|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point|
Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Does "zero tolerance" work?
The UK opposition conservative party last week proposed a fixed penalty of £100 for a first offence of possessing drugs - no matter how small the quantity.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Now the party leader William Hague concedes there are "concerns" about shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe's policy on drugs unveiled at the Tory conference.
Amid evidence that the police view such a policy as unworkable, the conservative party say the plans need "further consultation, discussion and debate".
Does "zero tolerance" work? Or should drug laws be less, rather than more, restrictive?
Nick Fellows, Singapore (UK)
I rather suspect that, once the Government has emptied its coffers trying to appease the genuine outcry for better public services and paying off the road users to keep them quiet, it will be looking for extra sources of revenue. Perhaps then the matter of cannabis legalisation might elicit some response from our so far silent Government.
After thirty years of zero tolerance and a so-called "war on drugs" in the US they now have the worst drug problem in the world. When will politicians wake up to this? If you legalise cannabis and get the Government to provide it you solve a lot of problems. People are no longer corresponding with drug pushers that pressure people into taking harder drugs to increase their profit. Instead that profit which currently goes into criminal organisations can go into Government treatment programs and school drug education.
There is always going to be a demand for drugs no matter what the Government policy is. People have to start facing up to this fact. The question is where should the revenue from this industry go, criminal gangs or government coffers?
I think the example of the US, where there are more people in prison for drug-related offences than there are in all of Europe, should be a sufficient example of why zero tolerance doesn't work. As long as people want drugs, and they obviously do, they will acquire and take them, whether or not they are illegal.
Surely we have reached a stage where 'Reefer Madness' propaganda is laughed at as much as it's equivalent from 1930's alcohol prohibition? Apparently not. Even in articles from respected news agencies there are still the same mythical consequences of drug use (exaggerations and outright mistruths. On another note, I haven't seen any mention by of William Hague's terrible over-indulgences in that evil drug alcohol.
People should be able to make their own minds up about it and not told what to do by people that haven't even tried it. I blame the price of beer in this country for the youth turning to cheaper substances. Make beer tax-free and you'll soon see there's no drug problem in this country
Smoking cannabis makes you relaxed where as drinking alcohol makes people violent and disruptive. Smoking cannabis is not that much worse than smoking so I think that it is time the government addressed their policy on this drug.
Its quite clear that current drug laws are having exactly the same effect as prohibition had in the US. They bring organised crime vast sums of money and create a society within a society. Prohibition failed and so will anti-drug legislation.
"Zero-tolerance" is the standard drug policy in the United States and I can tell you that's it's just about the worst imaginable way of dealing with the drug problem. Apart from putting a huge group of citizens at odds with the law and creating criminal distributors, "zero-tolerance" and Mandatory Minimum's (required jail terms for even first time drug offenders) take life-changing decisions out of the hands of police and even judges who are capable of judging the situation. More than half of the US's huge prison population is made up of drug offenders, convicted of largely non-violent offences. This policy is a disaster; stay as far away from it as possible.
Now that Nora Batty is leaving
"Last of the Summer Wine", I
think I know who would
be the perfect
replacement for her....
Alcohol consumption creates an entire industry ranging from actual production, pubs, taxis, police etc, whilst the only economic benefit to be gained from legalising cannabis would be that a few more chocolate bars and crisps would be sold on a weekend. This can be the only argument for Ms Widdecombe's outlandish, misplaced and mis-thought populist posturing.
Surely, it would be better to legalise, but carefully monitor, drug use. This would allow prices for addicts to be at a reasonable level, removing the need for them to commit burglaries etc. At the same time, such an approach would make the UK unprofitable for the drug barons, and they would take their empires elsewhere.
David Hazel, UK
Seems that everyone is making a distinction between cannabis and hard drugs. Historically the mild illegal substances slip through the cracks (no pun intended) to become legal e.g. tobacco, alcohol. What does this mean about our evolution when we become more dependent on these substances?
Where do these ridiculous figures come from (50% of teenagers try drugs before 16) ... and saying "Significant percentage" without quantifying this is meaningless. I can only speak from my own experience, very few people smoke dope, and very few children are daft enough to try drugs. The sort of people that Ann is aiming at, are not the decent law abiding citizens of this country, but the riffraff that only care for there own gratification, and I really don't think they will give two hoots for Ann's opinion.. So for this reason I find her policy ill thought out.
Just because of the fact that many people smoke marijuana is not a valid reason to decriminalise it. The problem is out of hand and it seems to be the attitude that if a problem is out of hand society should just accept it instead of fighting against it. Drug takers should be treated like the criminals that they are, only then will we see a difference.
Peter Coan, France
Laws are to reflect a nations values. The law is out of step with the people now.
When hundreds of thousands of people use illegal substances every week, one must wonder if the policy of them being legal is not out of step with their use.
Anne is not living anywhere the real world. Penalising cannabis users will not affect the use and distribution of habit forming, life changing drugs (I'll leave out tobacco and alcohol in that one).
But the buying of cannabis ultimately supports international drugs gangs who are importing it on a large scale, along with harder drugs.
I feel that we are caught in a prohibition situation and this whole matter needs to be looked at in depth by a Royal Commission. Perhaps if cannabis was legalised and taxed the Government could afford more police officers.
Currently many officers are reluctant to arrest people for minor possession, as it means hours in the station resulting in the offender being cautioned and released. Officers do not feel that this is the best use of their time.
