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UK Courts: Creating Criminals Over Cannabis

December 5, 2011

Taking A Moral Highground

Honorary Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Alan Goldsack QC has set out on a moral mission to wipe out cannabis use in his city. His argument is policy biased, ignoring scientific and drug related crime data completely.

This week in Sheffield was Cannabis Action Week where police carried out raids on 16 properties of different kinds ranging from family homes to business properties. 15 arrests were made and a reported total of £50,000 worth of drugs were seized.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Bob Chapman, who lead the Threat Harm and Risk Team from Monday to Friday, said: “Our operation was to tackle low-level dealers who cause immense problems for communities.

“It will not only have a positive effect within the community but also prevent serious criminality from gaining a foothold.”

The opposite is true, because the authorities refuse to wake up to the reality provided by the facts.

During the last Labour government, then-Home Secretary David Blunkett reclassified cannabis from its original Class B status to a Class C, which many claimed was decriminalisation as immediate arrest for possession was removed. It remained a more serious crime for manufacture and distribution.

Cannabis use among Britons also fell after the reclassification in 2004 and in 2005 the Home Office reported that 199,000 police hours were saved by this move. In fact, in 1999 the Runciman Report made it known that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) had made similar recommendations to reclassify cannabis possession as far back as 1979.

Judge Goldsack’s crackdown has been in effect for some months now. He was quoted on 24th of September 2011 as saying, “Cannabis is a dangerous drug and anyone who brings it into existence must be punished,” and “Six out of the 14 cases on my list [this morning] involve producing cannabis on various scales,” commenting on the prevalence of indoor gardening in South Yorkshire.

Chief Inspector Chapman said: “My message to anyone tempted to grow cannabis is that cannabis is not a harmless drug – it is extremely detrimental to people’s lives.”

He then added…

“The strength of some of the skunk cannabis on sale is, in my opinion, of a strength comparable to Class A rather than Class B drugs.”

Where CI Chapman’s expert knowledge and opinion in drug strength comes from is one question, but why he thinks he is entitled to make those assumptions suggests that he thinks he has more power than is granted to him by his title. In the eyes of the law it doesn’t matter if it is industrial hemp, ditch-weed or skunk cannabis.

We were unable to receive comment on CI Chapman’s Class A and Class B drug taking experiences so we could further understand why he believes he is informed enough to make those claims, just by looking at the cannabis in its growing stages.

Rejection of Evidence and Evidence of Rejection

To suggest that cannabis is a drug as dangerous as heroin and cocaine is simply not supported by any scientific evidence, as the AMCD has consistently reiterated. The AMCD presented evidence to the Government in 2008 supporting its reasons for advising that cannabis remain Class C. This was ignored. Under Gordon Brown, Jacquie Smith reclassified cannabis to a class B drug again the following year.

It is not the first time in recent months that cannabis has been associated with the dangers of class A substances. In June, Charles Walker Conservative for Broxbourne made the preposterous claim in the House of Commons that it was less harmful for children to use cocaine than cannabis. “It is a lot easier to repair a septum in one’s nose than to repair a brain…” completely playing down any of the serious harms that cocaine can cause such as psychological and physical dependency.

In 2007 The Guardian reported:

“British Crime Survey statistics showed that the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds using cannabis slumped from 28 per cent a decade ago to 21 per cent now, with its declining popularity accelerating after the decision to downgrade the drug to Class C was announced in January 2004.”

And…

“Mr Brown asked the Government’s advisory committee on the misuse of drugs to take a second look at the classification of cannabis in July after reports that stronger strains of cannabis – known as ‘superskunk’ – were dominating the British market…”

But as we have established, the evidence was ignored.

The choice of those in powerful positions to reject the expert and scientific information on the health and social harms of cannabis and dismissal of the health and social harms caused by prohibition, is allowing a criminal underclass to flourish in this country. If this is allowed to continue the damage will quickly become harder to repair due to the culture being passed down through generations. It will become systemic.

Reporting on one of Goldsack’s victims, The Sheffield Star in September said:

“Stuart Brown, 40, of Hay Green Lane, Birdwell, Barnsley, was jailed for six months for producing eight cannabis plants with a street value of £9,140. His mother, who is suffering from a tumour in her eye and was accompanied by his elderly father, wept in the public gallery as he was sent down. The court heard Brown had lost his job at Mercedes Benz because of the court proceedings.”

He will now have a criminal record, leave prison as a new figure on the unemployed register, be dependant on the state welfare system until he finds a job, and find it incredibly hard to find a job as he carries the stigma of a drug conviction. Not to mention the impact this will have on his ability to travel internationally.

Each new prison place costs an estimated £119,000 and the annual cost for someone to be imprisoned is around £40,000, according The Guardian. This means that Stuart Brown has cost the taxpayer £139,000 because he chose to grow cannabis himself rather than gift that money he would have spent on the class B drug to the criminal

underclass that he has now been made a part of.

Regulation

This nonsensical crackdown on cannabis seems even more ridiculous when you take into consideration the Government’s granting of a unique manufacture and marketing licence for Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray that is produced by GW Pharmaceuticals in Kent. They grow 200 tonnes of cannabis per annum to extract the lipid-based glands (which store the medical properties of the plant), by dissolving it in ethanol to create an alcohol/cannabinoids solution known as a tincture.

Sativex is a regulated dosage and legally prescribed (in some areas) to patients in the UK, Canada, Australia, and Spain with chronic pain, cancer pain and, mostly, MS. When cannabis is smoked those same medicinal lipid glands combust and vaporise, being taken into the blood stream through the lungs in the same way as oxygen is and your body metabolises it in the same way as Sativex has been proven to under highly regulated laboratory conditions.

In Brighton down on the South East Coast, Green MP Caroline Lucas is trying to move forward and introduce the localism agenda that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been pushing.

Lucas said in a speech to health workers: “The current free-for-all in which anyone can manufacture, sell or get hold of drugs needs to end — through proper regulation, strict controls on who can buy what and when, and ending the criminal control of drug markets,”

Speaking about her constituency, she said: “…our experience shows that prohibition and abstinence don’t work – and we want to try something different.”

This is not a green light for the cannabis coffee-shop model of Amsterdam to move into Brighton but a serious attempt to reduce the social and individual harms that drug use in an unregulated market fosters.

The Government – right the way up to David Cameron and Nick Clegg (whose constituency is Sheffield and whose party, the Liberal Democrats have just voted to make it party policy to decriminalise all drug use) as well as other pubic figures of importance, such as Judge Goldsack – needs to be looking at what other areas of the country are doing to tackle the problem that sees “six out of fourteen” court cases being brought against cannabis growers. It also needs to take responsibility by looking towards the rest of Europe, and the world, which is taking a more liberal stance on so called “soft drugs” and seeing a reduction in use of all drug use. In Holland, for example, heroin use has remained stable since the introduction of a cannabis-tolerating policy in 1974. Here in the UK, heroin use has skyrocketed 2,000 per cent in the same time. Instead of cannabis looking as dangerous as heroin, it seems that message being sent out and received is that heroin is as soft a drug as cannabis. The ACMD simply do not support this view.

For CI Bob Chapman to claim that the crackdown in Sheffield “…will not only have a positive effect within the community [and] prevent serious criminality from gaining a foothold” – after taking into consideration the social and scientific evidence presented ­– I believe shows that his stance is one of morally-based policy obligation.

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