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07:04 PM ET (US)
The Dutch situation is that while it's more or less legal to walk in the front door of a coffeeshop and buy cannabis, there's no semi-legal way for the coffeeshops to get supplied through the back door. Unfortunately, most of the supply is indeed controlled by criminals. (Not all, however. Some coffeeshops have networks of people who do home-grow in closets and the like. A friend of mine gets occasional work stripping buds from the plants - she's an excellent source of fingerhash!)

Downgrading to a class C is a step in the right direction, but it's only a very small step. There's still no semi-legal means of buying cannabis, or of doing home-grow. People are still stuck with the same dealers they had before, so the link between soft- and hard-drugs is just the same as it was.
Dave Bell
04:44 PM ET (US)
I think Neel has it right.

I have a feeling that there are still criminal elements in the Dutch supply chain, if only to get the stuff into the country, but you can grow cannabis in the UK (and it is being grown, under Home Office licences, and only varieties with very very low levels of the actual drug), and we could kill off the criminality involved. As a farmer, I'd certainly look at it as a legal crop.

Provide a legal supply chain, not too heavily taxed (it rather spoils the idea if we have tax levels, as with tobacco, high enough to make smuggling worthwhile), and you eliminate the idea of cannabis as a gateway drug.

I think the politicians are scared of going that far -- it would be a pretty major admission that the whole model for drug control was unworkable.

Neel Krishnaswami
07:22 AM ET (US)
Basically, I was thinking in terms of a parallel with tobacco, rather than alcohol, plus contrasting RJR and the FARC is very slightly more on-point than comparing FARC and the CAMRA. :) But I'd be just as happy if microdoperies were the drug venue of choice.
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
06:18 AM ET (US)
Neel: I'd be happier agreeing with you if you hadn't talked in terms of handing production over to big corporate oligopolists. What's wrong with small-scale free enterprise? I'd much rather buy my dope from the equivalent of a local microbrewery than from a corporate clone of Anhauer-Busch.
Steve GloverPerson was signed in when posted
02:34 PM ET (US)
Um... it's still going to be 14 years, not 10:
In a bid to counter allegations that he was going "soft on drugs", the home secretary also increased the maximum sentence for trafficking class C drugs to 14 years - higher than the 10 years mentioned in leaks from the home office over the weekend.
From the Guardian...
Neel Krishnaswami
02:17 PM ET (US)
While I support legalization, I'm not sure decriminalization is a very good idea.

The main problem I have with decriminalization is that it continues to leave production and distribution of drugs in the hands of criminal syndicates. That's bad, because it won't actually reduce drug prices (and hence crime levels) very much, and will strengthen the syndicates and weaken support for the real legalization that will take drug dealing out of the hands of the Mafia and Taliban and into the hands of RJR-Nabisco.
08:45 AM ET (US)
The coffeeshops aren't really a big deal over here, and I think all that's being suggested is closing down those that are near schools, and those near the German border. And this is all assuming that the new government stays in power long enough to do anything about it...

The Amsterdam city council has been regulating the coffeeshops much more in the last few years anyway. They haven't given out new licenses for a while (lots of new smart drugs shops, but it's been a long time since I saw a new coffeshop opening), and they've stopped most of the coffeshops from selling both cannabis and alcohol...
06:04 AM ET (US)
There is (finally) a copper raising his head above the media firing line over the Lambeth Policy. Ever since the two media attacks on Cmdr. Brian Paddick there didnt seem to be any copper wanting to take over his patch.

This new copper is very cautious and sneeky. He's advocating DIDNT work due to the fact the testing ground was too small.

This way if the Home Sec. decides that it's worth pursuieng the "Lambeth Cannabis Warning Scheme" over a larger area then he's vindicated. But on the otherhand if the Police Federation and it's homophobic subscribers get their way this guy is the heir apparent to the suspended Commander.
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
05:43 PM ET (US)
Back when I was a pharmacist, I used to buy cocaine. The 1989 wholesale price in the UK was GBP 3 (about US $5) for five grams. Diamorphine (heroin(TM)) was about the same price. The main headache was double-entry bookkeeping, security, and the ever-present possibility of a visit and audit from the drugs squad/Customs and Excise/the Pharmaceutical Society inspectorate.

I calculated that a heroin addict with a 1000mg/day habit (read: enough that their wake-up shot would kill any five non-addicts stone dead) could sustain their habit for GBP 20 a month -- of which most would go on disposable syringes, sterile water, and alcohol wipes.

Back before the first Dangerous Drugs Acts were passed in the UK, 50% of the addicts were doctors and pharmacists. Their life expectancy was pretty much normal, they didn't O/D unless they intended to commit suicide, and they were productive, and respected, members of society.

The War on Drugs has created the junkie-as-thief stereotype. It's time we got rid of it.
Gareth Wilson
02:48 AM ET (US)
You wrote:
Mo Mowlem, former Cabinet office minister and Northern Ireland secretary, has
       come out in favour of legalising all currently-illegal drugs, and taxing heroin and
Nice to see common sense breaking out all round, once the ideological iceberg of
       institutional politics begins to break up.

Well, one would hope this would lead to drug addicts getting access to a regular, relatively safe supply of their drug, causing less havok, and being able to quit more easily. OTOH, giving how our existing highly addictive legal drug is marketed and sold, it could just replace Joe Camel with Junkie Monkey...

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