DRUG WAR BRIEFS:The Problem With Prohibition

March 13-The Santa Fe New Mexican reports: Local teens applauded Republican Gov. Gary Johnson on Tuesday afternoon at Warehouse 21 during a drug-policy discussion.

People should not be punished for their decision to smoke marijuana, the governor said.

"Ninety percent of the drug problem is prohibition related and not use related," Johnson said as he opened the discussion.

March 14- BBC News reports: A senior police officer has been criticised after saying most of the damage from drugs is caused not by the substances themselves, but by the UK legal system.

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom said he saw no problem with drugs as long as addicts were not committing crimes to fund their habit.

Mr. Brunstrom told Channel 4 News: "If you're not mugging old ladies and not stealing from shops and not stealing cars, what actually is the problem? We have the harshest drugs laws in Europe and by far the worst drug abuse problem - so we haven't got it right, and in my view we are losing the war.

"There is no doubt at all that there is an appalling toll of human misery caused by the misuse of drugs in the current environment. My proposition is that much of that is caused by their illegality and not by the drugs.

March 15- The Irish Independent reports: The British government's drug advisers reported yesterday that cannabis was less addictive than either tobacco or alcohol, a significant step towards the decriminalisation of Britain's most widely used illicit substance.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs backed an earlier proposal by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, that cannabis should be downgraded to a Class C drug, which in effect makes its possession a non-arrestable offence.

The council said in its report: "Regular heavy use of cannabis can result in dependence, but its dependence potential is substantially less than that of Class B drugs such as amphetamine or, indeed, that of tobacco or alcohol."

Backing the first relaxation of Britain's drug laws in 30 years, the council said: "The high use of cannabis is not associated with major health problems for the individual or society."

March 15- Canada's National Post editorializes: The lobby to decriminalize marijuana continues to grow, with the Canadian Medical Association now joining the push. The organization, which represents more than 50,000 physicians, has strengthened the case previously made by groups such as the federally funded Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the Association of Canadian Police Chiefs and the Canadian Bar Association. These organizations hardly constitute a hippy rabble.

The facts show that marijuana generally contributes to ruin of neither mind nor body. As the British medical journal, The Lancet, argued in a 1998 editorial: "It would be reasonable to judge cannabis less of a threat to health than alcohol or tobacco." Around the world, tobacco claims more than three million lives every year. Alcohol claims another 750,000. Marijuana, which is far less addictive than either -- to the extent it is addictive at all -- is harmless by comparison. While smoking pot, like smoking tobacco, harms the lungs and throat, there is not a single confirmed published case of a human death arising from cannabis poisoning anywhere.

March 16- The UK Times reports: Half of police officers questioned about enforcing the law on using cannabis admitted that they had taken the drug at some time in their lives. The research now being studied by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, was carried out among Metropolitan and South Yorkshire police and shows that many support a more liberal approach.

The researchers also found that 85 per cent of those who had used the drug were prepared to be more tolerant in their treatment of users.

Over half also believed that cannabis legislation harmed relations between police and young people, especially black and Asian communities.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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