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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 15:03 GMT
Cannabis laws: The view from Brixton
Sarah Christie and baby Dylan
Sarah Christie: "I smell dope on the streets"
The "softly, softly" approach to cannabis possession in Lambeth will continue, says the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens.

But what do the people of Lambeth think about the experiment? BBC News Online's Brian Wheeler went to Brixton to find out their views.

Paul Anderson, 30, said it was no use decriminalising cannabis in one area because it encouraged dealers and turns an area into a drugs ghetto.

I think most Brixton people respect Brian Paddick and want to see him re-instated

Phil Wareham
"It should be legalised totally and on sale in shops, like in Amsterdam."

He said it was possible to "buy crack in any street round here. It is so easily available. You can see them all hanging around the tube.

"There is no problem with the crack dealers, they keep themselves to themselves.

"The big problem is with people stealing and committing crime to feed their habit.

"It's also people coming in from other areas to buy drugs and then you have an escalation of dealing.

"That is what has happened more since it has been decriminalised."

Respect for Paddick

Phil Wareham, a 37-year-old graphic designer, who has lived in the area for 11 years, backed recently suspended Brixton police commander Brian Paddick, who pioneered the scheme.

"I think most Brixton people respect Brian Paddick and want to see him re-instated," he told

But the Met's experiment was not universally welcomed.

'Poisonous stuff'

Kachita Bakare, a security guard from Streatham, who has young children, said it would be "insane" to relax the laws on cannabis.

Kachite Bakare
Kachita Bakare: "Cannabis is poisonous"
"I see the effects of cannabis every day in my job, with kids hanging around smoking it openly in the supermarket where I work.

"It's not as harmless as people think.

"It is poisonous stuff. It makes people act crazy. You can tell when people have been smoking it. You can smell it on them.

"I think it is totally insane to think about legalising it.

"It can only make the drug problem in this country worse and it is already bad enough."

'Bad reputation'

Rose Kearns, a lawyer, said: "I don't have a view on it.

Rose Kearns
Rose Kearns hasn't noticed a drugs problem
"I have lived here for 30 years and I have never noticed drug dealers."

She agreed that Brixton had a bad reputation, but said the part she lived in was "nice".

She was also unconcerned about Brian Paddick.

"He is very politically correct, which irritates me," she added.

'Stereotyped borough'

Geoff Tily, a 36-year-old civil servant, backed decriminalisation.

Geoff Tily
Geoff Tily: "The media sterotypes Brixton"
"You have got to do it some way.

"I haven't noticed an increase in street dealing since the experiment started."

He said Lambeth and Brixton in particular had been stereotyped by the media as a druggie area.

'Lives destroyed'

Complimentary therapist, Sarah Christie, 30, said the decriminalisation experiment was a "good idea".

"There is a serious problem with the harder drugs in this area. People have had their lives destroyed by crack. You can see them walking down towards the tube. I have a little boy and it does worry me."

Freweine Tewelde
Freweine Tewelde: "All classes use cannabis"
Asked what difference she had seen since the decriminalisation experiment began she said: "I smell a lot more dope around the streets."

But she said it was a good idea to free up police time to go after crack and heroin dealers.

Freweiene Tewelde, 26, said: "I think it has gone very well."

She said all social classes used cannabis and it should be legalised.

The BBC's Jake Lynch
"A show of support to Brian Paddick"
The BBC's Jane Hughes
"Public support is very strong"
See also:

13 Mar 02 | England
Borough debates cannabis cafes
24 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis laws to be relaxed
02 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis 'not being decriminalised'
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