Squall Download 3, March/April 2000, pg. 14.
A recent MORI poll suggested that 80 per cent of the British population now want a more relaxed approach to cannabis. Not so surprising considering that the UK now has the highest incidence of cannabis use in Europe. With an immanent report from the Police Foundation recommending the 'depenalisation' of Cannabis use, here's a taster of some of the recent flurry of comment and revelation...
- Bill Clinton may pretend he never inhaled but a new book on the life of his deputy, Al Gore, reveals that Clinton's sidekick and possible replacement as US president, used to chuff like a trooper. Gore's old friend and colleague, John Warnecke, says that he and Gore, "smoked regularly, as buddies. Marijuana, hash. I was his regular supplier. I didn't deal dope, just gave it to him. We smoked more than once, more than a few times, we smoked a lot. We smoked in his car, in his house, we smoked in his parents' house. We smoked at weekends. We smoked a lot."
- When Alex Salmond, head of the Scottish Nationalists, was asked whether he'd ever smoked cannabis, he replied: "Yes but I never exhaled."
- As a cabinet minister whose portfolio includes national drugs policy, Mo Mowlam had every reason to tow the official line on cannabis. Respect due then for her admission that not only did she smoke Marijuana when she was a student but that she had inhaled too! "I never cancel anything in or anything out," replied Mo Mowlam when asked about the possibility of a decriminalisation of Cannabis use.
- When asked about his own past, BBC newsreader, John Humphreys' replied: "None of your business, in short. I can't quite see why we should be excited as to whether somebody puffed on a spliff at the age of 20 or not. I'd be slightly surprised if most students hadn't. In fact I'd probably treat with a certain scepticism any 40 or 50-year-old who'd been to university and said they'd never so much as had a puff on a spliff."
- A survey of the 81 MPs who joined the House of Commons in 1997, revealed that 22 of them had tried illegal drugs. David Prior, now Tory deputy chairman said: "I associate my experience with drugs soft ones not with Mick Jagger or Aldous Huxley, but with passing my law degree and working in a bank. You can wear a pinstripe suit and be utterly conventional and still roll a joint."
- Publicist Max Clifford didn't see what the fuss was about either: "I know people that take it. I know politicians that use it so what? To a lot of people it's a form of relaxation and if you are under tremendous pressure, if you find something that doesn't harm you or anybody else then good luck to you. Most of the people I've represented took cannabis."
- Keith Hellawell, Tony Blair's faltering drug czar, finally came out of his useless closet to assert that maybe Cannabis is not as bad as Jack Straw makes out: "By far the greater proportion of arrests are for cannabis and I am looking for a change on that. The hidden truth about drugs in Britain is that we need to discriminate between different drugs and the relative harm caused and then talk openly about the difference we can make. The focus is going to be on the drugs that cause the major harm."
- Some drugs which cause a "greater harm" than cannabis were testified to by Dr George Ventners, chairman of the British Medical Association's Scottish committee for public health medicine: "We want to encourage debate on this issue and should examine the evidence that has existed for a long time, rather than people leaping to prejudice. There is much more damage done by smoking and alcohol than by cannabis."
- For the first time a serving police chief has been brazen enough to tout the decriminalisation issue in public. In a report published recently by Cleveland Constabulary and endorsed by their chief constable, Barry Shaw, it says: "There is overwhelming evidence to show that the prohibition-based policy in place in this country since 1971 has not been effective in controlling the availability of, or use of, prescribed drugs. If there is indeed a 'war on drugs' it is not being won; drugs are demonstrably cheaper and more easily available than ever before. If prohibition does not work, then either the consequences of this have to be accepted or an alternative approach must be found. The most obvious alternative approach is the legalisation and subsequent regulation of some or all drugs." The report also notes that the illegal nature of the drugs trade causes further unnecessary risks to drug users because of uncertainty over quality and purity.
- Recent Home Office figures reveal a record high of 128,000 people arrested for drugs in 1998; a 13% rise on the previous year. This sharp increase includes a 30% increase in heroin, a 32% increase in cocaine and a 36% increase in crack. Despite the dramatic increases in hard drug arrests, 76% of all arrests were for cannabis.
- A report by the Police Foundation part sponsored by the Princes' Trust is expected to recommend that cannabis be 'depenalised' when published in March. The Prince of Wales has invited Mo Mowlam and Keith Hellawell to speak at a conference about the subject.
- According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency, the UK is now exporting marijuana. In a report prepared recently by US intelligence officers monitoring the European drugs trade, Britain's emergence as a marijuana exporting country builds on the UK's growing reputation in the drugs world for growing superior weed.
- According to the EU Monitoring Centre for Drugs, 40 million European citizens have smoked Cannabis.
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