Member of British Parliament Calls for Legalization of Cocaine 4/26/02

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A Member of Parliament (MP) from Britain's third political party, the Liberal Democrats, told the BBC News Online Monday that cocaine should be sold like alcohol and heroin made available by the National Health Service. MP Jenny Tonge, the Lib Dems' spokeswoman for international development, added that cannabis prohibition was "a joke" and that Britain's drug policy was a failure and needed a radical overhaul. Her comments go beyond the Liberal Democrat platform, an already cutting-edge position which calls for the legalization of cannabis and the abolition of jail time for the possession of all drugs, and party leaders were quick to distance themselves from her remarks.

"I think cocaine is a difficult one, but I would agree with a lot of people that you would do less damage if cocaine was actually legalized and sold at registered outlets like alcohol rather than leaving it to the boys on the streets," she told the BBC. "I am not claiming to have the answers, but I am saying that present drugs policy is not working."

Tonge told the BBC she had recently visited Colombia, where she heard accounts of paramilitary killings of villagers who refused to grow coca. "That is the sort of thing that is going on in the name of cocaine, which is snorted by guys in the City [London's financial district], and they think they are frightfully smart and clever."

Speaking about heroin, Tonge told the BBC the drug should be "medicalized" and provided to addicts by the National Health Service (NHS). While agreeing that some black markets could still exist even if more drugs were legalized, Tonge said: "I think we have got to control the drug supply. It would be surely less. And there will be no excuse at all for an addict having to commit crimes to feed their habit. You may get more addicts," she said, "that's another downside, but then you'd have a whole lot more money in the form of VAT [value added tax] to treat those addicts."

With heroin users receiving their drug from the NHS, they might be able to lead more normal lives, said Tonge. "You can't do that if they having to commit crime all the time to feed their habit," she said. "You can only do it if they are getting it anyway." Saying that NHS was already using heroin for dying patients, she said it was past time for doctors to prescribe it to addicts. "We know all about heroin," said Tonge. "We could import it and make it available. Heroin is the biggest problem of all when it comes to crime," she told BBC, adding that her house had twice been burglarized by addicts.

As for cannabis, the Labor government's impending move to decriminalize possession of small amounts is not nearly enough for Tonge. "The way cannabis is treated is a joke, a complete joke. That should be used like tobacco, taxed like tobacco and let's spend the VAT on something."

The same evening Tonge spoke to BBC, a spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party leadership told the Guardian (London) that her comments were a "personal view and not party policy." But with a platform that includes cannabis legalization and no jail for drug possession, the Lib Dems are officially not that far behind their outspoken frontbench MP. The Liberal Democrats control 52 of 659 seats in the British House of Commons.

Read the BBC interview with Jenny Tonge online at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk_politics/newsid_1916000/1916695.stm

Read DRCNet's coverage of the Liberal Democrat convention where its new drug policy was adopted:
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/228.html#briskmarch

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Issue #234, 4/26/02 Editorial: Cocaine Legalization | California Medical Marijuana Movement Awaits Federal Offensive, Plots Strategy | Member of British Parliament Calls for Legalization of Cocaine | Amnesty International USA Approves Resolution to Examine Link Between Drug War and Human Rights Abuses | NORML Conference Report: Ready to Take It to a Higher Level | Three US Medical Marijuana Refugees Detained in British Colombia | Newsbrief: Colombian Rebels Seize Pro-Legalization Governor | Newsbrief: Man Without Guns or Drugs Killed By Long Island Cops on Marijuana Raid | Newsbrief: Bicycle Courier Race Shows NYC Day in the Life in the Drug War | Newsbrief: Oregon Medical Marijuana Doctor Suspended, Fined, Put on Probation | Newsbrief: No Room at the Jail for Indianapolis Marijuana Possessors | Newsbrief: Britain's New Scientist Slams Ecstasy Alarmists | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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