Pubdate: Sun, 29 Apr 2007
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Tom Gordon
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


HALF of the Scottish National party's shadow cabinet, who could be
running the country within a week, have admitted smoking cannabis
before they entered politics.

Among those who said they had tried the drug are Nicola Sturgeon, the
party' s deputy leader, Shona Robison, who could become Scotland's
next health minister, and Fiona Hyslop, potentially the next schools

Others include Tricia Marwick, the SNP's housing spokeswoman, Stewart
Maxwell, its culture spokesman, and Bruce Crawford, its business
manager and campaign chief.

Crawford said he smoked a joint to relieve the disappointment of
watching Scotland lose a football match against Spain.

Fergus Ewing, the party's transport spokesman, said he had been
suspended for two weeks after being caught smoking the drug as a
16-year-old pupil at Loretto, Scotland's oldest independent boarding
school, near Edinburgh.

Sturgeon and the other six frontbenchers said they did not believe
that experimenting with a soft drug in their youth should count
against serving politicians.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, John Swinney, the shadow finance
minister, Kenny MacAskill, the shadow justice minister, and Richard
Lochhead, the shadow environment minister, said they had never tried
cannabis, but did not think youthful experimentation should overshadow
a politician's career.

All the shadow ministers contacted by The Sunday Times were opposed to
decriminalising or legalising cannabis, referring to growing evidence
that more powerful modern varieties appear to be a contributory factor
in some mental illnesses.

Jack McConnell and other Labour ministers and deputies refused to
answer questions on whether or not they had smoked cannabis.

Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat leader, and his party colleagues
Tavish Scott, Ross Finnie, Robert Brown and George Lyon said they had
never tried the drug.

Annabel Goldie, the Conservative leader, said she had not used it. Her
deputy, Murdo Fraser, refused to say if he had or had not. David
Cameron, the UK Conservative leader, was punished at Eton after being
caught smoking cannabis.

Ms Goldie said: "I certainly wouldn't regard as culpable or as
disgraced anybody who, in their youth, did experiment with substances.
Good heavens! People are human. I think the important thing is what
they come to realise in adulthood, and the sensible decisions they
then make.

Mr Fraser said: "I take the David Cameron line on these issues.
Anything I might have done in a previous life is of no relevance today."

Sturgeon, expected to play a senior role in a future SNP-led
administration, said: "I experimented when I was a student, but it
made me sick, so I didn't use it again. It and I didn't get on. I'm
against it being decriminalised. I have never been persuaded of it
being harmless. I think there is evidence that it leads to addiction
and is a pathway into harder drugs."

Robison said: "I think it was a party and it might have been getting
passed around. I tried it once, didn't like it, and had a puff as
everybody did, and that was it. If there were politicians who were
regularly puffing away now then that would be a different matter."
Marwick said: "I did it once and it was horrible. Somebody told me how
to do it, and I choked and I coughed, and it was the most disgusting
thing I have ever tasted. I have never tasted it since. It was at a
flat at a party in Edinburgh. This is meant to make me mellow, they
told me, but it made me sick."

Crawford said he was in his twenties when he tried the drug on a trip
home from Spain after a dismal World Cup qualifier by Scotland. It did
nothing for him. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake