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Letter: Cannabis is not Criminal

The Sentinel

Thursday 21 Dec 2006

Does D Wakefield (Make prison a certainty, December 14) really want us
to build prisons to house the estimated three to six million cannabis
users in the UK? The law on cannabis is wrong. Cannabis was used
extensively around the world until the beginning of the 20th century,
including famously, Queen Victoria. It was wrongly made illegal in 1928,
following the Geneva Convention on Narcotic Control, a conference about
concerns about opiate addiction. The Egyptian delegate raised cannabis
as an issue, due to what he termed "chronic hashism" in his people. The
reason was actually that cheap hemp was threatening valuable cotton
exports. A committee was set up to investigate the claims, but before
they could report, a second conference had included cannabis in the list
of prohibited substances. The British delegate abstained, as there was
no debate, and cannabis was wrongly classified as a narcotic drug,
banned along with heroin, opium and cocaine, except for medical use. In
1971, the Misuse of Drugs Act withdrew cannabis as a medicine. The
"burden of the system" which Mr Wakefield refers to, is actually the law
itself. In nearly 80 years of cannabis prohibition, drug laws have had
hardly any open debate, despite numerous Government-commissioned reports
recommending reform and decriminalisation. In 2006, government advisers
again called for reform of drug classification based on scientific
evidence, but again their findings were ignored. Cannabis is not for
youngsters, just like alcohol, tobacco or coffee, but otherwise,
law-abiding adults should not be made criminals for it. Back in 1928,
women finally got equal voting rights; it was illegal to be a gay man,
and legal to be a racist. Sometimes the law is simply wrong, and must be
changed. Cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use is a
victimless crime, and should not be illegal. That is why cannabis must
be removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act.




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