Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jun 2008
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2008 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: David Maddox
Cited: Scottish Futures Forum
Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance
Referenced: The Forum's full report/recommendations, 74 pages Executive summary, 7 pages
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)
Bookmark (Cannabis - Psychosis)


CANNABIS should be legalised and taxed, an influential Scottish think 
tank recommended yesterday, just weeks after the Government hardened 
its attitude towards the drug, reclassifying it as a class B substance.

The Scottish Futures Forum yesterday published a report on drugs and 
alcohol in Scotland, saying one way to tackle the problem of 
addiction to harder drugs was to tax and regulate cannabis.

Forum chairman Frank Pignatelli said studies of San Francisco, where 
cannabis is illegal, and the Netherlands, where it is decriminalised, 
showed that the idea is worth considering because it breaks the link 
with class A drugs. In the Netherlands, only 17 per cent of cannabis 
sellers were also selling drugs such as crack, cocaine and heroin, 
while in San Francisco it was more than 50 per cent.

The idea was one of several aimed at halving drug addiction in 
Scotland by 2025.

This included introducing shooting galleries, where heroin addicts 
can go and take drugs in supervised surroundings, as revealed in 
yesterday's Scotsman.

The forum's vice-chairman, Tom Wood, former deputy chief constable of 
Lothian and Borders, said that there are "no easy options" and 
insisted that a different and sometimes uncomfortable approach was 
needed to tackle Scotland's drug problems.

He said: "Where we are now is living in a country where there is one 
of the highest prevalences for drugs.

"We're living in a country where we have the highest drug death rate, 
we're living in a country which has one of the highest hep C rates in 
Europe. So we're hardly in a good place now. A lot of the things 
we've done in the past clearly have not worked and so we have to 
move, and I think we are moving in the right direction, but we have 
to move quite radically."

Just last month the Home Office announced it was reclassifying 
cannabis to class B, reversing a decision in 2004 to lower it to class C.

The decision was made because stronger forms of cannabis such as 
skunk are becoming more readily available and there is new evidence 
linking the drug to psychiatric problems.

Both the Home Office and the Scottish Government have made it clear 
that they do not support the idea of legalisation.

The community safety minister Fergus Ewing, who last week unveiled a 
new drugs strategy, welcomed upgrading cannabis to class B.

There were two failed efforts to open cannabis cafes in Edinburgh. 
Scottish Socialist Party member Kevin Williamson almost bankrupted 
himself trying to open one in Haymarket and Paul Stewart was forced 
to quit for Amsterdam after being fined for selling cannabis at his 
cafe Purple Haze in Leith.

The forum's suggestion has been welcomed by the Legalise Cannabis 
Alliance UK, which claimed Scotland is leading the way on the issue.

Don Barnard, a spokesman, said: "The Scots seem to have been taking a 
more mature view and I hope the recommendation is taken seriously."

The idea has also been backed by the Greens. Patrick Harvie, MSP, 
said: "The current approach to criminalising drug users has been one 
of the most obvious failures of social policy over the last 50 years, 
and the Futures Forum should be thanked for their efforts to move the 
debate on. We broadly welcome their report."

But the Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie, who persuaded the SNP to 
produce a drugs strategy as part of a deal on supporting its budget, 
described the forum's report as "flawed".

She added: "The taxing and regulation of cannabis is akin to 
legalisation. This will not decrease use of this extremely harmful 
substance. Fortunately the long-term consequences of cannabis usage 
are now universally acknowledged and there is a consensus at 
Westminster that the damaging downgrading of cannabis to a class C 
substance should be reversed." 
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