[sixties-l] Fw: Special Report: Drugs in Britain; Police End Cannabis Seizures

From: Allen Cohen (SFORACLE@prodigy.net)
Date: Tue Jul 10 2001 - 22:38:13 EDT

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: <Bsarles@aol.com>
    To: <undisclosed-recipients:>
    Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2001 2:15 PM
    Subject: Special Report: Drugs in Britain; Police End Cannabis Seizures

    Special report: drugs in Britain

    Police end cannabis seizures

    New effort to halt tide of hard drugs

    David Rose, Anthony Browne & Faisal Islam/The Observer

    Britain is to abandon the hunt for cannabis smugglers and dealers in the

    most dramatic relaxation of policy on the drug so far.

    Instead the Government has told law enforcement officers, including Customs

    officials and police, to target resources on 'hard drugs', such as heroin

    and cocaine.

    Under the new strategy - part of the most radical shift in drugs policy for

    a generation - large-scale cannabis seizures and prosecutions will now take

    place only as a by-product of investigations into Class A drugs.

    Last week with the blessing of Home Secretary David Blunkett, police in

    Brixton, south London, abandoned their policy of prosecuting people found

    with small amounts of the drug.

    The relaxation comes as the law on possession of cannabis faces its most

    serious legal challenge. The civil rights group Liberty will argue in court

    tomorrow that it is incompatible with the new Human Rights Act.

    The campaign to legalise cannabis gained further momentum yesterday as Clive

    Bates, director of the government-funded anti-smoking group Ash, argued for

    the legalisation of the drug.

    The decision to give up hunting cannabis traffickers was taken by the

    Cabinet Office Committee, Concerted Inter-Agency Drugs Action (Cida). It

    consists of the heads of MI6, MI5, the Customs and Excise investigation

    branch, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the police National

    Crime Squad, and the Association of Chief Police Officers, plus the

    permanent under-secretaries of the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry

    of Defence.

    'It's not that we plan to stop seizing cannabis when we come across it,' one

    senior Customs source said last night. 'However, the need to focus on Class

    A drugs means cannabis seizures will now take place as a by-product, not as

    an end in themselves.'

    Customs sources say the shift is seen as an 'inevitable consequence' of the

    Government's drug strategy, which sets agencies the target of reducing Class

    A drug consumption by half by 2008.

    'Overall, the Government strategy is about reducing harm,' one chief police

    officer said. 'That has to mean placing a priority in reducing the supply of

    Class A drugs.'

    He said regional drug distributors often 'blurred the boundaries'

    betweendrugs, so that inquiries into cocaine and heroin dealers might also

    yield finds of cannabis.

    The focus on hard drugs was partly triggered by the first figures for UK

    consumption of cocaine and heroin, which show Britons are now consuming

    twice as much cocaine as the previous official estimates for the whole of

    Western Europe.

    The figures, from a Home Office research project, show that last year

    British hard drug users took 28,000-36,000kg of heroin and 35,000-41,000 kg

    of cocaine.

    Cannabis was in effect decriminalised in Brixton last week, when police said

    they would no longer prosecute people caught with the drug but give them a

    verbal telling-off. Last year the Government said that having a caution for

    possessing cannabis would no longer carry a criminal record for life.

    The Misuse of Drugs Act, which in 2000 led to 96,000 prosecutions against

    cannabis users, will be challenged in Southwark Crown Court this week when

    Liberty will claim it is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

    Liberty will be defending Jerry Ham, former director and founder of a

    homelessness charity, who has been charged with possession of small amount

    of cannabis. If Liberty is successful, it could make the law unenforceable

    in courts.

    The relaxation of policy on cannabis follows changing public attitudes to

    the drug. This weekend senior Tory MP Alan Duncan supported Peter Lilley,

    the former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, who called for the

    legalisation of sale of the drug in licensed outlets.

    Ash director Clive Bates said: 'We would legalise cannabis in its

    non-smokable forms, such as in cakes, tea or droplets. There's irrationality

    and inconsistency in the policy on tobacco, soft and hard drugs. Even if you

    legalised cannabis in its smokeable forms you couldn't come close to the

    harm done by cigarettes, because no one smokes 20 joints a day.'

    Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
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