Easing Drugs Law Wins Support 

Easing Drugs Law Wins Support 
Posted by FoM on October 30, 2001 at 19:52:20 PT
By Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor
Source: Guardian Unlimited
There is strong public backing for David Blunkett's proposal to relax the laws on cannabis so that the police lose the power to arrest someone for possession of small amounts, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM opinion poll. The survey shows that 54% approve of his decision to reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class C drug. Support rises to 65% among the 25 to 34 age group for the plan, which is designed to enable the police to concentrate on more dangerous drugs. 
The poll findings will encourage the home secretary in the idea that the political taboo about reforming the drugs laws that has existed for more than 30 years may now finally be dead. Leading Tories have recently called for the legalisation of all drugs, and the Liberal Democrats are on the verge of coming out in favour of decriminalising the personal use of all drugs. The ICM poll found little support to go further and reclassify the dance drug ecstasy from its position as a class A drug alongside heroin and crack cocaine, to class B along with barbiturates and amphetamines. Some 82% opposed such a move while only 10% thought it a good idea. Even among the youngest age group, 18-24, only 15% thought it a good idea. The poll findings are published after Home Office civil servants told MPs yesterday that they did not believe the move woud lead to a growth in cannabis consumption, and confirmed that the possession of small amounts of the drug will no longer lead to prosecution. Sue Killen, the Home Office's director of drugs strategy, ruled out the creation of Dutch-style "coffee shops" in Britain to sell cannabis, arguing that such commercialisation had pushed up cannabis consumption in the Netherlands. The ICM poll shows that 54% back Mr Blunkett's announcement with 38% opposed. There is quite a gap in the opinion of men (60% support) and women (48% support), and across age and social groups. The 18-24s are less enthusiastic than older twenty and thirtysomethings, while the only age group to be opposed to the idea is the over 65s where support falls to 37% and opposition rises to 49%. Reform of the drug laws also appears to be an issue which is seen differently on the social scale. Some 57% of the professional and executive AB social group support the change. That falls to 44% among the unemployed and unskilled DE social group. Chris Mullin, the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into drug abuse, yesterday criticised Home Office officials after they admitted they had never examined the possible effects of decriminalising all drugs. Mr Mullin demanded that civil servants produce a detailed rebuttal by Thursday of arguments put forward this year by the journalist Nick Davies in a series of articles in the Guardian, which questioned whether heroin should be legalised, and argued for more liberal drugs laws. Ms Killen told MPs: "To my knowledge we have not sat down and done a major study on decriminalisation of all drugs, including class A." Instead, she said, officials had concentrated on how to tackle the problems of addiction of drug users and how to reduce the harm that drug trafficking does to local communities. At the opening hearing of the inquiry, the former drugs tsar, Keith Hellawell, admitted that targets that had been set by the government to reduce hard drug use by 25% within four years and by 50% by 2008 were far too ambitious and were likely to be dropped. He denied reports that he had been sidelined by Mr Blunkett but said he had no real power base or real support in his previous role as the drugs tsar. ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and over by telephone between October 26-28, 2001. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Note: Poll reveals strong backing for Blunkett's more liberal approach to possession of cannabis. Source: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Alan Travis, Home Affairs EditorPublished: Wednesday, October 31, 2001Copyright: 2001 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Articles:Special Report: Drugs in Britain 'No Cannabis Cafes for UK' Applaud Cannabis Reform Britain is Going Dutch
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