Thursday, 17 November 2011

BBC News - Ex-MI5 boss to call for cannabis to be decriminalised

Ex-MI5 boss to call for cannabis to be decriminalised

A cannabis joint Lady Manningham-Buller wants cannabis sale to be regulated

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Ex-MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller is set to call for cannabis to be decriminalised in a speech.

The crossbench peer believes that only by regulating the sale of cannabis can its psychotic effects be controlled.

She is also expected to say the "war on drugs" has been "fruitless".

Her speech to the all-party parliamentary drugs group is likely to single out politicians who "go quiet" when faced by "crude assertions" of the harm caused by changing drugs policy.

She joins a growing list of high profile figures including Dame Judi Dench, Sting, Sir Richard Branson and former senior police officers who have urged the legalisation of some drugs.

Lady Manningham-Buller's speech will form part of a two-day parliamentary conference on drugs policy hearing contributions from narcotics experts from around the world.

Regulating cannabis would mean that society focused on the health aspects of drug use rather than the criminalisation of drug users, she is expected to say.

Start Quote

Lady Manningham-Buller makes an important point when she asks why we don't trust the public on this subject. Do politicians too easily assume that voters will turn against them if they question the long-held orthodoxy on drugs? ”

End Quote Mark Easton BBC home affairs editor

Regulation would also ensure that it did not include the components most dangerous to mental health.

Although it is understood that she will not name David Cameron or any other politician, her speech is expected to criticise the reaction of politicians to the "taboo area" of drugs.

She is expected to say it is "extraordinary" that while drugs are harmful to society, destroy lives and increase crime, there is "knee jerk opposition" to change and an assumption that the current policy is best.

While politicians may recognise that there are serious questions about the efficacy of current policies, they "go quiet or retract when face by the crude assertion that any other policy would do corrosive and irreparable harm".

Christian Guy, policy director of the Centre for Social Justice, agreed that the "war on drugs" was failing, but said that was no reason to "surrender".

He added: "What I am concerned about is the idea that we should stop fighting it and wave the white flag to these criminal gangs and say that we walk away and give up.

"We need a clear message from law that says this is wrong and sends the right message to young people. But we also need to take other things more seriously.

"This is the wrong call at the wrong time. We need to look at how we prevent drugs use and deal with the demand, not necessarily the supply, and we also need to look at treatment which needs to become much more effective at getting people off drugs and rebuilding their lives, and I think this is a distraction."

Three years ago, the then Labour government reclassified cannabis to Class B from C - against the advice of its own drug advisers who said cannabis played only a "modest" role in the development of psychotic illnesses.

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