Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1080
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
OBE, MRS MARY
1080. Looking at the bigger picture, do you
think that is still practical? I am very struck, when you read
the Police Federation's submission, it says, "The primary
responsibility of the police is to use the law in order to combat
the illegal drugs trade". The next sentence says, "Over
the past thirty years or so, this trade has expanded into a multi-billion
globalised criminal enterprise that, in spite of all efforts by
police and other bodies, continues to grow at an alarming, if
unquantifiable, rate". The law enforcement has not been successful.
(Mr Broughton) I think that is plainly true. We are
not reducing the number of people using drugs or the number of
dealers on the streets.
1081. And yet in your submission, you say that
looking at some of the more radical options for alternatives are
the voices of surrender and despair. What are committees like
this meant to do if the policing is not working and we cannot
reduce the use of drugs by policing? Why are the alternatives
surrender and despair?
(Mr Broughton) Well, would you take the same view
with burglary or with street robbery or would you take the same
view with speeding? Because the incidence of those offences is
increasing, do you decide to decriminalise? Of course you do not.
I think the job of all of us in this debate is to unravel the
options that are being put and if one of the options is decriminalise,
then I think all of us have to unravel what the practical implications
of that are. Would it mean the wider use of those drugs? I think
some of us think it would.
1082. But the question we are just trying to
pursue here is: can a sort of crack-down policy work? Can a tough
policy from the police work? The evidence seems to be that it
has not worked and I think you are saying that because of policing
by consent, it cannot work because you simply cannot arrest, as
Ann Widdecombe suggested, you cannot arrest people for first-time
use of cannabis on a consent basis. That is the difference and
why it is not working.
(Mr Broughton) I can only repeat what I have said.
Policing is about policing by consent. It is about working in
partnership with local communities and where the personal use
of cannabis was so prevalent in some areas, the policy that was
arrived at in relation to policing and the Crown Prosecution Service
was to arrest people, but caution them for personal use below
certain weights. That was a controversial policy which I am saying
is in operation and that is a controversial policy which is always
under discussion. The moves which are being suggested now about
reclassification, about other quite radical suggestions on decriminalisation
of, say, ecstasy and other drugs is one where we want to know
how that is going to operate, how that is going to work and how
that might improve things. The police service, I think, has moved
in relation to cannabis slightly. We are being asked to move much
more dramatically and I think it is right for us to question what
that means, what that means to the overall policy.
1083. You asked Mr Cameron a moment ago whether
he would take that view in relation to burglary and street robbery
and various other things. Is not the difference between them that
one harms the individual who is smoking dope or whatever, whereas
the other affects someone else? Is that not the crucial distinction
as to what you prioritise?
(Mr Broughton) Drug use affects much more than the
individual. It affects society, it affects the family, it affects
the community and it affects crime because the relationship between
crime and drugs is pretty clear to all of us.
1084. But so does smoking cigarettes and so
does drinking alcohol. Perhaps we can move on, Chairman.
(Mr Broughton) Well, it is a good point, so what are
1085. Nobody is saying that taking drugs is
a good thing. We are all agreed that taking drugs is a bad thing
and we want to reduce drug-taking. The question is how to do it
and that is where, I think from the Federation's submission, one
comes to the conclusion that tough policing has not worked and,
from what you are saying, tough policing cannot work.
(Mr Broughton) You could come to that conclusion.
If you want to come to solutions, and it is interesting that we
focus on cannabis, but on the whole drug issue I am very attracted,
we are very attracted, for instance, to some of the things which
are going on in Switzerland. On heroin, and I go back to the late
1960s and early 1970s in policing, GPs were prescribing heroin
to addicts around about that time which was changed in 1971. The
issue of a secure clinic where there could be no leakage of heroin
on to the street market and addicts going through a system of
being prescribed maybe some rehabilitation, maybe some treatment,
maybe some counselling, maybe some encouragement, that is an area
where I think we could take out addicted heroin addicts and attempt
actually to deal with that in a more positive way. There are some
solutions that we can offer.
1086. Thank you, Mr Broughton. We are going
to come to that, but we are going to stick to cannabis for the
moment and other witnesses are bursting to get in.
