Pubdate: Wed, 20 Feb 2008
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Miles Godfrey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


There are an enormous number of people who believe the police
should simply turn a blind eye to cannabis.

But East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton is not one of

He has just written to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith asking her how she
will help Sussex Police close down a cannabis cafe in his constituency
which has been operating with impunity.

The downgrading of cannabis to Class C is, he believes, at the heart
of the problem, with mixed messages being sent to young users who do
not know if the drug is illegal or not.

He is also clear in his belief that cannabis causes disorder and
violence. He told The Argus: "There is absolutely no doubt that officers
do need new powers. I fully back the police in their attempts to tackle

"There is a clear link between cannabis use and anti-social

"We must do all we can to tackle this scourge now. I have written to
the Home Secretary asking her what she can do about this problem.

"It is very hard to get into these places and as soon as the police
do, it appears that the evidence is burnt in a furnace.

"There is no grounds for fortification of what purports to be a cafe
and this needs to be explored.

"Cannabis is illegal and it is the responsibility of the police to
clamp down on illegal substances.

"It was wrong to downgrade cannabis to a Class C drug.

"There have been various reports showing links between cannabis and
crime as well as mental health problems.

"It is not some harmless alternative to alcohol - it is a harmful
substance that is a gateway drug to harder drugs.

"Various drug entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the legislation -
they are exploiting the legislation.

"Some say they are providing a community service - this is just

"The cafe is a great nuisance to neighbours and we need a zero
tolerance approach.

"Various people have come to me to complaining about the fire hazard
and about some of the dubious characters hanging around."

Mr Loughton said the Government needed to address the problem with the
police's ability to enforce the law by carrying out shift raids and
look at whether planning laws needed to be tightened to stop the kind
of heavy fortification seen at the Lancing cafe.

But many still believe that cannabis should be legalised or at the
very least ignored by law makers.

The argument from those in the pro-cannabis camp is that far more
trouble is caused through alcohol abuse than through the smoking of

Joe Bloggs down the pub is far more likely to kick off after ten pints
of Stella than after a joint.

Cannabis cafes, like the one in Lancing, should be allowed to do
business unchecked. After all it doesn't do anyone any harm, does it?

But there is also a significant school of thought within police ranks
that serious crimes are being committed by crooks spurred on by the
effects of cannabis.

The brutal murder of Michael Morgan, the 15-year-old from Lancing, is
a case in point.

His killer and pal, Kieran Wright, 17, had consumed both booze and
cannabis when, on July 1, 2007, he took out two kitchen knives and a
table leg and stabbed him repeatedly in the head.

When Wright murdered Michael Morgan he described how everything had
turned iblack and redi and admitted that he was iwreckedi on booze and

While stopping short of directly blaming the murder on cannabis
misuse, Chief Inspector Lawrence Hobbs, Adur District Commander,
believes there is a clear link between cannabis and disorder.

He told The Argus: "In my view it is not in dispute. I think it is clear
there is a definite link between cannabis and anti-social behaviour. It
is pretty clear that is the case.

"Part of the problem is that cannabis is, and pretty much always has
been seen as a chilled out' drug. A substance that which relaxes
rather than agitates. But equally, scientific studies show that the
drug affects everybody in entirely different ways. A new report
published by the Home Office, and written by the independent Advisory
Council on the Misuse of Drugs on February 12, concludes that cannabis
presents users with a serious risk of physical and psychological harms
and hazards."

And while stopping short of saying that cannabis can cause violence,
it strongly links its use with severe mental health problems which
could lead to violent outbursts.

Further to that it says cannabis is 'anything but harmless' and urges
ministers to give police further powers to tackle its sale and
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake