Pubdate: Wed, 02 Jul 2003
Source: Evening Standard (London, UK)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Isabel Oakeshott, Evening Standard
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Doctors will today make an extraordinary call for the legalisation of all

The move comes as a devastating new report sparked fears of an epidemic of
schizophrenia caused by the widespread used of cannabis by young people.

Scientists claim that cannabis users are seven times more likely to develop
mental illness.

The study - by Professor Robin Murray, head of the Institute of Psychiatry
in London - says the drug is already a leading cause of psychosis in the UK.

Yet at the British Medical Association's annual conference today, dozens of
doctors will back radical moves to make illegal drugs including heroin and
cocaine available from authorised government outlets.

The suggestion has appalled many members of the medical community - who
believe such relaxation of the law would be catastrophic.

Many medics believe changes should be limited to the legalisation of
cannabis for medicinal uses, in particular for pain relief for multiple
sclerosis sufferers.

But others want the government to go far further.

They say so-called recreational drugs, such as ecstacy and cocaine should be
quality controlled, taxable and made available in purified form from
licensed outlets.

Dr Connie Fozzard, who leads support for a motion urging relaxation of the
law, said: "I have no doubt that it would be wise to decriminalise drugs. At
the moment, some of the problems are due to the fact that they are not
getting the drug in pure form.

"This would not happen if they were available from licensed premises. We are
an adult society, and should treat people as adults."

She is expected to be backed by dozens of colleagues, including Dr Keith
Brent, of the Junior Doctors' Committee, who said: "Prohibition of drugs
simply doesn't work.

"Something different needs to be done, and that is to legalise everything.
If the authorities provided drugs, that would be a way of monitoring it."

The motion to make decriminalisation of all drugs official BMA policy is
certain to be voted down today, though the support for it reveals a high
level of frustration with government drugs policy.

Psychiatrist Dr Robin Arnold, who frequently works with drug addicts,
claimed the widespread black-market availability of methadone - a heroin
substitute supposedly available only on prescription - showed legalisation
is unworkable.

He said: "The streets are awash with it. Anyone who wants to legalise all
drugs is living in cloud cuckoo land. How would it work?"

The cannabis study by Professor Murray, one of the world's leading
authorities on mental illness, points to official figures showing a third of
all 15-year-olds have tried the drug.

And Professor Murray warned: "The more cannabis that's consumed, the more
psychiatrists we are going to need."

He told the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Edinburgh that 80 per cent of
the patients he assessed with their first episode of psychosis had been
taking cannabis.
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