Pubdate: Mon, 29 Apr 2002
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2002
Author: Alison Hardie


MO MOWLAM, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, continued her attack on 
the government yesterday when she bitterly criticised its drugs policy.

To the surprise and dismay of her former Cabinet colleagues, Ms Mowlam 
called for the legalisation of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

Ms Mowlam - who as Cabinet Office minister was responsible for the 
government's anti-drugs policy - said legalising and taxing drugs was the 
only way to deal with the problem.

"You'd have the money from tax, which if it were ring-fenced for working 
with addicts whether cannabis, pills, barbiturates, coke or heroin you'd 
have a chance of beating it," she said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper.

"I think that is the most effective way because in the end I don't think 
you could ever stop it.

"Why not regulate it, take the tax from it and seriously deal with 
addiction which has been around since the 1900s?"

Her comments are likely to irritate ministers following the recent 
publication of her autobiography in which she criticised Tony Blair's style 
of government and the way she was forced out of her job as Northern Ireland 

Ms Mowlam said in her book she blamed Mr Blair's closest aides for her 
demise, but stopped short of accusing the Prime Minister.

The Conservatives pounced on Ms Mowlam's suggestions with Theresa May, the 
shadow transport secretary, warning that they could create "open season" 
and increase drug dependency.

She told GMTV that Ms Mowlam was focusing on the wrong end of the problem 
and the Tories were looking more at the issue of cutting drug dependency.

Mrs May said: "I fear if you legalise them all then you potentially 
increase dependency because people think it is okay and more people will 
try it, some of those who at the moment don't and don't move on 
particularly to hard drugs because of the legal situation," she said.

"I think if it is legalised there will be that sort of open season."

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said there was a 
"perfectly credible case" to legalise drugs but it was not internationally 
legally possible.

"We are bound by conventions that we signed in the UK some time ago that 
say you have to control narcotics, and without changing the conventions we 
could not do it without breaking our international agreements," he told GMTV.

His party took the view that cannabis should be legalised, but not heroin 
or other drugs.

"It is in a different category from the others. It is widely used. Although 
it does some harm it does minimal harm."

The Dutch and Portuguese had gone down that route without international 
agreement but the EU and wider international community could be asked to 
renegotiate the conventions, he said.

"What we have got to do is break the link between the criminal suppliers 
and people who use drugs whether it is recreational drugs like cannabis or 
hard drugs like heroin."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth