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Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Should the law be relaxed on 'soft drugs'?
Do you think people should go to prison for possession of cannabis or ecstasy? A report by the influential Police Foundation recommends a re-classification of the two drugs to reflect the risks they pose.

UK drug czar Keith Hellawell thinks prison should remain the final available sanction for those caught in possession of drugs, including cannabis. However others say the view that all drugs are as harmful as each other drastically needs updating.

What do you think - should the law reflect more relaxed attitudes towards "soft drugs", or do you think easing the penalties for cannabis and ecstasy possession would make harder drugs like cocaine and heroin more acceptable? Send us your views and experiences.

Your reaction

Look... When was the last time anyone heard of a man going out, smoking a joint with his mates and going home to beat the hell out of his wife and kids. Most people have never heard of that happening yet every week, in many households up and down the country, that is precisely what happens after a good old 'booze up' at the local watering hole.
Ray, UK

The UK will go down the tubes if this law is passed.
Stephen, USA

If cannabis or ecstasy were proved to be harmful, this would be another sensible reason for legal regulation. I don't accept that it's a good idea to allow criminals to continue to control these markets.
Brian Milner, UK

If drugs were legalised, the trade wouldn't be interesting any more.

Spirig, Switzerland
Everyone should have the right to do what he/she wants. Because everyone knows that drugs aren't healthy. If drugs were legalised, the trade wouldn't be interesting any more. And dealers wouldn't earn lots of money any more.
Spirig, Switzerland

I think drugs are a big problem and legalisation won't help. But it's the ideal dirty resource for politicians. They could do dirty business with your health.
Timur, Russia

I don't understand why everyone seems so keen on this stuff. The argument seems to be that it's just a herb that helps you relax, but if that's all people want then there are plenty of herbs like camomile or valerian which aren't illegal, don't have to be smoked and don't cloud the brain, you can even drink infusions of them at work, but the impression I get is that relaxation and clarity of mind is not really what they're after - more the buzz of doing something illegal and of getting stoned - and that's just adolescent.
G Martin, UK

"I do not use drugs", what you never use alcohol? Or nicotine, caffeine, etc? Pubs and "kick-out time" in the UK is lesson enough about the effects of "socially acceptable" drugs.
Simon, USA (formerly UK)

I think that drugs should be legalised. There are many people who use drugs and I know for a fact that they will always be around. As long as the person under the influence is using the drug in their own home. He/she should be given the right to do whatever they desire as long as it is in their own home.
Bobby, USA

People are going to take drugs like cannabis and ecstasy whether or not it's illegal. So I think its better if they are regulated and taxed by the government to avoid problems with the drugs being contaminated or laced with things like rat poison. And this way we would also manage to almost completely cut out the criminals who are making money smuggling and dealing the drugs.
James Irwin, N. Ireland

Any legalisation of soft drugs must be accompanied by a very clear educational campaign (funded from the revenue of their sale) much as we try to educated people about the evils of drink and smoking.

John, Zimbabwe
Inevitably, it is the double standard applied to other drugs, like nicotine and alcohol, that is the stumbling block. The fear of many that use of so called soft drugs automatically leads on to other mis/use assumes automatically that we are all innately weak willed and incapable of rational thought.
Whilst I know this does apply to many (sic), we do not generally make the same assumption about taking a first drink. Any legalisation of soft drugs must be accompanied by a very clear educational campaign (funded from the revenue of their sale) much as we try to educated people about the evils of drink and smoking. Whilst recognising we must have some controls exercised on us (if only to keep the odd hospital bed free for the genuinely victim of non-self-inflicted illnesses) we should be able to exercise some of our own judgement...please?
John, Zimbabwe

It seems strange that an offence is or has been routinely committed by millions of people in this country which could result in their imprisonment if they were caught for a single instance of possession? Is there any other class of offence where this situation is the case? And where by common consent the crime is victimless and the offence possibly completely harmless? Just how many stalwarts of society in their youth have been guilty - Ministers, MPs, Chief Executives or Directors of public companies, JPs, lawyers, even police officers. Perhaps the law would become unsustainable if they were "outed". Perhaps that is the only way that the hypocrisy can be exposed.
Nic Oatridge, UK

