Top Drug Officer's Cannabis Warning

Top Drug Officer's Cannabis Warning
Posted by CN Staff on July 13, 2002 at 18:20:40 PT
By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent
Source: Independent on Sunday 
The Metropolitan Police's most senior drugs officer has warned that relaxing cannabis laws will lead to teenagers becoming "psychologically dependent" on the drug.Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mike Fuller, head of the Met drugs directorate, said a younger generation is now likely to start using the drug. "You will see a younger population using cannabis. This is off the back of declassification," he said in an interview with this newspaper. 
Last week, the Government overhauled Britain's drug laws for the first time in 30 years by downgrading cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug. This means users found in the possession of small amounts of the drug will face a warning instead of arrest. This will apply in London from this autumn and from next July for the rest of the country.The policy change followed a year-long "softly softly" approach to cannabis possession pioneered by Commander Brian Paddick, in Lambeth, London. Supporters claimed the scheme saved the equivalent of two years of police time, cut street crime by 35 per cent, and was welcomed by 80 per cent of residents.However, some in the community, backed by the Police Federation, claimed Lambeth was turning into a haven for drug suppliers and users.In response to fierce lobbying from senior police officers, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, did announce the power of arrest would be retained for police if the offences involved children, public disorder or a "flagrant disregard for the law".DAC Fuller said he saw first hand the impact cannabis had on young people during visits to Jamaica. "They experience the same issues as here," he said. "There are street kids with a psychological addiction to marijuana. You get kids stealing to fund their habit."He also said the white community was shielded from the damaging effects of drug use. "It may be they don't experience the damaging social impact of drug use. There may be class issues there."The charity DrugScope said cannabis users could become dependent on the drug, but numbers were small. It said young people would be deterred from using the drug if attempts were made to distance cannabis from more harmful substances. "Personal cultivation should be treated in the same way as possession," said a spokesman. "It does act as a gateway drug because of its legal position. We would ask the Home Secretary to go further than he has." Next: Prescribe Heroin to Addicts By Clare FitzsimonsNorth Ormesby is bleak. Houses are boarded up, cars burnt out and used needles scattered in the road and on the pavements. But next door to the baby clinic in this Middlesbrough suburb, a GP has opened a pioneering practice that he believes will revolutionise the treatment of Britain's 300,000 heroin and cocaine addicts.With David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, staking the future success of his drugs policy on an extra 183m to be spent on the treatment of addicts, blamed for Britain's current crime wave, Dr Ian Guy's new scheme will be eagerly assessed.Dr Guy is thought to be the only GP in the country whose patient list consists only of drug addicts and their families. His is a life spent dispensing methadone, Subutex, lofexidine and naltrexone to 450 registered patients. Almost all of them are addicted to heroin; some of them are addicted to crack cocaine as well. It represents a fraction of Teesside's estimated 5,000 to 20,000 addicts.Dr Guy used to be a "regular" GP but after studying heroin addiction he decided to specialise  still as a GP. He began his specialist programme in April 2001 but hopes to see similar schemes around the UK. He works out of several health centres in the city but will open his own premises followed, he hopes, by a licence to inject addicts with NHS-supplied heroin."Most when they come to us are fairly desperate because they have been on our waiting list for quite some months," said Dr Guy. "Treatment has got to start when there is a window of opportunity; when they feel ready for whatever reason."In the waiting room sit patients with gaunt, drawn faces. The majority are aged between 18 and 30 but some are older and, tragically, some are younger.Dr Guy would like to be able to offer the most hardcore addicts, those who have not taken to other treatments, free heroin injections. The Government wants to increase by five times the number of addicts allowed heroin on prescription. Many GPs are resistant to the idea of having to inject heroin addicts in their surgeries, of having addicts sitting in waiting rooms with "regular" patients. Not Dr Guy. "It is a project I would love to have. We would assess the patient, calculate a starting dose and the patient would administer the heroin to themselves with a nurse present. We would see the effect and put the dose up so that they are comfortable then prescribe it daily but have them come in and inject it until we are confident they are stable. The point is to undercut the black market."Dr Guy accepts the war against drugs cannot be won. "We have to accept that drugs are here to stay and we have to work out the best ways of reducing the harm," he said."If prohibition worked that would be fine, but if we can't keep it out of our prisons, how can we keep it out of the country?"John Simpson, 38, a bricklayer, had an appointment with Dr Guy to change his medication. He wanted to switch to a more stabilising heroin substitute to enable him to work more frequently. "I was daft to get on to it in the first place but it is just too easy," said Mr Simpson. "I started off on prescription painkillers and when someone offered me some heroin I stupidly took it."I was in tears when I came in the first time, saying I had to get off the stuff. I have been on the programme for a while and it is a great treatment. As long as people want it to work it does seem to. The best thing is not to get on it in the first place."  How the law will work  Where are we exactly with this cannabis thing?The drug will be downgraded from Class B to a Class C by July 2003. The police are to expand Brixton's controversial "seize and warn" policy across London by the autumn.Does that mean I can sit on the steps of Brixton police station and skin up?No. It will still be illegal to possess cannabis and users can still be arrested for "aggravating factors" such as the involvement of children or "flagrant disregard" of the law. For simple possession the police are more likely to seize the drug and issue a warning.What happens if they do?If you are arrested and charged you will face a maximum prison sentence of two years.So, if I've got my stash in my pocket I'm fine?As long as nobody knows it is there and it's not a large stash.What if I buy it with friends?The maximum penalty for dealing is to be increased from five to 14 years. Mr Blunkett specifically rejected calls for a lesser crime of "social dealing".How much would I have to have on me before police thought I was a dealer?That depends. In reality you could probably get away with an ounce, which is worth about 100, but not if you were also caught carrying weighing scales or large amounts of cash.When will it be OK to take it around the rest of the UK?It will not be OK to have a stash of anything anywhere, and you will have to wait until next July before the downgrading of cannabis comes into effect throughout the UK.What about other drugs? Cannabis has been downgraded to allow police to concentrate on class A drug dealers  heroin, crack, cocaine and ecstasy.Andrew Johnson  Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)Author: Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs CorrespondentPublished: July 14, 2002Copyright: 2002 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.Contact: letters Related Articles & Web Site:DrugScope UK Days and Holidays To Let Pot Smokers Off Lightly On The High Street Opens Up Drugs Laws 
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