Pubdate: Fri, 28 Feb 2003
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2003 The Herald
Author: Catherine Lyst
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


CALLS by the Scottish Socialists to legalise cannabis and ban alcohol
advertising yesterday came under attack from opposition parties and
the whisky trade.

Tommy Sheridan, the party leader, said the move would help fund drug
rehabilitation services as well as saving NHS and police resources.

The Glasgow MSP praised the move by David Blunkett, the home
secretary, to reclassify cannabis from a class B to class C drug, but
said it did not go far enough.

Mr Sheridan insisted his party was not promoting drug use and promised
that socialists would ban alcohol advertising.

He urged MSPs to support his stance, despite a new report which
identified growing numbers of young Scottish cannabis users as having
"vanishing lung syndrome", a condition in which the lungs are
gradually filled by huge cysts.

Mr Sheridan said: "Cannabis is a harmful drug. Our argument is that it
is no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol, but we don't criminalise
those who smoke or drink. None of the cannabis research carried out
over the past 50 years has been conclusive. Tobacco also affects the
lungs but we don't stop people from smoking.

"Heroin is ripping our communities apart but 80% of all drug
convictions are for possession of cannabis. The legalisation of
cannabis is the only way to break the link with the drug dealers. Far
too much police time is wasted in the pursuit of cannabis."

The socialists' proposals follow a warning from the United Nations
that Mr Blunkett's decision to reclassify cannabis would undermine
worldwide efforts to fight the drug.

Michael Matheson, SNP shadow justice minister, said yesterday: "To
suggest we can fund NHS services such as drug rehabilitation through
legalising cannabis is fanciful."

David Williamson, of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "The whisky
trade employs 10,000 people in Scotland and 65,000 throughout the UK.
To ban alcohol advertising would have a serious knock-on effect."

The Portman Group, the alcohol industry body promoting sensible
drinking, said a ban was unnecessary as advertising was already
strictly regulated.

Bill Aitken, the Tory deputy justice and home affairs spokesman,
identified cannabis as a gateway drug to heroin use, but this was
rejected by Scottish Drugs Forum as a myth. 
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