Drug laws do no more for us than prohibition did for USA: stop wasting my taxes. Decriminalise not legalise - I don't see why I should start paying tax on what has always been a tax-free pleasure.
Phil, UK

So anon feels that those of us against change know little about the subject. I am against any change at all and feel all drugs should be class A. My sister started dabbling with the so called safe drug cannabis at 15 by the time she was 17 she was a heroin addict in an ever decreasing spiral of crime and squalor. All drugs should be illegal and anyone found dealing, supplying or cultivating any drug should get 10 years for the first offence. Extremist maybe, but necessary to rid our country and its youth of this disgusting evil.
Kelv, England

It seems unreasonable to me that the state should dictate what may or may not pass through a person's body

Simon Thomas, Jersey
It seems unreasonable to me that the state should dictate what may or may not pass through a person's body: legislation against what the individual does to him or herself seems to treat the individual body as public property, which goes against the principle of individual liberty at the heart of democracy.
Simon Thomas, Jersey

The government resists calls for a Royal Commission because it (and senior civil servants) know that it will shatter every piece of bogus information that has driven drug policy since the 1930s. If, however, there was a commercial lobby in favour of legalising cannabis, I suspect it would be made legal and patented within months. The police acknowledge that the law as it stands is unenforceable and senior officers must be congratulated on their pragmatism. Maybe one day, the politicians will also acknowledge public opinion and change a law which unnecessarily criminalises otherwise law-abiding people.
GJ Merrill, UK

The government will never class cannabis and E as a softer drug. Vote winning is their agenda and that means no change. Remember, alcohol and cigarettes are OK because the government can earn billions from them out of tax. Why not legalise C & E and place a high tax on it? Then if people have any money left after income tax and VAT they can contribute to the government's purse in another way! At least this way, you may know what you are buying.
Jim, UK

Since when have cannabis, which is only known as harmless, and ecstasy, which has been shown to be very dangerous, been put into the same boat?
Star, Canada

I moved to the Netherlands 5 years ago when I was 16 and I was amazed by the attitude to drugs here. In Holland people are educated about drugs and their effects. Throughout secondary school in Glasgow I saw a lot of drug use and also had a lot of pressure to try it, over here there was none of that. Okay I saw people using dope but was never once pressured into using it or any other drugs, the people are relaxed about it and see the benefits of their system. The Dutch system has been shown to work and Holland has one of the lowest hard drug abuse rates in Europe, while tolerating cannabis use. Coffee shops in Amsterdam are specifically geared towards tourists and they come in their droves and what happens, we the people who live here benefit because the government gets to tax those owning coffee shops and plough the money back into the community. I just wish people would stop being so judgmental and open their eyes to education. It is the only way, and for those of you that think I am a pothead think again, I don't, because I never felt the need to. Look to the Dutch because they are obviously doing something right.
Joanne, Netherlands (ex Brit)

The thing that annoys me most about this debate is those who are against any change don't know much about the subject, let alone have any experience of the drugs involved. As a long time Cannabis user I would love to be able to grow a couple of plants for use in cooking - I would then seriously consider giving up tobacco (and alcohol isn't something I use regularly anyway!) (By the way, I am over 40, earn 30 per hour in my employment and don't have a criminal record!)
Anon, England

The government is afraid of alienating sections of the electorate by opening up a reasonable, logical debate on the subject.

