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UKCIA Comment - June 2002

Click the image to see how the UK government antidrug website 'D-2K' describes the effects of crack
Crack Cocaine
Click the image to see how the UK government antidrug website 'D-2K' describes the effects of crack

Cannabis is not the same as Crack Cocaine.

Not many people will argue with that statement, they have as much in common as chalk and cheese.

And yet, because the sale and use of cannabis is illegal, the only place to buy cannabis is from dealers. Some offer crack (and other stuff) instead of course, there's nothing new in that.

Click the image to see how the UK government antidrug website 'D-2K' describes the effects of cannabis
Cannabis
Click the image to see how the UK government antidrug website 'D-2K' describes the effects of cannabis

UKCIA welcomes the plans to reclassify cannabis to class C, which the Home Secretary David Blunkett is expected to announce soon. This should mean the possession and use of "small amounts" will no longer be an arrestable offence and is widely seen as the first step towards decriminalisation and legalisation, at least by most observers.

However, because they have so far ruled out any legal supply for cannabis it will continue to be sold illegally by dealers. Of course, most cannabis dealers don't sell crack, but there are an awful lot of dealers and a few do.

In many ways the policing experiment in Brixton has been a success, certainly it's helped with police-community relations and street crime is generally down by some 50%.

But there are plenty of reports of an apparent increase in hard drug dealing and people wanting Cannabis are being offered crack, what isn't being reported is that this is happening everywhere.

We need to take cannabis away from this street dealing. We need cannabis cafes.

In order to have cannabis cafes, we need some kind of legal (or at least tolerated) supply and an end to the law against allowing premises to be used for cannabis consumption.

David Blunkett is expected to announce his plans for cannabis anyday now, we'll have to wait and see how far he is willing to go but if press reports are to be believed, he is actually going to make things worse by increasing the penelty for dealing class C drugs.

If he does this people will continue to be offered other substances because cannabis users will continue to buy from illegal dealers who may sell anything else.

This isn't confined to Brixton, it's a nationwide problem.

Please, Mr Blunkett, understand that.

'Brixton? Right now it's a 24-hour crack supermarket'

'Why sell someone £10 worth of cannabis and perhaps see them again in a month's time when you can sell them £10 worth of crack and see them three hours later for £10 more?'

Read the report from The Observer
dated 23rd June 2002

 

As regards cannabis the Home Affairs Committee report says the following:

They support the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C.

They accept that drugs policy should primarily be addressed to dealing with the problematic drug users, however whilst acknowledging that there may come a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalising and regulating some types of presently illegal drugs, they decline to recommend it, so our campaign goes on.

They also say that to decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use would send "the wrong message" to the majority of young people and that it would inevitably lead to an increase in drug abuse, even though there's such strong evidence to suggest otherwise, not least of all from Holland.

They don't think that intent to supply should be presumed on the basis of amounts of drugs found, but they say that "simple possession" and "possession with intent to supply" should be retained without alteration. However they recommend that a new offence is created of "supply for gain", which would be used to prosecute large scale commercial suppliers. They had been expected to propose a new offence of "social supply", is this political double speak for the same thing?

On more general issues they recommend that a target is added to the National Strategy explicitly aimed at harm reduction and public health, although they rule out any form of control or regulation of the supply side, so "controlled" drugs will remain uncontrolled.

They recommend that the Government reviews Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with a view to repealing it, to allow for the provision of drugs paraphernalia which reduces the harm caused by drugs. This should make it easier to sell bongs, pipes and other non tobacco ways of smoking cannabis.

They recommend that Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - the section which makes it illegal to allow your premises to be used for the consumption of drugs - is
amended to ensure that drugs agencies can conduct harm reduction work and provide safe injecting areas for users without fear of being prosecuted. However, they don't seem to be suggesting it will be OK to allow your teenage kids to smoke weed at home, so they'll still be expected to do that on the street.

Perhaps the most interesting and promising recommendation comes near the end of the report, when they recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways - including the possibility of
legalisation and regulation - to tackle the global drugs dilemma. In other words, leaving the single convention?

We had hoped for more, there is much to be welcomed in the report, but not enough by a long way. UKCIA will update when we have more.

HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE SAY MP'S LACK COURAGE
Legalise Cannabis Alliance press release

Editorial

Author Derek Williams, UKCIA
Contact Derek

The full report published on 22nd May 2002. available on line from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmhaff.htm

"Drugs policy, is it working?" was the question the long awaited Select committee into the future of drugs policy report addressed.

