Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jan 2004
Source: Hull Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd
Author: Melanie Phillips
Bookmark: (Soros, George)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


HE IS hardly known for his liberalising zeal -- indeed, many of his critics 
would claim that he is the most authoritarian Home Secretary for years in 
his attempts to prove he is tough on crime.

Yet now, by deciding to downgrade the law on cannabis, David Blunkett has 
scored a truly spectacular own goal. He has managed to unite a vast army of 
opponents -- doctors, police, teachers and parents -- in a ferocious 
backlash that is threatening his political credibility.

So why on earth did he do it? Why has he reversed the tough approach to 
drugs of his predecessor, Jack Straw, and blundered into a crisis of his 
own making?

And have no doubt that this is a crisis. By reclassifying cannabis from a 
Class B to a Class C drug, Blunkett has thrown the law into abject 
confusion. Many now wrongly think cannabis is legal or safe. The police say 
they don't know what they are supposed to do with cannabis users.

The UN's International Narcotics Control Board has warned of 'worldwide 
repercussions' from the British initiative, which other countries fear will 
under-mine their own anti-drug campaigns and encourage cannabis cultivation.

Mr Blunkett remains defiant and insists that the change simply allows the 
police to concentrate on tackling Class A drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

But this is completely disingenuous. Concentrating on heroin and cocaine is 
already police policy. Cannabis has been off the radar for years -- as the 
chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Andy Hayman, readily 

'Seizures of cannabis have been decreasing and the number of cannabis users 
being brought before the courts has been reduced,' he says. 'Cannabis is 
not really a police priority.'

Nor is it a priority for customs. In 2000, a Cabinet committee secretly 
decided that customs officers would completely stop targeting cannabis 
smuggling -- again, on the grounds that heroin and cocaine mattered more.

According to former customs assistant chief investigation officer David 
Raynes, all specific investigations of major cannabis traffickers were 
stopped, along with any operations to disrupt the trade. The only cannabis 
seizures made were ones discovered in the course of other investigations.

SO WHY does the Government claim downgrading is needed to stop the police 
wasting time on cannabis? They have already stopped bothering with it. 
Indeed, reclassification is a consequence of the battle being given up.

According to Mr Raynes, the decision to halt customs swoops produced a 
flood of cannabis onto British streets, causing the price to drop and 
providing a major boost to the overall drug culture. This then fuelled a 
fashionable belief that cannabis was now so mainstream that it was wrong to 
penalise its users.

In 2000, a report by a Police Foundation committee claimed that cannabis 
was less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, said the law was making things 
worse by jailing people for possessing it, and recommended that the drug 
should be downgraded.

The committee chairman, Dame Ruth Runciman, says: 'I'm not in any way a 
legaliser. What I'm interested in is increasing the credibility of the law. 
I'm against criminalising tens of thousands of young people where we can 
avoid it.'

Central to the Runciman approach was a belief that the liberalisation of 
cannabis in the Netherlands had been a runaway success, an impression 
assiduously peddled by Dutch authorities.

The truth is that use of cannabis has more than doubled among Dutch 
schoolchildren since the soft policy began. Young Dutch people have also 
become Europe's biggest users of cocaine and Ecstasy, and there has been an 
explosion of drug-related crime.

Yet opinion within the British Government has steadily moved the Dutch way. 
After leaving her position as Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam was put 
in charge of drug policy before the 2001 election, even though she was in 
favour of cannabis legalisation.

Perhaps the most baleful and farreaching influence, which was not revealed 
until last year, was the presence of Mike Trace, deputy to the then drugs 
czar, Keith Hellawell.

To the astonishment and horror of international drug-enforcement agencies, 
Mr Trace was unmasked by the Daily Mail as the driving force behind a 
co-ordinated international effort to disband the world's anti-drug laws by 

 From British headquarters partly financed by the Open Society Institute, 
which is funded by the billionaire drug legalisation campaigner George 
Soros, Mr Trace was pulling the strings of a huge operation in which 
international activists were agitating covertly to manipulate government 
and public opinion.

Their aim was simple: to subvert the UN laws that make cannabis and other 
drugs illegal.

Mr Trace was in a position of unrivalled influence at the very heart of the 
British, European and UN drug establishments. Yet in his own words, he was 
a 'fifth columnist', working covertly to undermine drug laws he was 
supposed to uphold and being secretly paid to do so by notorious 
international legalisers.

As Britain's deputy drug czar, he was close to Mo Mowlam and had 
considerable access to ministers. The question must arise to what extent he 
shifted government thinking towards the legalisation agenda promoted by his 
international paymasters.

But others were pushing the Government in this direction, too -- in 
particular the drug charity Drugscope, whose former director Roger Howard 
was a key influence within the Home Office.