Conall Bullock, England
Marijuana is beneficial in stress relief, glaucoma, MS, AIDS sufferers, Cancer patients. It can be used as an appetite enhancer (for people with eating disorders), the manufacture of material for clothing, fuels and trade. It is most commonly used for 'recreational' purposes and (as yet) no long term physical or psychological damage has been observed. Why then do we insist on labelling all who use this drug (by their own choice) as criminals? Alcohol does not even offer half as many benefits as marijuana nor do the abusers of alcohol fare anywhere near as well as the abusers of marijuana. The government is afraid of alienating sections of the electorate by opening up a reasonable, logical debate on the subject.
Conall Bullock, United Kingdom

All illicit drugs should be legalised immediately, as this is the only way that the criminals who profit from others addictions will be stopped. Whilst recreational drugs remain illegal, the opportunity to make a lot of money for doing relatively little will continue to be exploited by the less scrupulous members of our society. Take away the unfeasible profit margins that drug traffickers enjoy (even tax it and then spend the resulting revenue on any health costs that arise from its use!) and the crime, misery and problems that surround drugs would pretty much be wiped out.
Dave Strong, UK

Prohibition of any substance does not seem to work. It seems to me that we now have with the current set of illicit drugs, a similar situation to that 'enjoyed' in the US during the time of the prohibition. That is to say, a crime subculture supported by the demand for drugs. Take away the prohibition and the problem may well go away. It's time that the politicians that run the nanny-state woke up and legalized the consumption of all recreational drugs. This would enable more help to be given to users as required, rather than treating them as villains.
chris, uk

The law should be relaxed on ALL drugs. I couldn't care less if people want to turn their brains into mashed potatoes in search of some sort of illusive nirvana

Craig Harry, England
Drug abuse occurs in a minority of those using drugs. The suffering caused is appalling, but why punish the responsible 'casual' user of cannabis for the abuse of a minority of addictive, obsessive personalities. If you must use this logic, ban football - think of all those hooligans off the street? On the other hand, I suspect they, like drug abusers, will simply find some other 'drug' to enliven their lives - alcohol, nicotine, heroin, football, hockey, the internet?
Sue Packard, UK

The law should be relaxed on ALL drugs. I couldn't care less if people want to turn their brains into mashed potatoes in search of some sort of illusive nirvana. I do care that old women get hit on the head by social inadequates seeking funds to line the pockets of sawn-off little Hitlers growing fat on the proceeds. Open your eyes.
Craig Harry, England

I'm a grandfather who smoked cannabis daily for over 30 years. Yet it was a legal drug, alcohol, which shortened my parents' lives. More people die from peanut allergies than ecstasy. The government seems to suffer from tunnel vision and is petrified of sending out the wrong message - or altering the status quo. Totally lacking in courage. Oh, the hypocrisy! I gave up smoking altogether 3 years ago. It was the addictive drug nicotine that gave me the hardest time trying to quit.
Dave Henniker, Scotland

Cannabis is virtually harmless compared to alcohol and nicotine.

Ross Marnie, Scotland
Cannabis is virtually harmless compared to alcohol and nicotine, the two biggest KILLER drugs used in the UK, and there is significant evidence that it can be used beneficially to treat medical conditions like chronic arthritis and ME. So why is the law all back-to-front?
Ross Marnie, Scotland

The line has to be drawn somewhere. If 'soft drugs' became legal then the now 'hard drugs' will be termed 'soft drugs' and a campaign will then start to legalise those too. People may scoff whether that will happen but its an inch by inch thing. 50 years ago talking about homosexuality was a huge faux pas - its gone so far now the government wants to teach it in schools.
Peter B, USA (ex UK)

As a local politician, I am ashamed at the immature attitude of our national politicians in dealing with drug abuse. They seem to be blind to the probability that prohibition and UK law is responsible for increasing drug abuse. It has not reduced it. They say, "to suggest a change in the law would send the wrong message to young people". I think that the message that young people get from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary is that they are dishonest and won't face reality. Dishonest in that they equate cannabis with cocaine and yet allow alcohol abuse. Unrealistic, in that they spend several times the amount on enforcement than on drug health and education. Until senior Minster's grow up and stop pandering to reactionary forces, the situation will get worse.
Alan Dean, England

Being stoned in public leads to what? Aggravated giggling? Criminal hunger causing snacking? Hugging in the first degree?

