Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd
Authors: Linda Hendry, Brian Morrison, Robert Battye, Davian Edwards, 
Daniel Griffiths, Alistair Johnson, E. Housley, John Bevan, Stephen Winspear


Is the Government sending conflicting signals about the use of cannabis?

TOO much hot air is wasted on young cannabis users. What about the over-50s 
who have been using it for 20 or 30 years? Tony Blair does not realise that 
there are votes to be gained from legalising cannabis properly.

Four alcohol and tobacco outlets in my street sell killer toxic substances 
legally, but Class C brings me no nearer to being able to buy cannabis that 
is fit for human consumption. Growers can still use pesticides, middlemen 
can still include henna, nutmeg, coffee, animal dung, wax and more 
dangerous contaminants to bulk it out and shippers can smuggle it in sewage 
or diesel tanks so that pollutants penetrate the wrapping. As long as 
cannabis is of such poor quality people will have to smoke it in an effort 
to destroy germs, rather than eating it to avoid damage to the lungs.

All I want is legal parity for cannabis with alcohol and tobacco so I can 
grow a few organic plants of my own or buy cannabis chocolates from the 

Linda Hendry, - ---------------------------------------------------


FOR years the public has been receiving unequivocal messages from police 
and government spokesmen about the high and rising level of drug-related 
crime. Now that this Government is on a path to reclassifying cannabis, we 
need some honesty about Home Office projections for the increase in 
burglary, mugging and other drug-related violent crime which, according to 
their past pronouncements, will inevitably follow increased cannabis abuse. 
The increase in such crime must have a seriously adverse effect on police 
resources to combat hard drugs.

Or could it be that the Government is planning either to decriminalise 
cannabis-related crime or to supply free cannabis on demand (or both)? Had 
he been alive today, Karl Marx might well have said "spin is the opium of 
the people".

Brian Morrison, Esher, Surrey

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DAVID BLUNKETT is being widely (and tiresomely) accused of sending "a mixed 
message" on drugs to the young people of this country. Why do so many think 
that any message is being received by that audience? How many of the target 
group of young people even know of Mr Blunkett?

Robert Battye, Halifax

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I HAVE just returned from a week on business in Amsterdam. I found it 
everything I had been led to believe. Next door to a watch-repair shop was 
an open-air heroin "bazaar" where grown men felt no compunction about 
loosening their fly and answering nature's call in front of eight-year-old 
passers-by. The amount of filth allowed to remain in the streets, broken 
and used needles, weed "baggies", and food wrappers, while the authorities 
obliviously walked by, was astonishing. In truth, I did not witness any 
violent crime; I was told there was very little, as the attitude of the 
authorities was so permissive that there was no need; criminals felt 
comfortable without the need for violence.

I am not sure why editorialists continually laud some European countries' 
"progressive" drug laws, but I can only imagine it is because they have 
either never visited these places, or they are deliberately attempting to 
deceive their readers.

Davian Edwards, Nashville, Tennessee

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I AM mystified by Labour's decision to downgrade cannabis. Once again, 
there does not seem to be any joined-up thinking from the Government. I am 
in support of the legalisation of cannabis as long as it is controlled via 
coffee shops or even the police.

If proper measures of distribution are not put in place then our children 
will still be buying cannabis from the same dealers that are encouraging 
them to take the harder or more addictive drugs.

Daniel Griffiths, Worcestershire

- ---------------------------------------------------


CONGRATULATIONS to Simon Jenkins for a spot-on piece (July 10). What I find 
so galling about the cannabis debate is the staggering hypocrisy of the 
anti brigade, who sit over a glass of wine, pontificating on how smoking 
cannabis is a certain road to heroin addiction while completely ignoring 
the facts about their own preference.

The British Medical Association has stated that alcohol is a factor in 65 
per cent of murders, 75 per cent of stabbings, and 50 per cent of fights 
and domestic assaults. Police superintendents advised that alcohol is 
present in half of all crime.Smoking a joint is a relaxing experience, it 
makes you feel good about yourself and other people, you don't feel sick, 
you don't get a hangover, you certainly don't become violent and, in 99.9 
per cent of cases, you don't become a heroin addict. Yet, as Mr Jenkins 
pointed out, the maximum penalty for supply of cannabis is now on a par 
with rape and manslaughter.

Mr Blunkett is an intelligent man but his cannabis policy is idiotic.

Alistair Johnson, Epsom, Surrey

- ---------------------------------------------------


SIMON JENKINS wonders why the Government takes risks with alcohol but not 
with heroin. The reason surely is that it costs only ?10-20 per day to be 
an alcoholic, so an alcoholic is unlikely to commit crime to finance the 
addiction. A heroin addict, on the other hand, needs a few hundred pounds 
per day to finance the addiction and is thus very likely to commit crime to 
get the money, with consequent severe social consequences.

E. Housley, Edinburgh

- ---------------------------------------------------


I CANNOT think of any other sphere of human activity which causes such 
misery, expense and corruption as is engendered by our laws relating to the 
distribution and consumption of drugs.

However unpalatable it may appear, we should legalise the sale of these 
substances and use our resources to treat and re-educate those who 
seriously abuse them -- just as we do, quite successfully, with alcohol and 
tobacco abuse.

John Bevan, Camberley, Surrey

- ---------------------------------------------------


I'M FEELING very confused at the moment, but not in a nice way, like when I 
smoke cannabis. No, it is more the things that I am hearing from my elders 
and betters, particularly those who choose superiority as a profession.

Obviously, I am incapable of making up my own mind about what to do with my 
life; so like millions of others in this country, I hang on every word that 
comes from political types before deciding what to do with my life.

I've smoked cannabis as regularly as most people drink, since the age of 
about 15. I'm now 31 and much to the amazement of all those who know that 
I' m a regular smoker (not least of all myself), I am still managing to 
live comfortably in SW1, and continue to earn a six-figure salary.

Now, the source of my confusion: in the good old days, when I started 
smoking dope, it was quite clear that I was a rebel, and the smoking of 
weed established those credentials proudly and clearly for all to see (I 
figured this was more emphatic than just not voting -- none of my friends 
vote). Now it appears that cannabis smoking is likely to become acceptable! 
What is a rebel to do? I do have a contingency plan: I am going to wait 
until my politically disaffected generation gets around to making 
politicians socially unacceptable, and then I'll join all three major 
political parties simultaneously. If that doesn't maintain my rebel status, 
nothing will.

Oh well, time to roll another fat one.

Stephen Winspear, London SW1 
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