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2002-10-28 17:23:38
Euro-MP sentenced on drugs charge

Southport Euro-MP Chris Davies, convicted today (Oct 28) of possession of cannabis, has declared that it is time for action not words in the campaign to reform Britain's failing drug laws.

The Liberal Democrat MEP pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to defying the law at a demonstration in Stockport last December when he held up a small quantity of cannabis resin stuck to the back of a postage stamp to show his support for establishing Dutch-style cannabis coffee shops.

Judge Stuart Fish fined him 100 and ordered him to pay prosecution and police costs of 3,500. His legal bill is expected in total to amount to some 5,000.

In a statement Mr Davies said:

"I have never used cannabis in my life, but I am passionate in my belief that the law must be changed and that there must be a separation between soft and hard drugs if we are to cut crime and reduce harm.

"I made this protest in support of the first cannabis coffee shop in Britain, which operated peacefully in nearby Stockport for more than a year, and in support of its founder, my namesake, Colin Davies. He has now been sentenced to three years' imprisonment, but if he was in Holland he would have been given a license by the local council.

"The Dutch policy of permitting cannabis coffee shops has ensured that cannabis users need never come across heroin dealers. It has been hugely successful. Holland now has the smallest problem of drugs misuse in Europe, and the lowest rate of heroin addiction. The separation of soft and hard drugs works, and we should follow this example.

"The Home Secretary says that he intends to make the possession of cannabis a non-arrestable offence, but that the maximum penalty for the supply of this soft drug will be 14 years imprisonment. This will drive cannabis users into the hands of heroin dealers and make the situation worse.

"The judge accused me of being "highly irresponsible", and if I had been in his position no doubt I would have said the same. But I am a representative as well as a lawmaker, and the millions of people in Britain who have used cannabis at some time in their lives deserve some representation from politicians who believe in actions as well as words.

"Those who accuse me of wasting police time should be reminded that the Government's own advisers say that cannabis is less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco, yet tens of thousands are arrested each year for its possession. This is a ridiculous waste of police resources, and an attack on individual liberties. It must be brought to an end.

"My objective has been to stimulate public debate, promote a change in the law, and cut the amount of police time that is wasted at present on making criminals out of cannabis users who have done no harm to anyone else. If my action in any way helps achieve these objectives then the costs of 5,000 I have incurred will have been money well spent."

Article submitted by Avril Manderson on behalf of Chris Davies MP
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