Kristian, Canada, and a non-pot smoker
I good friend of mine was 'busted' outside of a nightclub in Victoria, BC, Canada, for drinking a beer and smoking a joint. On the spot he received a $100cdn fine for 'drinking in public', and a summons for the pot. In court he received a $50cdn fine and a misdemeanour conviction for possession of marijuana, leaving no criminal record. To me this seems appropriate. Public drunkenness leads to fisticuffs, drunk driving deaths, and tears. Being stoned in public leads to what? Aggravated giggling? Criminal hunger causing snacking? Hugging in the first degree?
Kristian, Canada, and a non-pot smoker

Dave Auklands comment infuriates me when he says that "A relaxation of cannabis laws will only lead to anarchy and a nation of doped up hippies." This only shows how naive he is. I live in Amsterdam and can tell you for a fact that the Dutch are far from being a nation of doped up hippies. A very healthy percentage of the Dutch who live in Amsterdam do not use drugs at all. The regular users of drugs in Amsterdam are locals such as Moroccans, Rastas, and ex-pats and a huge percentage of users are tourists. To be honest I'd rather live in a city with a bunch of doped up happy hippies than a city where people are out of their minds from alcohol which may lead to after closing street violence where people get hurt, maimed and sometimes killed.
C, Amsterdam, Netherlands

We shouldn't be surprised by Governmental reaction to recent Police Federation recommendations. Don't forget that countless (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of jobs rely on the status quo, not least those that work within the criminal justice system and the misguided hacks who work at the Daily Mail. The argument must continue to be made - perhaps a level-headed and sane response will win the day...
Dr P R Higate, UK

Increased tolerance towards drugs is symptomatic of a society that is becoming increasingly immoral.

Jeff, USA
The increased tolerance towards drugs such as marijuana is symptomatic of a society that is becoming increasingly immoral. If soft drugs are legalised, then hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine will become more widely used. That in turn will help lead to the ruination of civilisation.
Jeff, USA

I read your report about the Dutch approach. It seems to be admirably down to earth and sensible. Come on government allow the citizen some more choice in methods of self destruction. After all one can't legislate for common sense.
Gwyn Jones, Germany

I have no time for people who take drugs - it's just a sign of immaturity and inadequacy. If you have lots of interests and good friends you don't need it in your life. People who do drugs should be made to work for a few weeks as auxiliaries in a hospital ward seeing first-hand the effects that drugs can have.

As usual, politicians are unable to even mention the word 'drugs' without wetting their pants. At the same time they seem to have no understanding of what they are talking about. Drugs are defined (in the public consciousness) by the fact that they are illegal, not by any inherent quality. Legalise, educate and regulate are the only sensible ways forward - continuing the current policy is moving backwards.
Rich, Singapore (British)

The fight against drugs is lost on everyone bar the most conservative older generation.
Stuart Whiley, US and UK

What do you do when a terminally ill person uses such drugs to remain pain free?

Tahir Nawab, NY, USA
What do you do in situations where a terminally ill person uses such drugs to remain pain free until his eventual demise? In the US on the premise of a drug-free society, they have made the English "Bromptons Cocktail" illegal. Even for terminally ill patients in hospices to whom such a mixture would be the affordable respite from the excruciating pain and misery brought about by the incurable diseases that plague them and which they must face each day until death.
Tahir Nawab, NY, USA

The Dutch softdrugs policy makes for more responsible, more aware and more restrained users. In the US, they can buy and use guns on account of selective rights and liberties. An eighteen year old is allowed, encouraged or forced to die in a senseless war if need be. And they can't smoke a joint?
Dr Pnin, Netherlands

We have already proved admirably that prohibition does not work. The dealers and producers of illegal drugs are flourishing under our 'zero-tolerance' policies. They can raise their prices and supply dangerously substandard chemicals to our poor. What we need is sensible rather than sensational dialogue, education, and co-operation on this topic. This is the only way that we will ever effect a change in the epidemic of violence, addiction, and disease that has taken over our society.
Ana M. Deardorff, US

I live in the United States - a country that has more people incarcerated per-capita than anywhere else in the world - most of them on drug related charges. The war on drugs is a war on people.
Philip Boston, Australia/USA

A drug is a drug is a drug... There is no issue of 'hard' and 'soft'. People under the influence of any drug tend to have distorted, abnormal behaviour. And that cannot be justified as being 'legal'.
Guru Shenoy, United States

The government should admit a drug policy which has not changed in 30 years does not work.

