Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the Criminal Justice Association


  1.  The legalise cannabis lobby is currently enjoying a staggering success in spite of the overwhelming evidence that it causes physical and psychological problems and users are responsible for a huge percentage of crime. Misleading propaganda is being employed by those who want the use of cannabis legalised. Peter Lilley MP is an example of the dangerously ill-informed. He wants to replicate the Dutch experiment of having licensed premises to sell cannabis, as he argues that it will separate soft drug users from dealers in heavier drugs. The reality is that dealers in hard drugs concentrate their evil trade around the Dutch legal outlets for cannabis knowing that such users are vulnerable to being persuaded to try hard drugs; many licensed coffee shops have been closed for dealing in hard drugs. The Dutch experiment has resulted in doubling the use of cannabis and the use of cocaine and ecstasy by 15-16 year olds in Holland is the highest in Europe; also there has been an explosion of drug-related crime. Such evidence supports the claim that cannabis can be the gateway to harder drugs.

  2.  Lord Mancroft, Chairman of the Drug and Alcohol Foundation, says that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be reformed because it is substantially ineffective. Even more ineffective is the Theft Act 1968 but there is no suggestion that stealing be decriminalised. Lord Mancroft also says that the drug problem is a health issue and can not be dealt with through the criminal justice system; drug addiction is self-afflicted and could be substantially controlled if the law was vigorously enforced.

  3.  Research in New Zealand shows that if someone smokes just one cannabis joint a week he is sixty times more likely to get involved with harder drugs. It also reveals that young men who take cannabis are five times more likely to be violent than those who don't. Another New Zealand finding shows that one in four cannabis users goes on to heroin or cocaine. There are about 15,000 accredited research papers from around the world testifying to the harmfulness of cannabis and evaluated by the World Health Organisation 1997, "Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda".

  4.  In 1975 Alaska decriminalised the use of cannabis in the home and other private places. Eventually, after a two year period in which 2,066 Alaskans were admitted to state-funded treatment programmes with cannabis as their prime substance of abuse; the experiment ended with a referendum in 1990. In 1987 Switzerland designated a park in Zurich as an experimental "police free harm reduction area". Crime rose by 30 per cent; Switzerland achieved the highest rate of drug abuse in Europe and 50 per cent of Zurich addicts tested positive for AIDS even though up to 12,000 new needles were distributed daily. In 1992 the experiment ended; bulldozers were needed to clear the tons of human excrement, needles and other detritus before the park could be used again by the general public. In Queensland, Australia, the use of cannabis was decriminalised in 1987; after three years amongst 20-39 year olds there was a three-fold increase in its use compared to the rest of Australia. Brisbane, Queensland's capital, is considered the drugs centre of Australia. In contrast, Japan has one of the lowest drug-related crime rates of any industrial nation due to severe anti-drug laws.

  5.  In Sweden where a mere nine per cent has tried drugs compared with our 34 per cent, drug use is kept low through tough enforcement and prevention policies. In the 1960s Sweden decriminalised amphetamines and produced an increase in their use to epidemic proportions. It has since reverted to its tough approach. It does not just enforce fines for possession and prison for large scales possession and supply, it has criminalised drug use itself. The police test the blood and urine of suspected users and if they come up positive they can be fined. If teachers suspect that pupils have taken drugs, they can call in the police and social workers. In the USA 1979-91 the "Just Say No" Campaign actually brought about a steep decline in drug use—again because everyone was pulling in the same direction. Use of cannabis halved as did cocaine use; daily use of cannabis fell by 75 per cent.

  6.  In Britain the National Treatment Outcome and Research Study Report 1996 estimated that 664 drug and alcohol abusers committed 70,000 crimes in a three month period. Recent research shows that one in five road deaths are linked with drugs, two thirds of them cannabis users. Cannabis renders a person unfit to drive for at least 24 hours after a joint.

  7.  About 40 per cent of under sixteens appear to have used cannabis at some time. If a young person smokes cannabis only once a month, neurotransmitters in the brain cells can be affected impairing memory and learning processes. Apart from cannabis being physically and psychologically addictive, the heart rate increases as does the blood pressure; lungs can be damaged and there is strong suggestive evidence from animal experiments and human brain scans that brain cells die; brain cells are never replaced. Endocrine systems can be impaired and immune systems suppressed; menstrual cycles can be disrupted and there can be a decrease in the sperm count. Furthermore it can lead to paranoid psychosis and can precipitate schizophrenia; it carries a greater risk of causing cancer than does tobacco smoking.

  8.  Drug addiction is a voluntary condition; drug dealing is a depraved and cynical trade with a total disregard for the consequences of those who become addicted. It is a tragedy for victims as well as their families. The financial implications for the National Health Service are incalculable.

  9.  The evidence that the use of cannabis should not be legalised is overwhelming but conveniently ignored by the legalise cannabis lobby. Further debate is unnecessary; the facts speak for themselves.

  10.  The way forward is to follow the successful policies adopted by Sweden. They must be supported by the application of strict zero-tolerance laws making the sale, possession and use of cannabis criminal offences. Judges and magistrates must be required to apply the law strictly. Chief constables must be denied the power to turn a "blind-eye" to drug offences.

August 2001

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