Pubdate:  Mon, 12 Jan 1998
Souce : Daily Mail (UK)
Section : Letters special 
Contact : TIME AND MONEY

I am once again appalled at the amount of time and public money being spent
deciding whether or not to prosecute a person for an offence involving a
harmless plant - cannabis.

By now it should be quite clear that cannabis is remarkably safe.  This has
been confirmed by every major Government and scientific investigation
including our own 1968 Royal Commission Report.

Our laws are meant to protect people and society, not simply impose the
will of the Government on its citizens.  Recently they have banned beef on
the bone - that, like cannabis, has been declared dangerous.  Yet known
poisons and dangers, not only the likes of alcohol and tobacco but also
mercury fillings, clingfilm, pesticides, pollutants and food additives, are
allowed.

Let's get the matter straight.  The act of the Minister's son in supplying
cannabis, had no victim, nobody was hurt (except possibly the pride of his
farther).  

The only victims will be the lad himself - a victim of a nonsense law - and
the public who will foot the bill.

Ann Clarke, Norwich 

CANNABIS IS NOT LEADING ME TO TRY OTHER DRUGS

William Straw's case has reopened the tedious debate on the legalisation of
cannabis.  I have smoked almost every evening since I was introduced to it
at the age of 17.

It has not led me to use other drugs, nor amoke cigarettes, nor break the
law, nor to be unable to hold a job (I run my own successful video company
and have never claimed the dole), nor fail my family duties.

I do not, however, wished to see it legalised and after several broken New
Year's resolutions, this year I am again trying to stop? Why? Because I am
worried about the effect of the tobacco and cannabis smoke on my lungs.

I carve the relaxant effect and the tobacco rush, but I am helped by the
fcat that I cannot smoke in public, cannot buy it in shops and I am not
bombarded with advertising.

A packet of cigarettes carries tax, yet we still have no cure for lung
cancer.  I urge the Government not to legalise a drug which is as dangerous
to the nation's health as tobacco but to invest its resources in reducing
the use and effects of one damaging drug already on the market.  Inhaling
smoke causes cancer.

Name and address supplied

LAW IS THE HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY

The arrest of William Straw, Daily Mirror journalist and another man, for
alleged small cannabis offences, illustrates the injustice of the law which
bans the plant.

In a public house where alcohol - a dangerous, addictive, legal drug - is
sold, a small amount of a plant product recently described as "remarkably
safe" by Professor Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School, yet illegal,
was sold.

Prosecution of this is surely the height of hypocrisy and nonsense.

The fact that the journalist asked the youth to get some cannabis as a
basis for a story makes the reporter the only one of the three so far
arrested upon whom any allegation of harm could possibly be laid.

The annoying thing is the cost - both economic and to police time - will
come out of the public pocket.  To what end? Punishing someone for a crime
without a victim. A fine example of continuing British justice!

Now that the cannabis laws can be seen clearly for what they are, let's get
rid of them and the concept that the Nanny State is more capable to decide
what we can smoke and bring in the right tofreedom of choice,

Tina Smith, Norwich

TEENAGE USE

I disagree with the two points Ann Leslie made in favour of
decriminalisation of cannabis.  The law criminalising it may have been
passed in some hsteria at the time, but it is much more relevant now.

Until the contraceptive Pill came onto the market, families were larger and
everyone, including teenagers, had very little money to spend.  Since then,
one or sometimes two children is the norm and parents indulge their
children very much more.

Market research groups have proved that a substantial part of the money in
circulation today is in the hands of teenagers, with cannabis being such an
ideal drug for seduction.

Hard drug dealers would be delighted if cannabis were decriminalised: they
could then expect an expanding market for hard drugs.

Ann equates Prohibition in America - where more than 50 pc of the adult
population broke the drink laws - with slightly over 4 pc who break the
cannabis law in this country, most of them vulnerable teenagers or in their
20s.

I don't see that it proves her point that the cannabis law is in disrepute
in this country.

L.P Woods, Loanhead, Midlothian

THE REAL ISSUE

Ann Leslie's view on cannabis (Mail) is flawed as she is an ex-cannabis
users (by her own admission).  I can visualise the spot in her brain.
Burned out by weed, it is a gap, a void, a broken pathway that causes the
hiccup.

The main issue as regards state legalisation of any 'soft' drugs is one of
control.  Live on the top floor of a tower block? No job? Feeling bad about
things? Worked hard all your life for what little you have and find that
society outside your front door is so uncaring, you must close the door on it?

No problem. The state will provide you with an arsenal of mind-altering
drugs to make you feel better.  Just go away in a corner and use them.
That's the issue.

Tony Schubmehl, Dinbych

SERIOUS DANGER

What the pro-cannabis lobby seem to forget is while alcohol and tobacco in
reasonable amounts do no harm to the user and absolutely none to anyone
else, one smoke of cannabis, because it is mind-altering, makes the user
incapable of rational thought or action.

This presents a serious danger to both the user and those with whom he or
she associates and, unlike alcohol, is virtually undetectable.  Legalising
it would be madness.

Furthermore, as a lawyer, I fail to understand the oft-made distinction
between decriminalisation and legalisation.  Can someone please elucidate?

William C. Hogg Killin, Perthshire

DOPEY AND DOCILE

When I was an RAF cook on Maserah Island from 1959 to 1960, I had Arab
kitchen hands working with me.  They regularly smoked cannabis, which put
them constantly in a dopey and docile frame of mind.

To get them to move themselves and do their jobs was a job in itself.  They
were useless when they were using the stuff.

I was 21, which was the average age of the camp.  We did 12 months there,
with no resident doctor or dentist and nowhere to go, but we never resorted
to drugs.

Joe Watson Staunton, Glos. 

UNFAIR CHARGES

The arrest and treatment William Straw, for supplying cannabis demonstrate
the unfairness of the present law.  It seems that there may well be one law
for the rich Londoners and another for the rest of the country. 

I know a man who was arrested for having less than half a gram (worth about
1.50). He had his house thoroughly searched by police with dogs and was
locked up and interviewed.

He had to wait many months before getting to court.  To what aim? The cost
of taking a man to Magistrates Court is 200 to 300, and then to Crown
Court was 2000 - 3000.  

Was Mr Straw's house searched to confirm that there were no other drugs there?

Is the pub landlord to be prosecuted for allowing his premises to be used
for illegal drugs.  Was the pub searched? 

What is behind these senseless prosecutions? Could it simply be that many
in the criminal justice system profit from the fees they charge? There
seems to be no other justification for keeping a remarkably harmless and
beneficial plant illegal.

Levi McCarthy, Norwich

NO HARM DONE

Jack Straw is on record as saying that cannabis is a 'dangerous drug' and
that drugs 'lead to the break-up of family life'.  Perhaps he could tell us
what damage cannabis has done to William and the people whom his son
supplied? The answer, as he well knows, is no damage.

The Lancet has stated that 'the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not
harmful to health'. And the 1968 Royal Commission into cannabis stated:
'The long-asserted dangers of cannabis are exaggerated and the realted law
is socially damaging, if not unworkable.'

The only way in which cannabis can lead to the break-up of family life is
if you are an MP who is trying to justify the drug laws, and whose son is
smoking a harmless substance enjoyed by thousands.

Gary Stimson, Sheffield