Phil, UK
In Holland, where the use of cannabis is legal, has a lower level of users per head of the population than this country. Please forget the propaganda, listen to people, educate people, with them the truth and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Phil, UK

Why will the Government not listen to these respected surveys and when will we get a new "czar"? No, I don't use drugs.
Paul S Madley, UK

In California, we are locking up non-violent soft drug offenders at a cost of $30,000 per year per person. Meanwhile, drug counselling programs, which cost less than $4,000 per person are not being funded.
Robert A. Martin, USA

Please, Great British public, don't be swayed into allowing drugs like cannabis to be decriminalised: this will greatly detract from the fun.
B F Roach, UK

Alcohol and nicotine are both associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality worldwide. They kill people on a massive scale, all the time. Not just occasionally. Just because society has arbitrarily chosen to sanction the use of these particular drugs does not mean they are any safer or "better" than other drugs.
Richard, New Zealand ex UK

It is such a shame that the government has dismissed this report out of hand.

Annie, UK
This is a good opportunity to have for the first time an open and honest debate about drug use. Instead we have been shown just how out of touch the government really is. It is about time the government acknowledged that the vast majority of soft drug users are otherwise model citizens, with jobs, friends, lives and responsibilities, and who use their own money to pay for their recreation.
Annie, UK

All drugs should be made legal. The main reason they are not legal is because the government can't figure out how to regulate and make money off it. They aren't fooling anyone by acting like their actually concerned with our health.
Tammy Fortin, USA

I'm 33. I have 2 degrees. I use E once or twice a month. I love dance music and don't a represent a danger to anyone. I may pay a price in years to come but why, like thousands more like me, should we run the risk of custody for possessing a drug which for me just means a good time?
Jez, London

I am definitely in favour of legalising this drug. Now the kids are grown up I would like to try cannabis and even grow it in my back garden (or do I need a greenhouse?). My problem is that I gave up cigarettes years ago and would like to do cannabis without tobacco.
Bernard, England

Put your copies of the Daily Mail down and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth!

The sanctioned use of soft drugs would have many benefits for the country. Without a shadow of a doubt cannabis would be heavily taxed. Also, with regulation comes quality control. Amphetamines, and ecstasy, can be manufactured safely, without as many harmful toxins present, and regulated to restrict people from consuming overdose levels.

I think it is a shame that anyone in our day and age can lose his or her job as well as be subjected to criminal proceedings for smoking cannabis. It proves to me that this really should be a human rights issue as they are being criminalised on the basis of a person's opinion.
Barry Sharpe, United Kingdom

Never mind cannabis, I find it astounding that we have still not taken more sensible measures to prevent youngsters from smoking tobacco! Why is it still possible to buy cigarettes at the age of 16?
Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge, UK

The fact that people are still discussing the possible adverse effects of marijuana, sheds light on the ignorance of many western societies. Violence involving drugs is the violence involved in the illegal trafficking and dealing.

I conducted research into the behavioural effects of whole smoked cannabis as well as oral, delta-9-THC and I think that relaxing laws on marijuana is a good idea, regulate it as you do alcohol. A move like this in the UK could really set a precedent for other nations.
Chris, USA

If a government had a plan to manufacture a disaffected and criminal underclass, they could not do better.

