Drug Body Says Punishment Does Not Stop Drug Use
(c) Reuters, Nov. 20, 2001.
Nov 20 (Reuters) - People should not face criminal charges for possessing
small amounts of any illegal drug, a leading UK drugs research
organisation said on Tuesday.
"The evidence shows that criminal sanctions do not stop people using
drugs," DrugScope Chief Executive Roger Howard said in a statement.
He said taking people to court for possessing small amounts of any drug
was not a proportionate response.
Referring to cannabis, a spokesman for DrugScope said: "Criminalisation
is more harmful than the drug itself."
A representative of the organisation, which provides input to policy
development, was due to brief a British parliamentary committee to make
the point on decriminalisation.
The comments come nearly a month after Home Secretary (interior minister)
David Blunkett reclassified cannabis so that possession of small amounts
is no longer deemed an arrestable offence. The ruling put the drug in the
same category as steroids and anti-depressants.
Mike Ashton, editor of the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Findings,
argued in a report commissioned by DrugScope that cannabis legislation has
no effect on patterns of drug use.
Ashton examined six legal frameworks ranging from total prohibition of
cannabis to free availability, and evidence from changes in the law in
Australia, parts of the United States and the Netherlands.
He said the most harmful effects of the drug -- widespread use and high
levels of personal use -- were unaffected by changes in the law.
"It is clear that cannabis use has remained relatively unaffected by
different legislative frameworks," Ashton said.
The report said limited legal use of cannabis would remove it from the
black market, sever the link with organised crime, create revenue through
tax and prevent minors from using it.
But Ashton did not advocate free availability of cannabis.
"The changes we have seen so far are very, very short of legalisation,
even in the Netherlands," Ashton said. "It is likely that the
free availability option...would result in some increase in cannabis
When addressing the parliamentary committee, DrugScope intended to raise
the question of reclassifying all drugs and extending the prescription of
drugs such as heroin.
A spokesman said: "Blunkett has already made significant steps in the
direction. We hope it will be the beginning and not the end of
release can be read at: http://www.drugscope.org.uk/news_item.asp?a=3&intID=580
Details of DrugScope's
plan can be found at at: http://www.drugscope.org.uk/druginfo/evidence-select/evidence.htm
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