CANNABIS CAMPAIGN: Why the law is an ass

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The Independent Online
Magistrates in Wales have fined a woman pounds 200 for possessing a tiny piece of cannabis with an estimated street value of 50p, writes Graham Ball.

The 23-year-old single mother pleaded guilty to having 0.2 grammes of cannabis at her home in Cenarth, Dyfed, and on top of the fine, was ordered to pay pounds 40 costs. Her solicitor, Mr Alan Lewis, said: "The drug seized was no more than the size of a grain of rice, barely enough to smoke. It was so small she could have brushed it off the table and no one would have known." In a plea of mitigation against the size of the fine, the South Ceredigion bench was told the woman was already in financial difficulty, and was about to have her home repossessed.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that fat-cat drug dealers can register their dope-dealing business with the Inland Revenue and enjoy confidential treatment. As the law stands, dealers in illegal drugs can register their trade for tax purposes and tax officials will protect their identity from the police and other government agencies.

Phillip Inman, of Accountancy Age, said: "The Government is in an embarrassing position because Inland Revenue officers are duty-bound to protect the identity of drug dealers unless they suspect they are involved in murder. Some MPs argue this legal loophole hinders the fight against serious crime and are pressing to have the law changed."

The taxmen are covered by crown immunity that protects its employees from laws requiring them to report those they suspect of crime. Some tax experts have said wily dealers might want to register their businesses to promote the cause of legalising soft drug pedalling. One said: "The authorities would look silly in court if the accused dealer can show several years of tax records."

A spokesman for the Inland Revenue said: "Tax law does not discriminate between profits made from illegal or legal activities. We only report taxpayers to the police if we suspect they are involved in murder."