Jon Livesey, USA
If a government had a plan to manufacture a disaffected and criminal underclass, they could not do better than to thrown people in jail for using a mildly addictive drug that huge numbers of people use. Could there be anything more ridiculous than a government that preaches patriotism while deliberately alienating the young.
Jon Livesey, USA

Legalise cannabis. It has been PROVEN to work in Holland. That's the end of the debate.
Mark Laurence Scott, Brit in California, USA

In Genesis 1:29 God said: "Here I have given to YOU all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed." Is it not hypocrisy that the governments of so-called God-fearing Christian states can wage a war on cannabis based on morals? Cannabis does not lead to addiction. Lack of education leads to addiction. Other aspects of human nature are addictive as well, such as preaching holier than thou attitudes! I live in British Columbia where marijuana usage and cultivation seems quite common albeit still illegal. It was brought here for the most part by pacifist "hippies" escaping the Vietnam draft.
D.Soleil, Canada

Decriminalising drugs here would not stop the ghastly people involved in the wider international drug trade who are the real danger here. Prime Minister you've already lost the battle over Cannabis and ecstasy. Why not just admit what everyone already knows and concentrate you're effort on bigger dangers?
David Saxby, England

This government has proven once again that it has no courage, and absolutely no sense. It is against civil liberties, and for authoritarianism. I will never vote for New Labour.
Linden, England

The only countries which have successfully tackled drug abuse are the Netherlands and Switzerland. These two countries have tolerated cannabis use to some extent, and allowed heroin to be prescribed to addicts. This takes away the profits of the dealers, and prevents cannabis being seen in the same light as far more dangerous drugs.
Linden, England

People have, and always will, take drugs.

Gordon, Australian in London
Like most social issues in this country, the Government is backward looking and stubborn, ensuring that Britain remains, in regards to this issue and many others, a good 10 to 20 years behind the rest of the developed world. A simple possible solution: EDUCATION not punishment for drug users (this goes for drinkers and smokers as well). People have, and always will, take drugs.
Gordon, Australian in London

Cannabis is bad and should be illegal, people seem to be forgetting the mental problems that can be caused by its use.
Dave Eyrl, UK

Why can't the Government understand that making a substance illegal only increases its appeal to young people? And that it has absolutely no effect whatsoever on most people's decision to take drugs? Visiting a Northern club recently I was surprised to see that the majority of high ecstasy users (and I'm talking about 15 pills a night) are under 20 years of age.
Liz, UK

Taking drugs is like doing dangerous sports.

Taking drugs is like doing dangerous sports. There are some who will dabble with ecstasy, cocaine and other "recreational" drugs (excluding heroin and crack) who suffer little or no adverse side effects in the long run. On the other hand there are those who will dabble and end up taking to much for their own good. The point is that it's not all black and white.
Someone might take too much or simply have a snort or toot on the odd occasion with little or no adverse side effects. A "pusher" is just as likely to be a friend who has happened to score for you as the "fiend" who sells heroin to children on the playground. I'm not advocating anything except a little bit of reality when we come to discuss this issue.

If reports are to be believed, half a million people make a decision to break the law and take ecstasy in the UK on any given weekend. While the government maintains prefers not to manage this situation and keep its head in the sand, millions of people are developing a nonchalant disregard for laws which don't suit their lifestyle. I'd be more worried about that than anything else.
Ian, UK

The Dutch experience suggests that decriminalisation of soft drugs doesn't lead to increased hard drug use. The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of hard drug use in Western Europe, much lower than Britain's, and the average age of hard drug users is increasing by about one year every year, suggesting that the drug abuse population is simply getting older.
The important thing to understand is that the Dutch policy separates the soft and hard drug markets.
Dave Boyce, Amsterdam, Netherlands

A relaxation of cannabis laws will only lead to anarchy and a nation of doped up hippies.

