Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin MP
32 Smith Square
Dear Mr Letwin,
Thank you very much for asking our opinion on the policy proposals for dealing with youth crime and drugs.
The proposed policy does make some valid points. However, we believe it is basically flawed.
Although appearing to take into consideration both preventative educational programmes and treatment for hard drug addicts as an option to imprisonment, we believe that you have failed to tackle the underlying causes that drive many young people down that route - that is their disillusionment with both government and education.
Any effective educational programme of advice to be directed at (young) people must be digestible to them! It must be credible, comprehensible and non-confrontational.
Cannabis use is common and socially tolerated amongst many young people.
Yet the law criminalises users. Is it then surprising - since so many young people are either classed as "criminal", or know someone who is, that once involved in the world of crime - despite having harmed nobody - they become increasingly disillusioned and alienated from the authorities who they see as hypocritical (Anne Widdicombe at Part Conference toasting with alcohol her "new" zero tolerance on-the-spot fines proposals.
Once the government and others admit the relative ("remarkable" - in the words of Prof. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School) safety and stop the blatant yet ineffective scare-mongering, then we may begin to make progress in communicating with young people.
Looking through the Conservative Party's proposal document, I was unable find any mention of cannabis (by any name). Maybe we ought not to be surprised that you turn to a party devoted to the legalisation and utilisation of cannabis on this issue, for this is the sort of help that we can offer..
ANY DRUGS OR CRIME POLICY IN OUR SOCIETY THAT IGNORES CANNABIS IS ILL-CONCEIVED AND INCOMPLETE.
The Home Office has said that about 25% of young people experiment with drugs, and that the main drug is cannabis. That figure is almost certainly too low, in our opinion, and we believe it would be double that in the age bracket 14 to 21. The number of young schoolchildren that use cannabis is appalling.
EVERY child who comes into contact with cannabis is drawn into the world of crime and often left at the mercy of greedy dealers who will happily lead them onto hard drugs that are addictive for most users and more profitable for the dealers. NOTE: not all people who supply cannabis would supply hard drugs, but many suppliers of hard drugs also supply cannabis
Thus the GATEWAY to both hard drugs and crime is opened by dealers to young people..
Cannabis is obviously a very attractive and pleasant experience for many people, and so far no force of law has been able to deter many millions of people from using it.
Ms Anne Widdicombe's proposal of zero tolerance is doomed to failure: since when have British people been willing to accept zero tolerance? The very concept challenges compassion, freedom and rights.
As I have said, education that is indigestible is ineffective - the information given to adults and children should be accurate and unbias, based upon fact not theory or judgmental morality.
Despite claims to the contrary mostly from those who strongly support its prohibition, the official empirical studies on the health effects of the smoking of smoking pure cannabis by human beings suggests that it is extremely low risk to all but a tiny minority. The evidence contradicts that from laboratory experiments using tetrahydrocannabinol on rats and monkeys: the WHO Report concluded that the differences made uncertain the extrapolation from laboratory chemicals to plant and people.
With the presence of modern methods of communication such as the Internet, people are becoming increasingly aware that the risks associated with cannabis use have at best been exaggerated and at worst a tactic of those who stand firm on prohibition policies. Yet people know that many legal substances and activities are far more dangerous than cannabis.
Often the claims of danger and / or of 'lack of enough research' are used to try to justify the ban. Cannabis is one of the most studied plants on the planet!
The recent pronouncement by the British Lung Foundation, based upon selective reports mostly conceived by staunch prohibitionists such as Professor Ashton is an example of that: the BLF completely ignored evidence to the contrary to their claim of cancers.
Quotes on the SAFETY of cannabis use that contradicts the claims of harm can be found at: http://www.ccguide.org/potent.html. YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE CONVEYOR BELT TO CRIME
Based upon my own conversations with young people (mostly in the 15 to 24 bracket), this is what happens to many of them: they see the hypocrisy present within the large political parties, schools and Church, and that leads them to either distrust or simply ignore those who offer much help and professional advice. They often turn then to their peers, many of whom take drugs, either for the excitement or for rebellion. They rapidly pass into the hands of unscrupulous drug dealers who may offer very unreliable advice and can lead them into the more general world of crime.
Please consider this route, travelled by an increasing number of youngsters
Our proposals are that cannabis becomes legalised and that the cultivation and sale are brought within the law. This would not be to say "cannabis is OK" or to promote it, rather to accept that the use of cannabis, whether advisable or not, is in fact a victimless act that does not deserve punishment by law.
Once cannabis is within the law, then accurate advice can be given at point of sale: at the moment if one were to say to young people "smoke cannabis pure, through cooled waterpipes (hubbly-bubbly, bong, hookah), without tobacco", one could be prosecuted for incitement. Yet few would argue with that advice. If one said, "smoke pure cannabis and not the weird mixtures of who-knows-what sold on the street" one could face prosecution.
We believe that the legalisation of cannabis would break the "conveyor belt to crime" at its most vulnerable point - at the start.
The bringing of cannabis out of the world of crime and into the world of law would:
We believe that the Conservatives ought to take this into consideration and make the brave step of calling for legalisation of cannabis. It would clearly be a popular proposals amongst all sectors of the population and show young people that the Tories are a party that respects people's choices and rights yet is concerned with their safety.
I hope that has been of some help. I realise that we are pushing for legalisation, but that is what the LCA are about - not so we can all "get stoned", but to help protect and improve society and the attitudes, in particular, of the young.
Back to the indexE-mail webmaster