Media Awareness Project

CANNABIS DEBATE IN THE UK: DECRIM vs. LEGALISATION


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #276 September 14, 2003

While drug czar John Walter's reefer madness revisited campaign continues to saturate US media, newspapers in Britain are debating whether cannabis should be decriminalised or legalised outright. In anticipation of UK Home Secretary David Blunkett's cannabis reclassification scheme taking effect in early 2004, the release of new police guidelines has revived Britain's enlightened cannabis debate. Come January, cannabis consumers will no longer be prosecuted.

Instead of an arrest and possible jail time, consumers will have the drug confiscated and a record of the incident will be noted by officers. The new guidelines don't specify a personal limit for the drug and plans for a US-style "three strikes and you're out" system have been abandoned. Under the Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines, police will still be able to arrest people who smoke cannabis in public, consumers who are under 17 and anyone who uses it near a school.

The guidelines apply to police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Home Secretary David Blunkett argues that this "softly-softly" approach to cannabis will free up police resources to tackle hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine. Prior to Blunkett's groundbreaking reforms, Britain had some of the toughest cannabis laws in Europe -- and the highest rates of use.

For the many UK newspapers that have editorialized in favor of ending cannabis prohibition, the incremental policy change underway, radical by US standards, does not go far enough. In an excellent September 13th leader (editorial), The Daily Telegraph, Britain's largest quality daily, argues that Blunkett's cannabis reforms are "the worst-of-all-possible-worlds."

Write the Daily Telegraph today to let them know you wholeheartedly agree with their common sense take on cannabis. If you're writing from a country outside of the UK, be sure to let them know how closely the rest of the world is watching and why.

To learn more about the new guidelines please visit:

http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v03/n1383/a10.html

Thanks for your effort and support.

It's not what others do it's what YOU do




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Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)

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ADDITIONAL TARGETS: This is big news in the United Kingdom. Additional articles and opinion items that are good targets for your Letters to the Editor may be found at http://www.mapinc.org/area/United+Kingdom




ORIGINAL EDITORIAL

Pubdate: Sat, 13 Sep 2003
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Telegraph Group Limited
Contact:

OFF HIS HEAD

There are two good arguments for the legalisation of cannabis. One of them is practical, one moral. The moral argument is simple: here is an activity that gives pleasure to many and relief to some (sufferers, for example, of multiple sclerosis); an activity whose damaging effects on the health are confined to the user, which is less addictive than tobacco and, probably, less damaging than alcohol. Why not let grown-up citizens make their own decisions, as they do with alcohol, tobacco and fatty foods?

The practical argument is that the country's many, many millions of cannabis users are already determined to ignore the laws that criminalise their recreation - and that our legislature should take sensible account of this. At present, smokers are forced to rely on proper criminals to supply them with drugs, and are ill-served by a market in which you have no idea whether your UKP15 is buying you carbonised pencil erasers, dried oregano or terrifying genetically modified superskunk. We waste police time and money on cannabis-related prosecutions; at the same time, we allow the criminal economy to benefit from what would be, properly taxed and regulated, a vast source of revenue to the Exchequer.

Though very far from conclusive, both these arguments have merit. But they are arguments for legalisation; not for decriminalisation, the worst-of-all-possible-worlds fudge now proposed. To legitimise consumption, while continuing to criminalise supply, is more than just an intellectual nonsense. In moral terms, it is too incoherent to claim any authority. In practical terms, it worsens rather than improves the situation.

The removal of even the vestigial fear of prosecution for smokers will enlarge demand - and do so to the sole benefit of the criminal economy. The innocent, law-abiding dopehead will continue to be sold Oxo cubes. And the law will continue to be an ass - and an underfunded ass at that. It makes you wonder: what is David Blunkett on?




SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Editor,

Your Sep. 13th leader was right on target. Home Secretary David Blunkett's reclassification of cannabis is merely a step in the right direction. There is a big difference between condoning cannabis use and protecting children from drugs. Decriminalisation acknowledges the social reality of cannabis use and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's really needed is a regulated market with age controls. Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical.

As long as cannabis remains illegal and is distributed by organised criminals, consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like crack cocaine. This "gateway" is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think the children themselves are more important than the message.

Sincerely,

Juan Costo

PLEASE NOTE: This is a sample letter only. Your own letter should be substantially different.




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Prepared by: Robert Sharpe

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