David Auckland, UK
The increased use of drugs in the UK is a perfect example of how society is steadily degenerating. The use of cannabis is the first step to serious addiction and therefore users should be punished severely. A relaxation of cannabis laws will only lead to anarchy and a nation of doped up hippies.
David Auckland, UK

Why oh why are we still going around in this ever decreasing circle? Education is the ONLY answer to the drug issue in this country, it is embarrassingly obvious that current legislation does NOT work! Sending people to prison for something like possession of a recreational drug is ridiculous.
Surely it is time we stopped arguing about the facts we already know and make some headway into educating people on what the consequences of use are. Stop saying don't do it - it just doesn't work.
Simon Floyd, UK

Unfortunately this government is more concerned with knee-jerk condemnation to appease Daily Mail readers than taking an objective look at this issue. When they can't even stop drugs getting into ours prisons how can they try and keep up the pretence that they can control them in the community as a whole.
By steadfastly ignoring reality in this way it removes any credibility in their own drugs policies with those of us who live in the real world. A world where alcohol causes far more violence and deaths than cannabis and ecstasy.
Dave Crack, England

I think cannabis should be sold like cigarettes.

Tricia Moore, Scotland
I think cannabis should be sold like cigarettes. Look at the money the country would make from the tax and it would stop all the "dealers" cashing in. I think a large percentage of people who have gone from cannabis to "harder" drugs has been a bit because they find difficulty getting cannabis from their usual sources and the "dealers" offer them something else instead and they are tempted (especially children and teenagers).
Tricia Moore, Scotland

The real reason any British government will refuse to change the drug laws is the fear that doing so would be political suicide. However, the irony is that whilst New Labour has now fallen in love with the free market, it still thinks in the same old paternalistic lines when it comes to social policy. And Labour isn't alone: billions of dollars are spent by western governments keeping drugs users in jail and burning down parts of the South American rainforest to achieve absolutely nothing.
The "problem" is on the demand side of the equation and whilst there is demand (and it is profitable to do so) there will always be someone to supply that demand. Hence, trying to criminalise drug use is like trying to criminalise the reading of books. This should not be an issue for government; it is an issue of personal choice for the individual.
John Edwards, UK

It is harmful to health and I certainly don't wish to inhale foul second hand cannabis smoke.

Andy MacDonald, UK
Cannabis is a big enough problem already with usage in public places such as rock concerts, football matches, rough pubs, etc. If it were to be made legal we won't be able to go out anywhere without avoiding it.
It is harmful to health and I certainly don't wish to inhale foul second hand cannabis smoke. Keep the law as it is. We don't want to be like Holland or we don't want to be like France where innocent people are stopped by the police and searched for it.
Andy MacDonald, UK

What is with this governments "we know best" attitude? Why will they not listen to the public, the police, the experts when it comes to matters like this. I am absolutely disgusted by it. Maybe they'll listen when it comes to polling day.
Keith Hellawell is looking more and more out of touch with the people and maybe it's time for him to stand down as drug use figures have hardly improved in his time as "czar". The public can decide for themselves what's good or bad for them, just tell us the facts then shut up, like with alcohol.
Rich, UK

You have to draw a line somewhere and I agree that we should not relax our approach to ecstasy or cannabis. We accept alcohol and nicotine, which, when abused, are very harmful. If we relax on ecstasy and cannabis we might see them sitting alongside cigarettes and alcohol on the supermarket shelves.
Duncan, UK

The only people who seem happy with the status quo are Keith Hellawell and the Government. Virtually every recent poll and report has recommended a softening of the law regarding soft drugs. The Government just doesn't seem to care.
Iain, UK

We should take a leaf from the Dutch law book and relax our laws.

It's just typical of the UK to keep a hardline on something relatively harmless like cannabis. Although ecstasy might harm, I know many people that have used both these drugs for many years in all walks of life and not one has had an adverse affect on theirs lives. We should take a leaf from the Dutch law book and relax our laws.

What is the point in Police Federation reports or Royal Commissions if they are ignored by the government? Too many votes are at stake because the public has been told for a long time too many half-truths and rhetoric about this issue.
John, Wales

More people died last year through eating peanuts than died through using Ecstasy.

