Keith Hellawell, newly appointed British "Drug Czar," was barely in office a day before he confronted the inevitable question about his reaction to the campaign, led by the Independent on Sunday newspaper, for the legalization of cannabis. To the dismay of thousands, perhaps millions of Britons, his response mirrored the unthinking hard line of American drug policy, after which his new position has been modeled. "The people who peddle these things love these campaigns, so they can go into the playground and exert their pressure on young people to get involved."
In response, The Independent published an open letter to Mr. Hellawell in this past Sunday's edition. The letter pointed out that contrary to Mr. Hellawell's statement, the decriminalization of cannabis would put a virtual end to, not encourage, the black market. The letter goes on to state that "by decriminalising cannabis the 'gateway' phenomenon, where people are led to hard drugs because the dealer who sells them cannabis also offers heroin, would end."
You can find the entire open letter, as well as an extensive account of the enormous public and media attention that The Independent's campaign has fueled in the U.K. by going to the site of The Independent on Sunday at http://www.independent.co.uk/sindy/sindy.html and clicking on "Comment" on the left-hand side of the screen.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT: Drop a note to The Independent on Sunday at [email protected] commending them for their courage and encouraging them to stick to it until the law is changed. You might also mention that you heard about their campaign in The Week Online with DRCNet, the leading anti- prohibitionist weekly in cyberspace!
IN OTHER U.K. NEWS:
Two detectives were suspended from their posts in Middlesbrough, England after it was alleged that they had given heroin to drug addicted suspects in return for confessions. The two were officers in a squad under the direction of Detective Superintendent Ray Mallon, who advocates a "zero-tolerance" policing policy under which even the most minor offenses are to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Mr. Mallon has previously pledged to resign if he was unable to reduce crime in his district by 20%.
MEANWHILE: A British army hero and former Man of the Year has been charged with attempting to transport a kilogram of cocaine out of Bolivia and back to the U.K. The suspect, Darren Waterhouse, insists that smugglers must have put the drugs in his bag surreptitiously.
(Welcome to the Drug War, Czar Hellawell! ed.)