, that Jack Straw addressed his
first political meeting at 13, or that William Hague was staider than
staid at Oxford. Tony Blair, meanwhile, had no interest in politics
at university but grew his hair and played lead guitar in The Ugly

Whether he inhaled or not, I have no idea. But I am sure that he does
not share Mr Straw’s instinctive antipathy to liberalising laws on
cannabis. He merely worries about what Middle England might think. If
he has pressed Dr Mowlam to tone down her enthusiasm for legalising
marijuana for medical use, it is not because he thinks such a policy
is intrinsically wicked, but because it could be caricatured by the
Daily Mail. And that, as we know, is a critical test for government

You might have thought that an administration led by a Mick Jagger
wannabe (age 46) would be more sympathetic to legalisation. With the
critical exception of the Home Secretary, it is – but it still
believes that it cannot be seen to be. I get the odd nod and a wink
about this being “something for the second term”. But the first term
is still dominated by the desire to prove what they are not.

Mr Blair has had to show that he is not soft on defence, not a high
tax-and-spender, not in the pocket of the unions – and not an
irresponsible dopehead. But the position for his generation, both
here and in America, is becoming unsustainable. They think they have
to claim either that they smoked and did not inhale (Clinton); that
they did not smoke but if they had, they would have inhaled (Blair);
or that they did inhale but they did not like it (Mowlam). When will
a politician admit not only that they smoked but that it was fun?

You can see these people not so much inching as millimetring their way
towards a more sensible policy. Dr Mowlam thinks cannabis should be
allowed for the terminally ill – only they, it seems, will not be
gripped by reefer madness. The Liberal Democrats think they are brave
in calling for a royal commission, though many of them privately would
be happy to legalise.

What they all want is the cover of respectability. And that is
arriving. The Police Foundation report on cannabis is imminent, and
likely to call for a softening in the law. Cleveland’s chief police
officers this week backed legalisation and a royal commission.

Actually the cover has been there all along. In 1970 Richard Nixon
appointed a commission to study the health effects, legal status and
social impact of cannabis use. To his horror, it concluded that the
drug should be decriminalised. A decade later, the US National
Academy of Sciences studied the health effects and also recommended
decriminalisation. The Lancet agrees, and was confident enough to
declare recently that “the smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not
harmful to health”.

It is demographics that will soon make such a policy politically
palatable. A senior Liberal Democrat told me last week that drug
legalisation, along with housing, was the main subject broached by his
young constituents. As the 1960s generation takes power, in
Westminster and elsewhere, the taboo will dissolve.

Already The Mirror has backed liberalisation of drug laws. A reader
phone-in by The Sun found 70 per cent thought Dr Mowlam was not wrong
to smoke dope. Its white van men say variously that MPs should take
more drugs to improve their policies; that legalisation would cut out
the dealers; and that cannabis is good because it is cheaper than
alcohol. The Daily Mail may be edited by a man with unreconstructed
views, but his proprietor is a 32-year-old whose attitude to marijuana
is, I imagine, more liberal than that of his father.

Cannabis smoking is following the same political trajectory, 40 years
on, as homosexuality. Lots of people do it; fewer and fewer think
that it should be illegal; and politicians are behind the curve, the
last people to “come out”. We shrugged our shoulders when Nick Brown
said he was gay. If Mo Mowlam showed her famous candour by conceding
that cannabis was pretty harmless fun, I suspect the reaction, to Mr
Blair’s surprise, would be much the same.


SAMPLE LETTER (sent to The Times)


Thank you for publishing Mary Ann Sieghart’s thoughtful analysis of
annabis laws (“A New Political Generation Is Ending The Cannabis
Taboo,” Jan. 28). It is well past time to reconsider current cannabis
laws, and getting tougher is no solution at all.

As a resident of the United States, I can clearly see how my country’s
war against marijuana not only fails to curb the popularity of the
drug, but also causes numerous unintended consequences. Over the past
few years, about 700,000 Americans have been arrested annually on
cannabis charges. Not only does this waste police and judicial
resources, it makes criminals out of a wide segment of the population
who are otherwise productive members of society.

Compare the situation here with the situation in the Netherlands where
personal use of cannabis is no longer considered an issue for law
enforcement. Dutch young people are less likely to be cannabis users
than American young people. At the same time, fewer Dutch youths have
started using heroin in the time since cannabis laws were liberalized,
while here in the U.S. throughout the 1990s the number of teenage
heroin users has increased.

Examined side by side, it should be easy for the British government to
see which nation’s policy offers a more sensible model.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://home.att.net/~theyoungfamily Focus
Alert Specialist