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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Widdecombe defiant on drugs
Smoking cannabis
The "zero tolerance" cannabis row continues
Ann Widdecombe has reaffirmed her commitment to zero tolerance of drugs despite conceding that recent admissions by Tory colleagues had overshadowed her anti-drugs strategy.

The shadow home secretary's comments came at the same time as a survey which indicated that the majority of British voters believe that cannabis is no worse than tobacco or alcohol.

The backlash over Ms Widdecombe's proposal for fixed penalty fines for anyone caught in possession of drugs forced a U-turn by Tory leader William Hague.


I am very sorry indeed that we got completely fixated on one small aspect of an enormously serious problem

Ann Widdecombe
In what was a highly embarrassing episode for Miss Widdecombe, her drugs policy announcement - a central part of her party conference speech in Bournemouth - was dismissed as unworkable by police organisations.

Criticisms of the proposal included suggestions that millions would receive criminal records for minor offences but Miss Widdecombe stressed that a caution - commonly used by police for minor drug offences - was technically a criminal record.

Insult was added to injury as eight Tory shadow cabinet members lined up to confess to past experience of smoking cannabis.

Firm on zero tolerance

But on Tuesday Miss Widdecombe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she stood firm on "zero tolerance".

And she said: "There is much more involved to drugs policy than just the whole issue of whether a student experiments with soft drugs.

"I am very sorry indeed that we got completely fixated on one small aspect of an enormously serious problem."

Decriminalisation 'considered'

Meanwhile Home Secretary Jack Straw indicated that the government would continue to think about the issue of decriminalisation of cannabis particularly for medical use.

He conceded that the law would not wipe out drug-taking but said it could regulate the problem.

"The point about making things unlawful is, hopefully, you eliminate the behaviour altogether but in many of these things you don't but you do control and regulate that behaviour," Mr Straw added.

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See also:

15 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Widdecombe helped nephew beat drugs
09 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Tory U-turn on cannabis
05 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Widdecombe stands by drugs policy
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