How can sitting at home, relaxing with friends, watching TV in a 'chilled-out' state be considered an illegal or immoral act? When will politicians realise the reality of cannabis culture in the UK? Leave us to our lives and concentrate on the real threats to society. In 5 years time, cannabis will be decriminalised and these debates will seem academic. It is inevitable
Why is enforcing the law so terrible? Tobacco and alcohol are not illegal, drugs are. Why don't we all face the facts? The drug barons get very rich, very quickly, evade the law and cause misery to thousands of people. Crime is significantly associated and linked heavily to drugs. What is it that Ann Widdecombe is doing wrong? She is clearly trying to reach the root of the evil by clipping the branches. Keep up the good work!
The war on drugs is about as likely to succeed as any other policy that goes against human nature. One might as well try and stop the world from turning as attempt to stop people indulging in such illicit pleasures. The only way to get around the problem of drug crime is to stop making drug use a crime. Once there is a cheap, legal supply, the need for users to steal to feed their habit will be practically eliminated.
Prohibition gave Al Capone and the rest of the gangsters the ability to make a fortune and resulted in an explosion of gangland mayhem and murder. The illegal drugs market today is similar. Where does all that money come from that people kill each other for and bribe policemen with? All because drugs are illegal. Mr Kennedy is correct that cannabis should be decriminalised and, of course, he is being vilified by those petrified chunks of wood who pass for the representatives of the people. Shame on them for hypocrisy and good on HIM for common sense.
Laura Davies, Oxford, UK
I will now always associate Ann Widdecombe with the word "dope"
While she is on the bandwagon why doesn't Ms Widdecombe do some thing about the drugs that really kill Britons - Alcohol and Tobacco! Or is that a stupid question? Death from Alcohol is acceptable, but a bit of paranoia from 'grass' is not? It is still a matter of political self-interest!
The law on cannabis in the UK is ignored by a large minority of people and brings the whole system into disrepute. The fact is that the Treasury is addicted to alcohol and tobacco, and cannabis - which can be successfully cultivated at home, even in the UK- is a threat to the state's cut of the legal drug money.
Hypocrisy is not new in politics but the Tories' absurd posturing is a relief if it drives them down in the polls.
Ann Widdecombe rightly states that
80% of burglaries are committed to finance
illegal drug use. But if drug users are
resorting to theft to pay for drugs, how
will imposing higher fines help? Surely they
will just steal more in order to pay them.
Like most Tory party policies, it's all good
headline grabbing stuff, but it doesn't bear
even ten seconds' scrutiny.
As an ex-pat, it's sad to see the UK drift towards these senseless proposals with little or no thought of how they relate to real life. We should have "zero tolerance" of any proposals which show no tolerance of social differences, which should be welcomed and embraced positively rather than crushed.
Zero tolerance on drugs is straightforward common sense. The links between drug use and crime were proven long ago, and at a time when crime in the UK has reached astronomical proportions, what sense does it make to legalise the very cause of it?
How about "zero tolerance" of politicians who waste their time and our money on trying to bring in daft, unenforceable laws?
Taking drugs of any kind is illegal. It is about time these people were punished properly and not given a token slap on the wrist. Good on you Ann.
Sarah Leighton, Argentina (UK expat)
Zero-tolerance will not work because, as Noel Gallagher once said, "Taking drugs is as English as having a cup of tea". Trying to criminalise more people won't solve the problem. It will only further strain police and judicial resources and create even more of a culture of disillusionment with the Governmental and legal system.
I don't think we should take all this too seriously. It's intended for consumption by the slavering hounds that proliferate at Tory conferences.
What is worrying, however, is that such talk further alienates young people from any respect for the law in general. Even the current drug laws are obviously far out of touch with common sense and the reality on the street. If one set of laws seems blatantly stupid, couldn't that lower the respect people give to all our laws?
There is no point having a tough stance on 'drugs' when the more dangerous substances of alcohol and tobacco remain unchallenged. The latter two legal drugs are responsible for far more crime, violence and illness than all the illegal drugs could ever be. The Tories are just showing again that they do not grasp the principles of what needs to be an inclusive and intelligent debate. Drug users need empowerment, not criminal sentences.
Zero Tolerance is not stopping people
taking drugs as it hasn't in the USA,
where the drug problem is thriving.
"Zero Tolerance" is all the rage in the
US and I am surprised that it is only just
becoming known in Britain. If someone
possesses drugs, they will probably
use them and commit crimes to get
more drugs. The Tories have always
been known as the party of "Law and
Order," and can be trusted to keep the
peace. I think that Tony Blair should
Kris Hopkins, England
If drugs are illegal then having a little or a lot is not the question. The question is simply one of the penalty. In my view the harder the penalty the easier the choice.
'Zero tolerance' is a nonsense.
The reality is that a significant percentage of the population, mostly
those under the age of 30, smoke
cannabis recreationally. There is nothing to be gained from prosecuting
an extra 100,000 people a year and giving them criminal records.
The Police Federation report earlier this year recommended relaxing
the law on cannabis, in order to focus law enforcement on 'serious'
drug abuse. This is in line with other democracies in Europe, and is the
policy we should be following.
Jonathan Madden, UK
As over 50% of 16 year olds have tried illegal substances what will happen when a majority of the population have a criminal record?
Putting drugs into yourself is not the same as putting bricks through other people's windows. Anne Widdecombe is way off target here.
I think a problem with 'zero tolerance' laws is that people are subject to the letter of the law but there is no way to interpret the spirit of such laws. We tried those laws here in the US with, in my opinion, poor results. Is it just that someone forfeits their auto or home for possessing a few seeds of marijuana or a few marijuana cigarettes? I think laws have 2 components, the letter and the spirit and zero tolerance laws seem to have only the letter and no spirit.
And the Tories claim that Britain is a "Nanny State" under Labour!!
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to other Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy