by Mick Hall.
Just how bankrupt of ideas New Labour has become was demonstrated yesterday when the over promoted Home Secretary Jackie Smith, reclassified Cannabis back to a class B drug. Such cowardly and harmful behavior has been par for the course throughout the New Labour governments period in office. For whenever they have come under the lash of the right wing media due to a societal problem they have always use administrative means to appease their reactionary media critics, whilst refusing to confront the core of the problem.
The UK already has some of the harshest laws within the EU against the possession and supply of illegal drugs, yet far from reducing the number of people who take recreational drugs these laws have become part of the problem. Our jails are full to bursting due to these draconian drug laws and thousands of young people are having their lives ruined, not by the drugs and narcotics they experiment with, but due to the governments infantile over reaction.
Rather than looking at the overall picture as people like Professor Colin Blakemore are calling for, the government looks to PC plod and the law to solve the problems of illegal drug use. Which is farcical as history has proved draconian laws have very little affect on the numbers of people taking hard and soft drugs. Indeed Pro Blackmore, the former head of the Medical Research Council, said that cannabis use had fallen since 2004 when the law was liberalized and Cannabis was downgraded to a class C drug; and restoring the drug to class B status would be unlikely to protect those people who were most vulnerable, [such as those with a psychiatric illness] but it would increase their chance of getting a criminal record. He went on to say, “The confusion over cannabis highlights the need for a proper overhaul of the present classification system, which the public neither understands or respects.” *
Drug-Scope, the leading drugs information charity, said in a statement that it was disappointed the government had ignored the ACMD’s advice: “Unfortunately, the message given by this decision is that drugs policy can be driven as much by political considerations, media headlines and scare stories as by the evidence.”
Even the government’s own scientific advisers last night warned the Home Secretary, that her decision to upgrade the legal status of cannabis would not work in curbing its widespread abuse. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said moving cannabis from class C to class B “is neither warranted, nor will it achieve its desired effect.”
The ACMD, the government’s own expert body on drugs, decided by 20 votes to three to recommend that cannabis remain a class C drug. Its nine-month review concluded that while more potent, homegrown strains of herbal cannabis, such as skunk, now dominate the British market, the evidence of a substantial link with mental illness remains weak.
Rawlins said that the government had the right to consider other factors but warned that reclassification would make little difference to the levels of consumption: “We know that for people who smoke cannabis, it makes no difference to them whether it is class A, B or C. What is important is a really vigorous public health response.”
About the only figure to welcome the reclassification decision was the Tory shadow home secretary, right winger David Davis, which just about says it all, as it is clear Ms Smith and the New Labour government is pandering to the worse of the reactionary media and conservative right wing bigots like Mr Davies. That these New Labour politicians still believe there are votes in cracking down on those who take recreational drugs just shows how little they understand about the constituency they are pledged to serve.
Again the Brown Government is using a societal problem to introduce laws that can and will be mainly aimed at working class people. Once again it will be the working classes and their children who will feel the backlash from this reclassification. Instead of turning the pockets out of working class youngsters and raiding small time inner city dealers, the police should turn their attention to the drug use within the City of London and within public corporations like the BBC. Drug use is allegedly rife in the dealing rooms of the cities major banks and the newsrooms of the mainstream media, but no suggestion of compulsory drug test there, despite the importance to the nation of what goes on in these organizations. Such test are reserved for the underclass that inhabit our prisons or the pupils who attend sink schools
Of course what is really needed is some innovative thinking as far as illegal drugs are concerned, but this is unlikely to happen for two reasons. Firstly neither the Labour Government or Conservative opposition would consider going beyond the strict guidelines set by the US government for its allies as far our drug laws and drug treatment methods are concerned. Secondly far to many influential middle class professionals gain a very good living out of the illegality of recreational drugs and it also allows governments and the home office to have a handy bogeyman about the place when it comes to justifying larger budgets for the police, military and security services.