Many British Back Marijuana Decriminalization

Many British Back Marijuana Decriminalization
Posted by FoM on July 13, 2001 at 08:43:13 PT
By Gregory Katz, The Dallas Morning News
Source: Dallas Morning News
A sudden and unexpected movement to loosen controls on marijuana use is sweeping Britain, gaining bipartisan support each day and setting the stage for a possible decriminalization of the drug, which is extremely popular here. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has promised a hard-line approach to drug abuse, has not spoken out, but senior figures in his Labor Party have called for the use of small amounts of marijuana to go unpunished. Surprisingly, some leaders in the Conservative Party have agreed that the time has come to change the law. 
Newly appointed Home Secretary David Blunkett called this week for an "adult, rational debate" on the subject, showing far more openness than his predecessor, Jack Straw, who frequently ruled out any easing of laws governing "soft drug" use. Mr. Blunkett spoke out after two former home secretaries  including one who is a longtime mentor to the prime minister  called for an end to criminal sanctions for marijuana use. Michael Portillo, the leading candidate in the race to become Conservative Party leader, joined the chorus this week by suggesting that a "strong enough case" for legalization of marijuana has been made. Some politicians have suggested that marijuana be sold in licensed stores and taxed, much as it is in the Netherlands, which has Europe's most liberal drug policy. The epicenter of change, at least for the moment, is the predominantly African and Caribbean neighborhood of Brixton, where police have announced a six-month experiment. During that time, they will not charge people found to be smoking or carrying marijuana with any criminal offense if the quantity involved is small. Instead of being formally charged, pot smokers will have to surrender their drugs and will receive a warning that carries no criminal penalty. The sudden announcement of a no-prosecution zone has delighted Brixton's many Rastafarians, who trace their family roots to Jamaica. Many of them regard marijuana use as part of their religious activity and use the drug daily. Now they can light up without fear, said David Clarke, who wears the traditional Rastafarian dreadlocks. Turning a blind eye "It's safer than alcohol and cigarettes," he said. "It makes sense to change the law. They should change the law in the whole country." Mr. Clarke said Brixton police have for several years turned a blind eye on casual marijuana use in the neighborhood and concentrated instead on dealers of hard drugs. He said the new policy makes official  at least for six months  the unstated policy that was already in place. "It's been happening for a long time with no molestation from the police," he said. "It hasn't been enforced lately, if it's a small amount. It depends on the amount." The pot-tolerant policy angers some people in Brixton, particularly shopkeepers who say they have found a rise in street crime to be associated with the widespread drug use in the crowded downtown area. Blacks who own small businesses in downtown Brixton said they resented the way their neighborhood had been chosen for the pilot project. "It's not a good idea," said Kwaku Nyami, who runs a small food shop near the Brixton market, where drugs are openly sold, often by dealers perched in late-model German sedans. "Some people use it excessively, and it gives them mental problems. It's a crazy idea to try it here. They should try it somewhere else. We already have a lot of drug-related problems." He said it was unfair to start the new policy in a poor, largely black community that is susceptible to drug abuse. "I'm not aware of the police asking anyone in the community about it," he said. "At the end of the day, it's their decision, but I don't support it." Others worried that the Brixton area would become a lure for drug-using youths from other parts of Britain and the rest of Europe. This phenomenon of so-called "drug tourists" has caused some problems in the Netherlands, where border towns have become a magnet for marijuana users from Germany, France and other countries. Some local businessmen said they are untroubled by the policy shift, and they say it simply recognizes the reality that the police do not have the manpower to shut down the marijuana dealers and should instead concentrate on those selling heroin and crack cocaine. Shoe salesman Errol Brady said the police can put the ubiquitous marijuana dealers out of business for several hours but not for an entire day. 