Newsbrief: London Police Chief Ramps Up Rhetorical War on Middle-Class Cocaine Use 2/11/05

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Last week, incoming London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair took office vowing to go after upscale cocaine use in Britain's capital. He was back at it again this week, suggesting in an interview with the Sunday London Times that he may order "reverse stings" against recreational cocaine users. It could be buyer beware, indeed, if Sir Blair sends out undercover police officers posing as cocaine dealers.

When it comes to cocaine, it is almost as if it were the 1980s in London. The drug is widely used, with an estimated 250,000 people snorting recreationally each weekend, and is part of the city's thriving nightlife. But unlike the US in the 1980s, the stuff is cheap. According to government figures, cocaine has flooded into Britain, with a four-fold increase in seizures in the last two years. But the seizures have failed to keep prices high, with the cost of a gram of cocaine falling from 60 pounds ($112) a decade ago to as little as 40 pounds ($75) now. As the British tabloids are fond of noting, a line of cocaine now costs less than a cappuccino.

In his interview with the Sunday Times, Blair said he wanted dinner-party cocaine users to fear arrest. "We are not going to burst through doors to raid Islington dinner parties, but I do want to make people concerned that they might be buying their drugs from a police officer: that would be an interesting idea, wouldn't it?"

Blind to the role of drug prohibition in generating violence related to the cocaine trade, Blair chastised British consumers for abetting that violence. "People seem to think the price of a wrap of cocaine is 50 quid, but the cost is misery on estates here and a trail of blood back to Colombia," he said. "Someone has died to bring it to a dinner party. People who wouldn't dream of having a non-organic vegetable don't seem to notice the blood on their fingers."

Peeved by middle- and upper-class attitudes of impunity, Blair last week threatened to make "a few examples of some people" to reinforce the point that no one is above the law, a theme to which he returned Sunday. "There is a sense that people think that in certain fashionable clubs, restaurants and dinner parties it is okay to do drugs," he said. "All I can say is that people may find out that it is not."

According to a senior Scotland Yard official consulted by the Times, police narcs would pose as local cocaine dealers in an effort to entrap upscale users. They would operate in areas such as Chelsea, Kensington, and Islington. The official also warned that nightclubs and pubs in the city's West End, where customers snort lines in the bathrooms, could expect to be raided in coming months.

Better for drug users to switch to marijuana under the Blair regime, the London top cop suggested. He told the Times he is "relaxed" about pot and does not consider arresting cannabis users to be the best use of police resources.

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Issue #374 -- 2/11/05

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Editorial: A Cautious First Step | First North American Heroin Maintenance Study Now Underway in Vancouver | DRCNet Interview: Marijuana Policy Project Director Rob Kampia | DRCNet Book Review: "It's Just a Plant," by Ricardo Cortes (2005, Magic Propaganda Mill, $17.95 HB) | Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith Featured in New Book -- "Under The Influence" Available as DRCNet Premium | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Memphis Taxpayers to Pay Big Time for Police Drug Raid Killing | Newsbrief: Bush Budget Slashes Funds for Local Police, Increases DEA Funding | Newsbrief: What Meth Epidemic? National Survey Shows Amphetamine Use Unchanged from Year Earlier | Newsbrief: Death Squad Killings Spike Upward in Davao | Newsbrief: Indian Government Blinks in Face of Threatened Drug Shortage | Newsbrief: Marijuana Reform Under Attack in Western Australia | Newsbrief: Bob Marley Birthday Bash in Addis Ababa Comes Off Without a Hitch | Newsbrief: London Police Chief Ramps Up Rhetorical War on Middle-Class Cocaine Use | Web Scan: Debra Saunders, Drug War Carol, DPA Web Chat, Drug Truth Radio | This Week in History | Errata: Meth Bill Sponsor | The Reformer's Calendar

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