Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

These letters appear in the November 1 edition of The Independent

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Brian Dalton (letter, 30 October) is right to believe that we are sleepwalking into Ukip having a say in the next government. We are likely to get to this position on a very low turnout because, as Conservatives and Labour have identical policies, and we don’t want to vote for minor party, there is nothing we can vote for.

The first question on last night’s Question Time demonstrated the dilemma we face. The Home Office has produced a report suggesting the hard line on drugs is ineffective. Many believe (myself included) that while drug dealers should get stiff prison sentences those merely possessing and taking drugs should be treated as victims rather than criminals, in the same way that the police should treat abused 13-year-old girls as victims and not prostitutes.

The governor of Vermont in the USA has demonstrated the effectiveness of having a “victim” policy saying not only that the policy has reduced the number of addicts, but it is also cost effective as the cost of a full rehab programme is only one-tenth of keeping a person in jail.

But both Conservatives and Labour do not want to be confused by the facts and will despatch the Home Office report to the bin, insisting the current hard-line policy is right. Therefore the only way we can demonstrate we don’t like the single choice we have is not to vote at all. The Scottish referendum turnout illustrated that when there is a genuine choice people will vote in droves. When will our politicians ever get the message?

Malcolm Howard
Barnstead, Surrey


As always, what is missing from the current debate about drugs is any discussion about why we take them in the first place. We are rightly concerned that everyone, especially our children, should be educated about the potential ill-effects of drugs and the possible health dangers. But unless we acknowledge that there are legitimate and positive reasons why a person might seek to get high, the “war against drugs” will not make much progress.

Humans have been using “recreational” drugs for millennia, and for most people it is generally a positive experience. There are dangers of course – but these are mainly associated with excess use and poor quality.

With alcohol and tobacco – two of the most dangerous substances – we have wisely placed legal controls on both use and supply, and the Treasury benefits substantially from the taxes that are levied. It’s about time we learnt to do the same for all other drugs.

Prohibition does not work. Legally or otherwise, people are going to continue to take drugs because in the right context they are enjoyable and fun. But like any other form of human activity, there needs to be accepted limits that are regulated and controlled. The unregulated free market does not work for drugs any more than it does for finance – or anything else.

Simon Prentis


OK, Clegg, posturing over – now get practical. Decriminalise cannabis. Sell licences for every postal address which wants one to grow up to six plants. Then get together with the cigarette manufacturers to produce a decent packeted joint – say £8 per 20 – and sell that as a state monopoly.

Play your cards right and you’ll double the annual £11bn tax yield already contributed by tobacco smokers, put street dealers progressively out of business and reduce a lot of petty crime. And on the health and safety pitch, cannabis users will at last know what they’re buying. (Not one myself – doesn’t do a damn thing for me.)

Richard Humble


Following the long-expected outcome of the Home Office report into drugs and punishment, can Professor David Nutt expect apologies from then Home Secretary Alan Johnson for sacking him?

Simon Allen
London N2


Harassing girls has become a social norm

Politicians, it seems, are only now discovering that sexual harassment of very young girls has become a new “social norm” (editorial, 31 October). The fact is that over the past 20 to 30 years sexist insults and sexual harassment of girls and young women have become endemic in our schools and widespread on our streets, predating the internet.

It is shameful that local authorities continue to fail to address it, finding it easier to challenge abuse towards minorities than the very much more prevalent abuse of women and girls. Hate crime legislation protects most minorities, but excludes women.

Nothing will change until British politicians acknowledge that the abuse of girls and women is rooted in attitudes of contempt, and that such views must be challenged. They need also to accept that an already sexist British society has been made very much more dangerous for females by large-scale male immigration from cultures whose attitudes to women are even worse than our own. An obsession with multiculturalism has allowed those attitudes to take root and flourish.

Unless those cultures and our own are robustly challenged in respect of women’s rights, the future for women and girls looks bleak. 

Jean Calder


EU action poses a £10.3bn question

I believe the European Union has actually done a service to Britain’s ongoing debate about our EU membership, which has recently degenerated to futile name-calling over immigration. By demanding a further £1.7bn on top of out net contribution of £8.6bn a year, the debate hopefully will move on to other issues – most obviously the EU budget.

The immediate question which arises is what do we get for this huge expenditure? If the answer is free trade, then why not just be a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway and Iceland, which enjoy free trade without paying such contributions?

Phil Nicholson


Small-minded view will help criminals

Your articles recalling the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago brought back memories of Margaret Thatcher’s vehement opposition to the reunification of Germany which time has shown was utterly wrongheaded. Having learnt nothing from history her present day disciples in the Conservative Party and their like-minded Ukip brethren are seeking to build further walls in Europe.

The latest wheeze is their opposition to the European arrest warrant, which has seen many criminals brought to justice who would otherwise languish happily in some foreign seaside resort. Although we have come to expect such nonsense from Ukip it is a true irony that we now have a significant number of the self-proclaimed “party of law and order” advocating a return to the good old days of the “Costa del Crime”.

Peter Coghlan
Broadstone, Dorset


Tesco inquiry about more than fraud

The importance of the forthcoming criminal investigation into the commercial practices of Tesco goes far deeper than the question of fraud. By investigating the company’s financial and purchasing practices it could reveal if Tesco created a business culture that its competitors were compelled to copy in order to keep up with market leaders and to satisfy the investment community.

If practices that Tesco made respectable in retailing are exposed, this may be a watershed in supermarket, retailing and commercial practice in general and a move towards a more principled business culture.

Michael Heppner
London N21


Scott not first white leader since de Klerk

Like many other journalists reporting Guy Scott’s temporary appointment as Zambian president, Peter Popham (report, October 30) is wrong when he claims that Scott is the “first white man in ultimate authority in Africa since apartheid South Africa’s President FW de Klerk”.

Scott may be the first president since de Klerk but he is not the first head of government of an African state. That honour belongs to Paul Berenger, someone of French heritage, who was prime minister of Mauritius from 2003 to 2005 after a powersharing agreement with his predecessor, Sir Anerood Jugnauth.

Dr Sean Carey
St Albans


Pushing back the boundaries of history

I have just heard a French politician say, in relation to migrants, that the UK should recognise that its border is in Calais. I wonder if he is proposing a reversal of the events of 1557. If so, why stop there? Is it not time we took back Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine, and Gascony as well?

Chris Sexton
Crowthorne, Berkshire


Decline and fall in the belief in God

We should not be surprised at the news that 2 per cent of Church of England priests do not believe in the existence of God. We should remember Mr Prendergast in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, who by “reading a series of articles by a popular bishop ... discovered that there is a species of person called a ‘Modern Churchman’ who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief”.

John Dakin
Toddington, Bedfordshire