'The drug money helps' "They can't stop it," he said. "Not much has changed with this policy. They were leaning that way, anyway. I don't feel one way or the other about it. I think the drug money helps Brixton, actually. I get a lot of it here, you can tell. People come in and buy expensive shoes with a lot of small bills and coins." The decision not to enforce marijuana laws in Brixton contrasts with the rest of Britain, where marijuana is still listed as a Class B drug, with anyone found possessing it facing up to five years in prison. Many now call for it to be reclassified as a Class C drug, which would mean that someone found carrying a small amount would not face criminal charges. In the past two weeks, the current policy has been denounced by a wide variety of public figures and newspaper writers. Among those calling for modification are Lord Jenkins, a former home secretary from the Labor Party who is close to the current prime minister, and Lord Baker, who served as home secretary from the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Lord Baker said the policy no longer makes sense. "To fill our prisons with marijuana users is a bum use of prisons," he said. These influential elder statesmen were joined by Sir David Ramsbotham, the outgoing chief inspector of prisons, who this week called for decriminalization of drug use as a step toward helping drug users and their families. Some trace the movement toward a loosening of marijuana laws to a call this spring by Anne Widdecombe, a hard-line Conservative Party leader, for an intensification of the police campaign against marijuana users. Almost alone in stance Ms. Widdecombe expected approval for her tough stance, but found instead that virtually no one in the public agreed with her, said Bruce Anderson, a columnist for The Independent newspaper. A shift in public attitude was also revealed when the British public failed to react to disclosures by a number of Conservative Party leaders that they had used marijuana in the past, he said. This allowed senior politicians who had privately felt that marijuana laws no longer made sense to speak out on the matter without fear of public censure, opening the way for reform, he said. As a result, he said, British laws against marijuana use had begun "to crumble." The growing acceptance of marijuana may also be related to the fact that the 1960s generation that celebrated the drug is now in positions of authority throughout British society, as exemplified by former Beatle Paul McCartney, an avowed heavy user of marijuana who has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his charitable works. And Mr. Blair, the youthful prime minister, has made no secret of his lifelong devotion to the Rolling Stones, a band whose members were repeatedly arrested on drugs charges in the 1960s and '70s. Note: Surprise groundswell mirrors officials' opposition to law.Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)Author: Gregory Katz, The Dallas Morning NewsPublished: July 13, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Dallas Morning NewsWebsite: letterstoeditor dallasnews.comRelated Articles:Government Signal Shift In Attitude To Cannabis Drug Turns To Hard Sell
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on July 13, 2001 at 16:18:11 PT
Thanks MikeEEEEE
I forgot to post this article. I had it bookmarked but forgot. It's posted now. Thanks again!
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Comment #7 posted by MikeEEEEE on July 13, 2001 at 15:41:55 PT
Try this
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Comment #6 posted by MikeEEEEE on July 13, 2001 at 15:40:43 PT
Found this
Click">">Click here
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Comment #5 posted by Sudaca on July 13, 2001 at 13:12:49 PT
a diet of
kidney pie and sheep guts will do wonders for promoting an appetite inducing drug.. hmm.. maybe that's whats missing over here. really bland food to make one wish for a joint. 
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Comment #4 posted by sm247 on July 13, 2001 at 10:30:11 PT
Me neither
Troutmask neither have i .... maybe the "winds are a changin' " I really am starting to think the government is conditioning the public in someway with all the references to mj on hte radio and tv shows I think they are maybe comin around.  I would like to say off topic that... We have a candidate running against Souder his name is Rodney Scott  I believe from Ft. Wayne Indiana email addy rscott ph 219-482-9890  Note: The 219 area code changes to 260 on Jan 1 2002 Just say NO to drug foe Souder
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Comment #3 posted by TroutMask on July 13, 2001 at 09:47:31 PT
Don't wake the sleeping giant!;-)-TM
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 13, 2001 at 09:20:08 PT
Here's One! TroutMask - Chicago Tribune
 Weed Cheaper Than Ale and Almost Legal
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on July 13, 2001 at 09:09:09 PT
Dallas Morning News!?!?!?!?
Has anyone seen any stories about impending UK decrim in any US newspapers before this? I haven't...-TM
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