(Baroness Greenfield) I want to burst in with just
a very quick clarification, which is that bearing in mind with
cannabis, you are increasing the risk of road traffic accidents
because of an impaired sensory motor co-ordination and that people
do not realise that unlike with alcohol it does last in the body
for several days, so you could have impairments which then do
harm other people. Also, unlike with smoking, you have an increased
risk of psychosis and psychotic episodes which may be harmful
to the community at large and certainly would be taxing the National
Health Service, so I do not think we can regard it as something
where you are doing yourself harm and not society.
1087. Perhaps I could move on to the question
of the gateway, and this is a question really for Mr Raynes first
of all. You say in your submission that it is nonsense to suggest
that decriminalising cannabis might distance users from the pushers
of harder drugs. Why do you say it is nonsense?
(Mr Raynes) Because that is not how most drugs are
1088. I happen to live in London off the Portobello
Road and when I walk down the Portobello Road sometimes after
a late night's voting at the House of Commons, I am offered every
drug under the sun by the same dealer. I hasten to add I do not
take supply of any of them, but is that not the way drugs can
(Mr Raynes) Perhaps you could give Mr Broughton his
1089. Is that not the way drugs can be dealt?
(Mr Raynes) They can be, but in fact most people get
their drugs from friends. At the user level of cannabis and ecstasy
and cocaine, most people get it from acquaintances and in fact
that is why I oppose in my written submission the Police Foundation's
suggestion about that sort of dealer.
1090. So it is your view that taking cannabis
within the illegal drugs bracket would not help at all in terms
(Mr Raynes) No. I think there is a continuum, you
see. As I said earlier, I think tobacco is the first drug that
we all smoke behind the bike sheds and I think kids are now moving.
We really ought to be quite anxious about the use of alcohol by
young people in Britain because it has changed in the last ten
or 15 years and it has changed at the same time as cannabis has
changed and young people areand I use the words, "substance
abuse"they are poly-substance users and they use them
all together and mixed up. On the dealing issue, most of them
do not get it from the sort of dealer you are talking about, but
they get it from friends and there is a gateway effect, a continuum.
If you use cannabis, it is not causal that you will use heroin,
it is not causal that you will use crack cocaine, but the evidence
is there. A quarter of people who use cannabis use another drug.
1091. But you do not think there is any evidence
that because you are fishing in that black market and in order
to buy cannabis, you had to go to an illegal source and you had
to do an illegal thing, you are in the black market through which
you also get these other drugs? You do not see any connection
(Mr Raynes) It is not causal. There is a connection,
but there is a connection with tobacco as well, you see. When
people use tobacco for the first time, they are probably using
it or buying it illegally. When they use alcohol for the first
time, they are buying it and using it illegally, so there is a
state of mind here that people use substances when they know that
it is illegal for them to buy them.
1092. Let me ask Mr Broughton. Is it the Police
Federation's view that there would be no beneficial effect? Many
witnesses have come to us and said, "If you took cannabis
out of the black market, you may be able to separate to some extent
people taking cannabis, who at the moment are going through the
black market, who are then being offered other illegal drugs".
Do the Police Federation have a view on that?
(Mr Broughton) No, that is not what I am hearing,
that is not what I have been told and that is not my understanding
of the situation, that removing cannabis from the criminal element
is actually going to improve the prevalence of the use of crack,
ecstasy or other drugs. That is not what I am hearing.
(Mr Raynes) Can I just add one other point, which
is that the Committee might need to understand, and I think my
ex-colleague Mr Byrne mentioned this, that about more than 20
per cent of the UK tobacco market is illegal and it is controlled
by gangsters and in Italy the figure is 50 per cent and it is
similar to that in Spain. So taking cannabis out, this is a ploy
by the legalisers. This is a ploy, the argument has been put to
you as a ploy and you should disregard it because it is not relevant.