Bob Gosling, UK
Let's keep things in perspective shall we? More people died last year through eating peanuts than died through using Ecstasy. Why is there no clamour to jail people for possession of peanuts? Few people can be unaware of the risks of taking any drug. Why do governments persist in this misguided approach of punishing people to protect them from their own actions?
If just one tenth of the money and resources were spent on educating people that drugs are harmful think how much would be saved to use on preventing real crimes.
Bob Gosling, UK

I think that cannabis should remain illegal. If cannabis is legalised, other drugs will follow in due course. There are enough problems with the youth of today we don't want even more!!
Richard Burrows, England

The main argument against relaxation seems to be that using "soft" drugs leads to people using harder drugs. If this were true then how come alcohol and nicotine users haven't rapidly progressed to heroine and cocaine?
I think the answer is because they are legal, and to buy them you don't come into contact with dealers. Dealers have much to gain by hooking their clients on harder more addictive drugs and so naturally will persuade cannabis users to try them.
Legalising cannabis would reduce transference from soft to hard drugs, marginalise the dealers, and free the police up to concentrate on the serious problems.
Kevin Parker, UK

It may have the effect of sending a message to young people that the use of such drugs is acceptable.

Alex Davies, Denmark
On the one hand I feel that decriminalising drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy would certainly be helpful to people suffering from diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. However, it may also have the effect of sending a message to young people that the use of such drugs is acceptable.
That can only worsen the situation in clubs and pubs where their use is common and can have devastating effects for the users, as was shown in the case of Leah Betts, for example.
Alex Davies, Denmark

Absolutely, the drugs laws badly need revising. One of the main problems is that the handling of the offence of possession of small amounts of cannabis varies greatly depending on the local police force's policy - ranging from warning/official caution to fine and a criminal record.
I believe there is too much scope for unfairness, and the government have "chickened out" of addressing the problem purely because they see any move to lessen drug penalties as an opportunity for the Tories to pick up some votes.
Johnny, Ireland

It is the decision to declare a substance illegal that makes it attractive to criminals.

Chris Starr, UK
This government along with others has a problem with the definition of harmful substances. If all the evidence in terms of risk and social effects are taken in to consideration then the currently legal substances would also match the criteria for those currently illegal.
Any decision on legality is therefore an arbitrary decision. Any human activity has risk, it is the decision to declare a substance illegal that makes it attractive to criminals - as can be evidenced from the prohibition period in the US. A substance that soon had its legal status restored despite it retaining the social and risk factors that caused it to be banned in the 20's.
Chris Starr, UK

The current drug laws are draconian - prison for years over the possession of a herb?! Madness. The sooner we legalise and regulate the cannabis market the sooner a sensible policy for the other drugs can be thought out. To lump a herb with these chemicals is dangerous.
Pete Henshall, UK

It is not logical to indicate a softer approach to recreational drugs whilst still wishing to pursue the dealers.

John, England
It is not logical to indicate a softer approach to recreational drugs whilst still wishing to pursue the dealers, pushers and related criminals. The sensible option is to licence it like tobacco and alcohol and make it available through recognised establishments as in The Netherlands. Cannabis should be available in the form of oral medication, subject to satisfactory clinical trials but it should remain illegal to grow cannabis.
It is high time the government recognised that prohibition simply does not work, and the consumption of recreational drugs in private have proportionately less effect on others than legalised substances. This stance would enable limited police resources to be targeted towards heroin and cocaine.
John, England

The way the law currently stands promotes ignorance and is therefore wrong. MOST illegal drugs are actually less harmful than the legal (taxed) ones. If society is to overcome the hypocritical evil of an attitude which proscribes drugs which result in social tolerance, pacifism and creativity, whilst promoting drugs which result in violence, suicide attempts, road deaths and epidemic-scale carcinogenic illness, it must open its eyes and accept that the law is currently made not by people concerned about health, but by people concerned about their pocket.
Andy Hunt, UK

The UK government's refusal to listen to the views of experts is astonishing. While the legal situation stays the same, the health of the general public is suffering and police and NHS money wasted. We need a sensible and open debate.
Richard Nosworthy, Wales

See also:

28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Drugs study to urge change
06 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Hellawell: Relax cannabis policing
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