Pubdate: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 Source: Examiner, The (Ireland) Contact: FIGHT HARD DRUGS AND NOT CANNABIS Sir, It was with a certain amount of misgiving that I read of the recent cannabis seizures by gardai in counties Cork and Tipperary. Comments Det Chief Supt Kevin Carty that he 'objects strongly' to people calling for cannabis to be decriminalised, and that their campaign is based on a 'lot of empty rhetoric' without any factual evidence to back it up, are hardly helpful. I remind Det Chief Supt Kevin Carty that we live in a democracy, and so have the right to call for changes to any law which we may feel to be unjust, unworkable, or likely to lead to the prosecution of people for 'victimless' crimes, all of which I consider to be caused by the present law which criminalises cannabis. I am dismayed to see someone in Mr Carty's position still insisting that cannabis is a 'gateway' drug. It is a fact that cannabis is not a gateway drug to addiction to other substances. Unfortunately, no matter how many times they are presented with the evidence, the likes of Mr Carty simply refuse to accept this fact. I will not waste readers' time by once again listing all the reports that state that cannabis does not lead on to other drugs. But what really worries me about the recent high profile seizures, is that the seizures themselves may lead to our young people becoming addicted to harder drugs. Due to its bulky nature, and the fact that it has a distinctive odour, cannabis is by far the easiest of the currently illegal drugs to detect. Heroin, on the other hand, is very compact, virtually odourless, and therefore very difficult to detect. And the profit margins on it are, in fact, far higher than those on cannabis. If these cannabis seizures continue, and the supply is disrupted, then the current users, when they approach their suppliers, may well be told that there is no cannabis available, and perhaps be offered far more dangerous substances, like heroin, instead. Indeed, we could be sowing the seeds for a new epidemic of heroin addiction. If cannabis were to be legalised, garda time and resources could be freed for targeting the suppliers of the really dangerous drugs. More importantly, it would separate the market between cannabis and other, harmful drugs. As Mr Carty himself points out, young people like to experiment. This is a fact of life, which we need to accept and face up to. In a weekend seminar at TCD last November, Prof Parker, an academic social worker and director of social policy for the management of social problems at the University of Manchester, stated that cannabis is actually saving the lives of young people who wish to experiment. Advocating the de-criminalisation of cannabis, he said that by being readily available to "risk-taking" adolescents, cannabis had reduced the highly dangerous use of solvents and gases, and that related deaths (in the UK) had dropped from about 180 a year to about 50. Personally, I would far sooner listen to the research findings of the likes of Prof Parker, than to the empty rhetoric of Det Chief Supt Kevin Carty, and his ilk. Of course, I suppose it would be unfair of me to suggest that the eagerness of the Gardai to call a press conference and to be photographed in front of all this seized cannabis, may have more to do with personal advancement and future Garda funding, than with any real concern about the welfare of our youth. Martin Cooke, Corcormick, Drumkeeerin, Co Leitrim.