Pubdate: Mon, 27 May 2002
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Eastern Counties Newspapers Group Ltd
Author: Derek Williams
Cited: Home Affairs Committee Report -
Comment: Title by Newshawk


"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 Williams

UK Cannabis Internet Activists
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