MP JOINS IN CANNABIS ROW
Source: The Argus, Worthing, UK
Pub Date: Friday, 29 August 2003
Subj: MP joins in cannabis row
Author: Huw Borland
Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance
Cannabis Cafes http://www.ccguide.org/cannabiscafes.php
MP joins in cannabis row
An MP has joined in the row surrounding alleged cannabis cafes, saying police operations to shut them down will cost more than £100,000.
Officers have so far closed two of the three cafes in Worthing where it is alleged the drug has been sold and consumed.
Tactics have included stationing officers in Brougham Road and Victoria Road to search anyone leaving or entering the cafes.
Now Tim Loughton, Tory MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said the "unofficial" price of this police pressure, which has continued for the past month, may exceed £100,000.
He disclosed the figure in a letter to a pro-cannabis campaigner who had suggested police were wasting resources on the crackdown.
Mr Loughton said it was "purely an unofficial ballpark estimate" and added: "The cheek of these cannabis campaigners is amazing. Whatever you think about the legalisation of cannabis, as it stands, it is against the law.
"What they are saying is it should not be policed in the this way but that's entirely a matter of opinion depending on your views of legalisation.
"While it is illegal it should be policed in the same way as burglary or any other crime."
Chief Inspector Russ Whitfield said it was difficult to estimate how much money was being spent on the crackdown and police had not released any figures.
He said: "It's different with a murder inquiry, you can ask for exactly how many hours have been worked on it, but the cafes get normal patrols driving past. It's part of normal policing, although we are putting in extra resources."
Mr Whitfield said there was a remaining cafe in Victoria Road and efforts to close it would continue.
Owners of Buddy's, the alleged cannabis cafe in Brougham Road, had decided to shut following what they called a "police siege" of the site.
But Legalise Cannabis Alliance Press officer Don Barnard has continually questioned whether the costly police tactics in Worthing were warranted.
In an email to Mr Loughton, he wrote: "I'm confused by your ideology that possession of cannabis is the same as theft, assault or whatever is against the law in this country and must be treated equally.
"No one would disagree that crimes of robbery, murders, rapes and assaults should be punished. These types of crimes infringe on people's human rights, harm the individual, their families and society in general. As such, punishment in these cases can be justified.
"How can you compare the above crimes with cannabis possession. Where is the harm to others?
"How does smoking a joint or growing a few plants impact on society as a whole? No one has their privacy or quality of life infringed. There is no victim."
Several people have been charged with drug offences in relation to a former cafe called Bongchuffa in Rowlands Road, Worthing, and are due to appear in court later this year.