Pubdate: Thu, 31 Aug 2003
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Matthew Tempest, political correspondent


The Green party's spokesman on drugs has been jailed for six weeks for 
cultivating cannabis, it was announced today.

Shane Collins, who stood for the party at the last general election and is 
one of Britain's leading advocates for the legalisation of the Class B 
drug, was sent down earlier this week.

His sentence, following a police raid on his house in Brixton earlier this 
year, has outraged party colleagues, who first became aware of his 
incarceration after Mr Collins failed to turn up for a "Don't Flunk It, 
Blunkett" rally outside the Home Office on Monday.

Darren Johnson, the leader of the Greens on the London assembly, said: 
"This just reinforces our view that the law is in urgent need of reform. 
Putting someone in jail for doing something that has manifestly caused no 
one any harm is ridiculous."

Jenny Jones, the deputy mayor of London, added: "This is ludicrous when 
we're on the point of changing the law. It's even worse when the UK has its 
highest prison population ever. The criminal justice system is under huge 
pressure, yet we're being heavy-handed on victimless crime."

Hugo Charlton, a criminal barrister and the party's home affairs 
spokesperson, said: "We've recently had a senior police officer urging 
Britain's police forces to turn a blind eye to speeding offences. Speeding 
kills, cannabis doesn't. What sort of priority is that?"

Mr Collins, who is hoping to stand for the Greens in next year's London 
assembly elections, was been the main organiser behind this year's Legalise 
Cannabis festival in London, which attracted more than 20,000 demonstrators.

He was a leading figure in Brixton campaigning to have the former Lambeth 
police commander, Brian Paddick, reinstated.

Last month the Home Office backtracked on plans to reclassify cannabis as a 
Class C drug, postponing the move until next January.

In March a Joseph Roundtree Foundation report found that for the first time 
more than 50% of cannabis smoked in the UK had been home-grown, and called 
on the government to remove penalties for home cultivators.
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