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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 15:11 GMT
Borough debates cannabis cafes
Cannabis plants
Ministers insist cannabis is not being decriminalised
Cafe owners and pub managers in a London borough, where a trial relaxation of cannabis laws is taking place, are debating whether cannabis cafes should be allowed.

Campaigners for the decriminalisation of drugs in Lambeth say that the number of addicts would fall and so would the associated crime.

Police in the borough are already running a pilot scheme in which people found in possession of small quantities of cannabis are let off with a formal warning rather than being arrested and cautioned.

And the government has signalled its wish to re-classify cannabis from a class 'B' to a class 'C' drug, although it would not be legalised.

The debate in Lambeth has been organised by Tim Summers of Cannabis Action London.

Regulated cafes

He wants drugs to be both legalised and decriminalised, with so-called hard drugs like heroin available on prescription.

That view is shared by Shane Cullens, the Green Party's National Drugs spokesman.

He told BBC News Online that "regulated cafes would take dealing off the streets".

He believes that maintenance treatment for heroin would mean a drop in the numbers of addicts.

He said that in Holland, where drugs have been decriminalised for 20 years, there are 75% fewer addicts than in Britain.

That means fewer dealers and fewer young people turning to crime and prostitution to feed their habit.

Health problems

Cannabis
Campaigners say cannabis cafes would take dealing off the streets
But anti-drugs campaigners fear the move will encourage drug use and cause health problems.

Richard Moore, a Lambeth community leader who is also speaking at the debate, says recreational use of cannabis can lead to health problems in the same way as alcohol abuse.

But Home Secretary David Blunkett has emphasised that although he wants to reclassify cannabis he does not intend to legalise or decriminalise it.

Cannabis possession and supply would remain a criminal offence, attracting maximum sentences of five years for supply and two years for possession.

But rather than arresting people caught with cannabis, police will be more likely to issue a warning, a caution or a court summons


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Lambeth scheme

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24 Oct 01 | Politics
02 Jul 01 | Politics
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