If you took cannabis out and legalised it, there would be gangsters
in the cannabis game and trying to sell it. If you tried to restrict
it to children below a certain age, there would be people selling
1093. I have two questions, if I may, following
on from that. One is from Mr Raynes' submission. You say in your
submission, "At cannabis user-level, supply is typically
by friends, largely or often, not for profit . . ." and then
you look at the question about whether there should be a distinction
between dealing to small groups and the full offence of dealing
and you say there should not be a distinction. Is there a contradiction
between those two points? Are you not going to be criminalising
really very seriously someone who may just sell a little bit of
cannabis to friends?
(Mr Raynes) Well, they are criminals. I say that dealing
in cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy typically at user level is not
for profit amongst friends. That is from my knowledge of my job,
but dealing they are, and I also say in my written submission,
which you have missed, that that can be dealt with by the court
in mitigation. If it is that sort of low-level dealing not for
profit, we do not need to
1094. You do not want a legal distinction. Let's
be absolutely clear. You do not want to see any legal distinction
between a 19-year-old who sells a small amount of cannabis to
a friend and a heroin dealer peddling heroin to kids? They are
both the same sort of offence.
(Mr Raynes) They are the same sort of offence, but
the court will deal with it appropriately. The court already has
the powers and I think the Police Foundation talked about dealing
in class A being treated differently. Well, that is really a nonsense,
is it not? I cannot understand the logic behind it.
1095. You have answered my question. The last
question I had was that I think a lot of your submissions mention
this point that the cannabis smoked today is in some cases 30
times stronger than the cannabis that was smoked in the 1960s.
Do any of you see any connection with the fact that cannabis is
illegal and that fact that you have given? Do you think there
could be? Witnesses have put it to us that when you have an illegal
substance which is unregulated, the strength tends to go up and
up and up and up because the dealer is pushing something even
harder to the user and obviously the more bulky the drug is, the
more chance there is of being caught, so actually there is an
interest, if the drug is illegal, in making it stronger and stronger
and stronger. Do any of you see that connection or do you think
that cannabis has got stronger for some other reason?
(Baroness Greenfield) Let me just ask you about that.
If that was the case, in Holland, it would be weaker and I refer
to Mrs Brett to ask if it is weaker in Holland.
1096. Well, we are asking the questions.
(Baroness Greenfield) But if it is the case in Holland,
one would expect Mrs Brett would have an answer.
(Mr Broughton) I just think it is more sophisticated
manufacturing techniques. I think it is the way the market in
cannabis has developed, become more efficient and become better
at the way it is cultivated and I think that is a natural development,
I am afraid.
(Mrs Brett) It all comes from Holland. They decriminalised
it there, but supply and everything else is still illegal, so
they allow people to grow, I think it is, five plants of cannabis
for their own use. Of course that opened the floodgates for cannabis
factories to be set up, which they were, and they then delivered
what is called "selective breeding" where they take
the pollen from one plant which gives a huge amount of THC, which
is the psychoactive ingredient, and cross it with another plant
which has a huge amount of THC, so they go on selectively breeding
them, generation after generation of plant, and they call it "netherweed"
or "skunk". These are some of the names and its THC
content in the 1960s was 0.5 per cent on average, whereas it averages
now 5 per cent. If you get skunk or netherweed, and some of these
kids do not know what they are buying, it can be anything from
9 to 27 per cent and if you extract the oil, hashish oil, from
it, you are up to 60 per cent. This is a strong, hallucinogenic
1097. Is that not the case for regulation and
control? Are you not making the case for legalising and regulating
the trade so that people know what they are buying?
(Mrs Brett) Well, it is very difficult, if not absolutely
impossible, to know what strength a plant is without chemical
analysis and plants do vary in strength, or if you take the drug
from various bits of the plant, the THC content varies. It is
a huge minefield.
1098. But if you regulated the trade, that is
what you would do, is it not?
(Mrs Brett) Not necessarily.
1099. You would only allow a certain quality
to be sold and you would make sure there were warnings explaining
on every packet and all the rest of it.
(Mrs Brett) If you are going to test every crop of
cannabis, you would have to test lots of lines.
Chairman: But that is not what happens, is it?
You check samples. You do not expect to catch everything, but
you impose a standard by random-checking samples, do you not?