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Cannabis legislation cannot be isolated from other issues

The Times Debate, 15th July 2002

Sir, The use and possession of cannabis (report, July 11) is illegal in this country. Its presence is due to illegal bulk importation, most probably by the same criminal organisations that also import the harder drugs. All parties seem agreed that such organisations must be aggressively suppressed and prosecuted.

The individual use of cannabis, no matter how minor, is collectively the substantial market support for this illegal traffic.

Surely the debate and action must be directed at whether or not to legalise or licence the drug and not on relaxation of criminal penalties. Relaxation simply acts, and is acting, to support the illegal importation of all drugs, hard and soft.

Because of this, the current use of cannabis cannot be considered comparable to alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legally licensed and imported into this country.

Until there is any change to legislation, the police and the courts must be vigorous in respect to all illegal drug use and possession; only in this way will the fight against the harder drugs have any chance of success.

Yours truly,
PETER WILLIAMS,

From Mr Alastair J. B. Tweedie

Sir, Mr Keith Hellawell is to be congratulated on his resignation in the face of this Government’s intention to decriminalise cannabis (report, July 11).

Amid the spin and the soundbites, it is a rare breed of politician or adviser that makes a principled and personal stand against government policy when they believe the policy to be wrong or ill-conceived. Reclassifying cannabis to a Class C drug provides further licence to drug dealers to ply their illegal trade.

We have an under-dressed emperor - Mr Hellawell will be hopefully the first of many to point out the nakedness of his policies.

Yours faithfully,
ALASTAIR TWEEDIE,

From Mr Graham Saltmarsh

Sir, As a former head of the drug squad in the Brixton area I totally support Keith Hellawell in his reasons for resigning and his subsequent public comments.

Few of the apologists for downgrading cannabis seem to have any knowledge of the market-driven aspects of the drug culture. There seems to be an assumption that both users and dealers stick to clearly delineated patterns of one type of drug in both consumption and trafficking. It is a dangerous fallacy.

Dealers will traffic and deal in multiple types and quantities. It isn’t only supermarkets that use multiple purchase incentives to boost their profits.

Users will be encouraged to experiment with different products and those that do almost always end up being totally addicted to expensive hard drugs of dubious quality. Exactly where the “retailers” want them.

“Crackpot” is the expression that comes to mind, but since when did the current regime in the Home Office first consult with the people on the ground before rushing through their ill-thought-out dogma?

Yours truly,
GRAHAM SALTMARSH
(Metropolitan Police, 1969-99),

From Lord Warner

Sir, Contrary to your report (July 10) I did not criticise the Home Secretary’s expected announcement on the reclassification of cannabis.

The report was correct to state that I believe it is important that the public are made aware of the evidence about the long-term dangers to health posed by prolonged cannabis use. However, I specifically said that this was a separate matter from decisions about the classification of cannabis, which is the responsibility of the Home Secretary. It is disappointing to find my comments turned into a simplistic row about government policy.

Yesterday I made the point that cannabis use is in large part a health issue. Today the Government announced a new education campaign, including a fact sheet to organisations dealing with young people, endorsed by the Youth Justice Board, explaining that cannabis would not only remain illegal but also harmful to health. This is entirely in line with my comments that public awareness about the potential risk to health should be raised.

Yours sincerely,
NORMAN WARNER
(Chairman),
Youth Justice Board,

From Mr R. M. Langton

Sir, The illogicality of the new regulations beggars belief.

The best solution to the problem would be to make cannabis freely available through chemists and off-licences (not pubs or cafés), to tax it and pass the proceeds to the health service and the social services for their work in the rehabilitation of cocaine and heroin addicts.

Yours faithfully,
RICHARD LANGTON,


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