The short answer it gave was "no", it then went on to recommend a welcome move towards harm reduction but ruled out any move away from the cause of the problem:

Prohibition.

The committee did acknowledge that the calls for legalisation are coming from sensible people and that the arguments were compelling, but they nonetheless decided to keep with the proven failure of the drug war's criminalisation of users.

Actually, the report is a little confused in this conclusion. Whilst it ruled out legalisation of cannabis "because it would send the wrong message to young people", it did recommend providing heroin to users and providing them with somewhere to use that heroin, based on the successful schemes underway in Holland and elsewhere. Giving users their drug and allowing them somewhere to use it is actually legalisation in my book - highly controlled and regulated, but it's legalisation non the less.

And this is the rub, legalisation doesn't just mean a free for all unregulated market place, it actually means anything that's not prohibition. Legalisation means the opportunity to control and regulate a market which is totally unregulated at the moment. Supporters of prohibition claim there's a deterrent effect provided by the law and point to the huge number of users of legal alcohol and tobacco, but they conveniently forget that these products are advertised and often marketed directly at young people.

The move towards harm reduction is long overdue, yet no true harm reduction is possible when drugs are supplied by the present illegal market, with no checks on strength, purity, quantity or who buys. They claim that children will still find ways around age limits and so they might, to an extent, but there's no age limits or any other controls over the sale of illegal drugs.

Cannabis is to become "less illegal", which will probably mean the police turning a blind eye to small scale use or possession, but where will this small scale possession come from? Every small bit of cannabis was once a big bit after all and this big bit was supplied by a dealer, some of whom also supply other substances. Indeed, even the government accepts that the biggest (if not the only) "gateway" cannabis provides to harder drugs is through the supply side, yet they've decided to keep it wide open.

All in all, the Select committee report into the future of UK drugs policy was a rather limp affair and will do nothing to solve the cause of the problem, it was a waste of time.

Derek
UK Cannabis Internet Activists

Lord Bingham, the senior law lord:
law on cannabis "stupid"

One of the UK's most senior judges has called for cannabis to be legalised, it has been reported. Lord Bingham, who as the senior law lord heads the highest court in the land, said in The Spectator magazine that the current law on cannabis was "stupid".

Interviewed by the magazine's editor, Tory MP Boris Johnson, Asked whether he would therefore legalise cannabis, Lord Bingham replied: "Absolutely. It is stupid having a law which is not doing what it is there for."

Read the BBC report

Kevin Flemen
the acting director of the drug charity Release, said that he "wholeheartedly supported" Lord Bingham's comments. "Reclassifying cannabis, as David Blunkett suggests, is a fudge with precious few benefits apart from saving police time.

Steve Rolles
of the drug reform group Transform, said: "Too many public figures who support reform do not speak out for fear of vilification. Lord Bingham should be applauded."

Neuroscientist Prof Colin Blakemore: Legalise.

On Friday 24th May, The Daily Telegraph reported that a leading UK neuroscientist has called for Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis to be legalised.

Prof Colin Blakemore, a professor of physiology at Oxford University, said the report into the future of drugs from the Home Affairs committee did not go far enough. He urged ministers to radically overhaul drugs laws.

"Whatever your own opinion on drugs is, whether you are a permissive liberal or a staunch conservative, it is very clear that the policies of the last 40 years have abjectly failed by any criteria," said Prof Blakemore.

Read the Telegraph report

Heroin victims parents: allow cannabis cafes

The parents of heroin victim Rachel Whitear believe she would be alive today if Britain had adopted The Netherlands' more liberal approach to drug use.

Following a trip to Amsterdam, Mick and Pauline Holcroft said they were impressed by that country's openness about drugs and called for a massive overhaul of Britain's laws.

Rachel moved on to heroin after smoking cannabis and the Holcrofts believe she may never have made the jump if cannabis cafes existed in Britain.

Mrs Holcroft said: "I think the key issues are that cannabis is kept separately to other drugs.

"In Britain, you have dealers with cannabis in one pocket and heroin in the other.

"When they run out of one, they give people the other. That's how they get hooked on heroin."

Read the BBC report

Don't forget Terror

The drugs war is one of the major sources of funding for terror groups and is now likely to remain one.

The one section of society pleased by the recommendations of the Select Committee report will be the gangsters and terrorists. They will be very glad the government has been advised to protect their trade - at our expense - yet again.

The attack on NY on 9th Sept 2001
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