Letter: Legalisation of cannabis: freedom of personal choice or exposure to risk?

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The Independent Online
Sir: May I add weight to your commendable stance on decriminalising drugs (leading article, 3 March). I am 43 years old and have been taking drugs, alcohol included, since my A-levels, more than a quarter of a century ago now. Along with thousands of other young people at the beginning of the Seventies, I was imprisoned during the backlash which accompanied the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971).

In 1976, after 16 months in jail for cannabis, I was released and immediately began taking hard drugs, injecting heroin and cocaine for two years. It was only after a year spent in rehabilitation that I became drug-free. However, like many ex- addicts, I took to drink.

In 1979 I went to live in California where I recommenced smoking marijuana. By the time I returned to England, in 1982, I had given up all drugs, alcohol included, except for marijuana and have happily, more or less daily, smoked it for the last 12 years.

I am not alone in choosing marijuana as my alternative reality. There are many of my generation who have experienced the whole spectrum of drug abuse and decided that cannabis has the least debilitating effect on the body. From my point of view, alcohol is as heinous as heroin, yet I would not subscribe to imprisoning those who choose its usage.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the increase in crime could be ordinary people's disrespect for a political system that promotes alcohol use - witness the Chancellor during his Budget speech sipping whisky - while, simultaneously, a judge, somewhere in England, locks up a Nineties equivalent of myself for smoking cannabis.

Yours sincerely,

PAUL SCOTT MARSH

London, W14

3 March

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