DRUGSCOPE is a fervent proponent of 'harm reduction', an approach that 
holds that instead of trying to prevent people from using drugs at all, we 
should accept them as a way of life and minimise the harm they cause 
through education and treatment.

Harm reduction has become the orthodoxy among drug charities, largely 
because of the dominance of pro-legalisation organisations massively funded 
by George Soros.

In their more candid moments, legalisers admit that 'harm reduction' is a 
cover for drug legalisation. Drugscope denies that it is promoting a covert 
legalisation agenda, but its arguments fall only a small step short of that 

Moreover, it has links to the very network of international legalisers that 
Mr Trace attempted to co-ordinate.

It belongs to the European NGO Council on Drug Policy (ENCOD), an 
organisation of voluntary drug bodies which believes: 'Drug use as such 
does not represent the huge threat for society it is supposed to do.'

ENCOD wants a legal framework to bring about the industrialisation of drug 
production. To achieve this, it proposes that public opinion should be 
softened up by 'harm reduction' policies which will pave the way to 
eventual legalisation.

Whatever direct role these forces may have played in the development of the 
Govern-ment's thinking, the fact is that it has dramatically adopted their 

When he announced the downgrading of cannabis to the Commons in July 2002, 
Mr Blunkett promised that 'harm minimisation will be given greater priority'.

Last March, there was a private meeting on drug policy at Wilton Park in 
Sussex, organised by Drugscope and the Foreign Office.

Participants from Third World countries who were anxious to learn how to 
combat drug use were astonished to find the agenda dominated by notorious 
drug legalisers discussing how to overturn the UN drug conventions.

ONE OF them boasted that harm reduction had spread throughout Europe and 
was now 'irreversible'. 'The flood,' he declared, 'is already on this side 
of the dyke.'

Mr Blunkett is adamant that the Government will not legalise cannabis or 
any other drug. He insists that he is acting on the advice of the Advisory 
Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which recommended reclassification of 
cannabis in March 2002.

But the Advisory Council has itself been accused of having a drug 
liberalisation agenda.

The Lambeth MP Kate Hoey has claimed that at least 13 of its 32 members -- 
who include Drugscope's former head Roger Howard -- are committed to 
liberalising drug policy.

The council's chairman, Sir Michael Rawlins, brushes the charge aside. But 
the fact remains that the council has been trying to get cannabis 
reclassified for 20 years. And now the insidious 'harm reduction' gospel 
seems certain to make the effects of that policy all the more damaging.

Panicked by the backlash that downgrading has produced, the Home Office has 
spent UKP 1 million on an advertising campaign which it says will tell 
young people that cannabis is dangerous and still illegal.

But since most drug educators adopt the defeatist 'harm reduction' 
approach, that message will be subverted at every turn.

Their view is that because most children take drugs anyway, education 
materials should not try to prevent them from doing so, but should 
'minimise harm' by providing them with 'informed choices'.

Mary Brett, head of biology at Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Amersham, 
Buckinghamshire, says this approach is dangerous and wrong.

'By no means do all kids use drugs,' she said. 'Maybe 30 to 40per cent try 
them, but most give up after a puff or two. It's simply wrong to think drug 
use is inevitable.

'As for safety, there is no guaranteed safe way to take any drug. There 
should be no choice for children -- we should tell them drugs are illegal. 
Do we let them 'choose' to break the law by speeding or petty pilfering?'

YET DRUG education guidelines provided by the Government's curriculum 
authority use the phrase 'informed choices' over and over again; even at 
age 11, children are encouraged to make 'informed choices'.

Drugscope, says Mrs Brett, constantly states in its information materials 
that cannabis is not physically addictive, which is untrue. Its website 
contains very few facts about the harm the drug can do.

'One of the booklets about cannabis distributed by Drugscope shows a 
picture of two young chaps in a field of cannabis plants,' says Mrs Brett.

'One of them is wearing a cap with the logo "Have fun, take care". What 
sort of message does that send?'

Whatever Mr Blunkett thinks he is doing by downgrading cannabis, there is 
no doubt that a sea-change has taken place in government which has swung 
behind the 'harm reduction' agenda promoted by drug legalisers.

This agenda has found a receptive audience because many think the law 
against cannabis has failed.

What they miss is that enforcement of this law collapsed years ago -- as 
the result of deliberate government decisions.

It is not the law that has failed, but the willingness of this society to 
provide a clear message that cannabis use is illegal, dangerous and wrong.

Now Mr Blunkett's downgrading appears to have produced the worst of all 
possible worlds -- chaos, confusion and a dangerous signal to young people 
that smoking cannabis is harmless fun.

His officials say he wanted to make his name with his drugs policy. This 
cannot be quite what he had in mind.

* Additional reporting by Vanessa Jolly