According to a Sunday report in the London Observer, the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee, which is charged with reviewing Britain's drug laws, has concluded that the country should adopt a Dutch-style cannabis policy and move MDMA (ecstasy) from the toughest drug schedule to the middle drug schedule. The committee will also call for a greater emphasis on harm reduction strategies, including broader use of prescription heroin for addicts, the newspaper reported.

"The Chairman, Member of Parliament Chris Mullins, is set on these recommendations, and the majority of the committee is behind him," a source close to the committee told the Observer. Two more conservative members of the committee are said to be opposed.

"For such an influential body to be suggesting such significant reforms is indicative of the pressing need for change," Drugscope director Roger Howard told the newspaper. Drugscope is a leading government-funded drug research and advocacy center (http://www.drugscope.org.uk).

While the Labor government of Tony Blair has taken great pains to avoid being seen as "soft on drugs," it will now have to decide how to respond to the committee. The committee's recommendation on cannabis, for example, goes further than the down-scheduling of the drug announced last year by Home Secretary David Blunkett. Under Blunkett's plan, while personal and use and small-scale dealing in cannabis would be informally tolerated, users could still possibly face up to two years in prison. The committee is calling for a Dutch model, where the weed is openly purchased and smoked in cafes.

According to the Observer, Housing Minister Lord Falconer, a close Blair ally, was to meet this week with Home Office Ministers John Denham and Bob Ainsworth to brainstorm on ideas for drug policy reform. It appears the Blair government will be walking a tightrope on the drug issue, prodded forward by a growing array of law enforcement, scientific, academic, and now, parliamentary bodies, but held back by its oft-expressed fears of heading down the path to legalization. While the terrain of battle may have shifted in favor of significant reforms, it isn't over yet.

At least Rudy Giuliani's uninvited interjection of his own views on cannabis has been ignored. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who garnered mawkish accolades as "America's mayor" for doing his job in the wake of the September 11 attacks, traveled last week to Britain to accept an honorary knighthood. Giuliani, whose harsh policies on cannabis led to New York accounting for almost 10% of all marijuana arrests in the US, criticized the Lambeth experiment, where police in the London borough do not arrest users but merely issue citations.

"I would encourage the police to arrest as many of them as possible," Giuliani told the BBC. "Marijuana causes a lot of the violence we've had," the balding ex-mayor baldly asserted.

Giuliani's traveling companion, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, chimed in to say that a notorious recent crime, the murders of a marijuana dealer and two of her guests above the Carnegie Deli in midtown Manhattan, was an example of cannabis-related violence. "It all has to do with marijuana -- it's not a victimless crime."

Fortunately, British policymakers appear to understand the difference between drug violence and drug prohibition violence and are ignoring Giuliani and Kerik's suggestion.

-- END --
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Issue #225, 2/22/02 Editorial: Costs and Consequences | Lies, Damn Lies, and "The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-1998" | New Mexico Post-Mortem: Reformers Differ on What Went Right, What Went Wrong | Britain: Parliamentary Committee Will Recommend Cannabis Decrim, Ecstasy Down-Scheduling, More Heroin Prescriptions | Dutch to Consider Prescription Heroin for Hard Cases, Study Results Lay Groundwork for Move | New Study Provides First Comprehensive Report on Drug Laws in All 50 States and DC, Variations Abound | At the Statehouse: Medical Marijuana Moving in Maryland and Vermont | Libertarian Party Ad Campaign Takes on Drug Terror Link | Federal Drug Office Accused of "Enron-Style Accounting" in New National Drug Budget Reporting | News Links: Bolivia and Colombia, California Medical Marijuana, Drug-Terror Ad Parody | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia | The Reformer's Calendar
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