Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jul 1999
Source: Daily Record and Sunday Mail (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd.
Mail: Anderston Quay, Glasgow, Scotland, G3 8DA

We've Got It So Wrong On Drugs

A SENIOR judge came under fire after blasting Britain's treatment of soft
drugs offenders yesterday. Lord McCluskey said prisons were full of minor
drugs offenders when the money used to jail them could be better spent on
schools and hospitals. 

He added that police could concentrate on catching more heroin and cocaine
dealers if they were freed from targeting cannabis smokers. And he compared
current policy to the prohibition of alcohol in the USA which, he said,
only succeeded in producing a massive criminal underworld. 

The judge, who is due to retire at the end of this year, said he was not
advocating decriminalisation. But he said there should be a Royal
Commission on sentencing policy and the question should not be left to
Parliament to decide. 

He said: "Politicians are frightened to death of liberalisation in the
drugs field." 

His comments provoked a storm of protest. 

Top psychiatrist Dr Prem Misra hit out: "Scottish hospitals are full of
patients suffering terrible mental health problems caused by cannabis. 


"Doctors will be very much against legalising cannabis because we see
first-hand the health problems caused by this very powerful drug. 

"There are many powerful chemicals in cannabis that induce severe psychosis
and other health problems." 

Tory justice and home affairs spokesman Phil Gallie said: "We don't need
another Royal Commission to hear what the great and the good think should
be done about drugs. 

"The man in the street is very clear about drugs. They want to come down on
dealers like a ton of bricks." 

David MacAuley, former director of Scotland Against Drugs, said: "This is
all part and parcel of the gradual slippery slope of concession after
concession to the liberals when it is quite clear to most sensible Scots
where this is going to lead." 

Lord McCluskey made his call at the annual conference of the Law Society of
Scotland in Edinburgh. He told them that it costs UKP26,000 a year to keep
an inmate in prison, with a total bill of UKP170 million a year in Scotland. 

He said: "A vast number of them are in for drugs. Our police are chasing
cannabis users and cannabis suppliers and alienating youth by turning them
into offenders." 

He compared the damage done to society by cannabis to that caused by booze
and cigarettes, saying: "If you are caught bringing in UKP1million worth of
cannabis you get 24 years. 

"But if you are a leading exporter of alcohol, you get a knighthood by 40
and a peerage by 60." 


He also compared sentences imposed for cannabis to those imposed on rapists. 

Major drugs importers were getting 24 years, but a rapist who attacked a
stranger in the street could expect about six years. 

He asked: "Is importing cannabis really four times worse than the rape of a
woman? There is a vast amount of evidence that suggests cannabis is not a
danger to life."
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