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Cannabis confusion

The Times Debate, 11th July 2002

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 newsagent.

Linda Hendry

Spinning pot
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,

David who?
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,

Dangers of liberalisation
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,

Half-hearted policy
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,

The demon drink
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,

Alcohol addiction cheaper
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,

Re-educate abusers
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,

What’s a rebel to do?
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,

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