Pubdate: Sun, 01 Jul 2001
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Rosie Waterhouse
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


BRITAIN'S first drugs czar, Keith Hellawell, has softened his hard line
on cannabis, saying that he no longer believes it necessarily leads on
to harder drugs.

In a significant U-turn the anti-drugs co-ordinator, who was sidelined
by David Blunkett, the home secretary, last month, said: "I do not
believe it's a gateway drug."

The shift signals an end to Britain's apparent "zero tolerance" of soft
drugs, coming only days after Blunkett endorsed a police experiment to
let off people caught in possession of cannabis with only a warning.

Until now, Hellawell and ministers have not only opposed
decriminalisation but also rejected calls to downgrade possession of
cannabis to a lesser offence. Last November Hellawell said that research
from New Zealand had convinced him that cannabis was a gateway to more
harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

However, last week he said: "The evidence we've got from New Zealand is
that if someone smokes a joint of cannabis a week they are 60 times more
likely to be involved in harder drugs than those who do not use it at
that level. That is one piece of evidence.

"That does not mean that everybody who smokes 50 joints a year will
automatically be involved in hard drugs."

Hellawell also supported the scheme in Lambeth, south London, where
police will no longer arrest and caution people caught with cannabis.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk