Pubdate: Thu, 08 Mar 2007
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Newsquest Media Group


Mary Brett, a former biology teacher, has campaigned for stricter
laws on cannabis.

She is UK spokeswoman for Europe Against Drugs and has advised several
parliamentary committees, spoken at meetings in Westminster and worked
closely with MPs. advertisement

She has written a book for the Conservative policy group called
Cannabis - Cause for Concern?

She said: "Down-classification of cannabis has produced many

Legalisation would be disastrous.

Since down-classification was suggested in 2001, admissions of
cannabis users to psychiatric hospitals for mental illness have
increased by 40 per cent. One in four of us carries a defective gene,
triggered if cannabis is used, which increases the risk of mental illness.

"In the first year, 2004-5, one per cent more of our 11 to 15-year-
olds started to use it. Of the 1.75 million regular young users, one
per cent amounts to many thousands of vulnerable children.

"Scientific papers show the younger they are when they start using,
the more likely they are to become addicted, progress to other drugs
or suffer from mental illness.

"With legalisation, use would soar. It must be safe, otherwise the
Government wouldn't have done this,' would be the message.

"Children take what they want to hear from events and this would play
into their hands. Drug dealers will start pushing other drugs and
continue to target young children.

"At what age? Surely not below 18 because cannabis, like alcohol, is
an intoxicant. We have not been very successful in keeping children
from getting alcohol or tobacco.

"What strength? More than 60 per cent of the cannabis used today in
Britain is the product of selective breeding, for example skunk or
netherweed with a THC (substance giving the high') content of anything
from nine to 27 per cent.

Formerly cannabis resin, with a THC content of four to five per cent,
was the commonest form.

"What about the price if it is Government regulated?

"Dealers will always undercut prices especially if it's taxed. Legal
alcohol and tobacco with slashed prices are widely trafficked and smuggled.

"Fat-soluble THC clogs brain cell membranes for weeks so chemical
signalling between the nerve cells is disrupted.

Learning, memory and concentration are all impaired.

"There is the risk of lung cancer and head and neck cancers not to
mention reduced sperm counts, pregnant women producing children with
cognitive deficits, defective immune systems and heart problems.

"We've enough tragedies with legal alcohol and tobacco. Why add to our
toll of misery?"


In 2004, Chris Baldwin was sentenced to six months in prison after
opening a cannabis cafe in Worthing. He is a member of the Legalise
Cannabis Alliance.

Mr Baldwin suffered a back injury as a child. He claims cannabis is
essential for pain relief.

He has smoked the drug for 38 years and argues it is time to end the

He said: "I have used the drug for a long time and it has never caused
me or anyone I know any problems.

"It's a matter of human rights. Even if it was harmful, the Government
allows people to harm themselves with alcohol but not cannabis. I
consider it to be less harmful than alcohol. I think it's the safest
drug known to man.

There are so few side effects.

"I consider statistics about violence and cannabis utter

"Prohibition doesn't work.

There's an awful lot of adulterated cannabis on the market. Cannabis
is not going to destroy society. Prohibition is stopping people making
an adult choice. The drug does no harm to anybody.

"I have had lots of medication from doctors which has sent me half
insane, whereas cannabis does the job fine. When I went to prison I
was denied cannabis and it was a useful experience for me. When I had
no cannabis I had no problem quitting. After a few days I was in so
much pain I had to be prescribed liquid valium which turned me into a

"I am under the influence of cannabis as I speak. I don't think it
impairs my functions. People with predisposed problems may experience
mental health problems but how many people suffer mental health
problems caused by alcohol?

No one is saying ban alcohol.

"It's sheer hypocrisy. Millions of people use cannabis without having
any problems but, because of a few people, it is argued cannabis
shouldn't be legalised on the grounds it is dangerous. Why aren't cars
or alcohol banned?

They're dangerous too.

"Prohibition makes cannabis more appealing to the young. While it is
on the black market there is no control over the product. In Holland,
users don't worry about the quality of the product because there is no
prohibition. If we make cannabis legal it would free an awful lot of
police time and empty a lot of prison cells.

"If you want to know about gateway drugs, look at tobacco and alcohol.
Most people's first brush with drugs is alcohol or tobacco.

"There is another serious drug we give to children every day, sugar.
Some drugs which cause dependency are acceptable and others, whether
they cause dependency or not, are not. It's hypocrisy. We tell our
children cannabis is dangerous but let them destroy their lives with
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MAP posted-by: Derek