For the past six months, British Home Secretary Jack Straw has claimed to be open to debate on national drug policy, even as he has repeatedly stated that he was strongly opposed to the legalization of cannabis. Further, Mr. Straw has adamantly maintained that no Royal Commission study need be commenced on the subject. While this intransigence has left him in poor stead among the growing number of Brits who favor reform, it appears that Mr. Straw will soon face even more formidable urging. A study released last week (3/14) revealed that fully two thirds of new British MPs favor the appointment of a Royal Commission, and that more than one in five of the new MP's have, at one time or another, ingested an illicit drug.
The survey, which afforded responding MP's with total anonymity, was conducted by London Weekend Television. 243 Members of Parliament who are serving their first year were queried. 64% of respondents admitted having friends or associates who used drugs, and 51% of the MP's said that the current laws on cannabis were too harsh, while only 1% said that they were not harsh enough.
Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has openly campaigned for the decriminalization of cannabis, told the Independent on Sunday, "This is splendid news and very surprising. In effect it means that the current prohibitionist policies against cannabis in this country are doomed."
NEWSFLASH: The BBC World Service (shortwave) will present a special program about marijuana late TONIGHT (Friday, Mar. 20, 1998) at 04:30 UTC (11:30pm Friday night New York time). This program can be heard via shortwave and perhaps also via the Internet. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/ for more details on reception. The BBC probably also has satellite transmission, and other Internet sources might be available.) Text from the announcement follows:
"Later this month, supporters of the Legalize Cannabis campaign will be marching through London. Although, as you may know, individual use of cannabis has been legal for some years in the Netherlands and in a number of states in America, most European governments are wary of decriminalization, so in tomorrow's edition of Insight, Sophie Wigram (sp?) will be reporting on whether efforts to legalize the drug are likely to succeed.
"Cannabis: Should it be left to the individual or does society need to be protected by the law?" -- the subject for Insight tomorrow at 04:30 Greenwich Mean Time here on the BBC World Service." The program should last about 15 minutes.