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Letters to the Editor The Times - 24-1-2000


'Depenalising' drugs

From the Director of the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit

Sir, I welcome the news that the Police Foundation's inquiry into drugs legislation (report, January 17) may recommend reducing the burden on the criminal justice system from cannabis offences. However, I am concerned about the level quoted to distinguish between possession and supply.

Two grams of cannabis is less than the size of the most common "street deal" (1/8oz or 3.5g), and is completely unrealistic as a limit.

Most users buy cannabis weekly, fortnightly or monthly, the average use being around 1g per day.

The figure must surely be 2oz (56g or more probably 50g), which would be similar to or lower than such limits in other European countries.

People growing their cannabis routinely face "supply" charges, as to be self-sufficient at least two months' supply is needed per indoor harvest, or a year if grown outdoors - prison sentences are common for growers even with small domestic systems.

The suggestion that Ecstasy may be brought into line with its cousin amphetamine is also long overdue, although users should be aware that Ecstasy will do no less harm to serotonin synapses as a class B drug than as a class A.

Clearly the committee of inquiry is concerned with political expediency as much as with a sensible system of control and regulation. Around one in 2,000 cannabis transactions comes to the notice of the police; thus "parking" type fines would represent a very inefficient form of "taxation" compared to excise duty.

Received January 14.

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