Pubdate: Wed, 18 Dec 2002
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Christopher Alty


The article about raids on coffee shops in Worthing (December 12) starts by 
saying Chris Baldwin is a "cannabis campaigner".

This title bestows an admirable quality reminiscent of the ladies who broke 
the law in the name of suffrage.

The similarities are striking as there seem to be many people again willing 
to risk prison to change what they believe is an injustice in British society.

The article seeks to associate cannabis users with burglars, car thieves 
and violent people. While some burglars, car thieves and thugs use 
cannabis, the vast majority of users are not anti-social people. Cannabis 
users are unlikely to be violent individuals.

As a cannabis user for the past 13 years, I can state neither I nor any of 
my friends has ever been involved with any theft crime.

However, in order to purchase cannabis, I must by the nature of prohibition 
go to a criminal.

Many people I have bought cannabis from do not themselves smoke it. They 
sell to make a living in the same way a "fence" may never steal but still 
make a living from selling stolen goods.

They are career criminals with links to other forms of organised crime.

However, as I am there to commit a criminal act, I can hardly condemn 
others for their brand of criminality.

So, because of cannabis' position as an illegal substance, millions are 
exposed to the criminal underworld. This is the link between drugs and 
crime that politicians harp on about.

Chief Inspector Ross Whitfield said it was his intention to lock cannabis 
users away from their families for the Christmas period in order that the 
people of Worthing may enjoy a pleasant and happy yuletide.

Would Worthing residents' festive period be more pleasant than usual if 12 
cannabis users were locked up?

Violent thugs who beat people up after pubs close while high on alcohol are 
a constant and very real worry to all who venture out in the evening. What 
are the police doing to combat this menace?

Surely the time has come for reasoned debate on cannabis. Everyone knows 
someone who smokes it.

I know police officers, magistrates, immigration officers, journalists and 
even county councillors who smoke it regularly. If it were really so bad, 
how come its six million users (a conservative estimate) have not generated 
an unprecedented crime wave?

No one is trying to argue cannabis is harmless. However, it must be up to 
individuals to decide if they wish to take risks with their lives. If not, 
we should award life sentences to all who have attempted to climb K2 (50 
per cent death rate of those who have tried) and parachuting must be a 
major offence, as must motorcycling, hang-gliding and caving.

Christopher Alty, London Road, Ashford, Middx 
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