DRUG LAW CHANGES 'CONFUSING AND COUNTERPRODUCTIVE'
A leading campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis says that the Home Secretary's failure to decriminalise the supply of the drug risks increasing the trade in hard drugs.
Southport Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies - who faces trial in October charged with possessing cannabis in a political protest (all reporting restrictions lifted) - has described the changes due to be announced later today as "confusing and counterproductive".
Mr Davies said that the Home Secretary had failed to recognise that the existence of 900 cannabis coffee shops in Holland had separated traders in soft and hard drugs, and helped to bring about a significant fall in heroin use.
The MEP commented: "The government's own medical advisers reported last March that cannabis was less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco. It is a massive injustice and a huge waste of waste police time to criminalise people for its possession. In this respect the reclassification of cannabis is long overdue and welcome.
"But by refusing to follow the Dutch government in decriminalising the social supply of cannabis, the Home Secretary will force users of the drug into the hands of unscrupulous dealers who will have a financial interest in encouraging them to sample dangerous drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine.
"The separation between soft and hard drugs has dramatically reduced rates of heroin addiction in the Netherlands. The government's failure to follow this example may well create more problems, not less."
Mr Davies also condemned the Home Secretary's refusal to follow the advice of an all-party group of MPs in reducing the classification of ecstasy to Class B.
"I do not regard ecstasy as a safe drug," he said. "But millions of people are said to take it each month, and the figures of those who come to harm suggest that it may be no more dangerous than an excess of alcohol.
"David Blunkett says that ecstasy should remain in the same category as heroin and crack cocaine, but the reality is that neither the police nor the courts will treat it in this way. That can only send out confusing messages to young people and bring the law into disrepute."
Article submitted by Andrew Cutting on behalf of Chris Davies MEP
Be warned: The law has not changed, there has only been a proposal of reclassification which if accepted by parliament may become law in July 2003.
For more information see the National Drugs helpline (www.ndh.org.uk)