Mixed messages

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The Independent Online

Who to believe? Last Sunday, Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Minister with responsibility for drugs policy, said that scientific evidence was not yet available to prove that smoking cannabis leads to taking heroin. Now, two days later, drugs tsar Keith Hellawell claims that cannabis is indeed a "gateway" drug to the harder stuff.

Who to believe? Last Sunday, Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Minister with responsibility for drugs policy, said that scientific evidence was not yet available to prove that smoking cannabis leads to taking heroin. Now, two days later, drugs tsar Keith Hellawell claims that cannabis is indeed a "gateway" drug to the harder stuff.

A study in New Zealand has found that youngsters who smoked a joint once a week were 60 times more likely to move on to dangerous drugs. Ms Mowlam, though, still refuses to go along with the gateway notion; she thinks that the evidence from the New Zealand survey is "not conclusive" and needs to be looked at in "more detail". Well, let's try to help her out.

Did the New Zealand researchers check how likely it was that a child who smoked cigarettes would move on to the harder stuff? How about alcohol? Chocolates? These also need to be looked into in "more detail". Perhaps unhappiness might be considered, too? Not to mention that parental worry: hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Whatever the root causes of harmful addictions, it is hard to disagree with Ms Mowlam that the progression from what she calls "whacky-baccy" to Class-A drugs such as heroin is exaggerated.

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