Letters: Perspectives on drug prohibition

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The Independent Online

Psychosis link not understood

Trevor Turner is a very experienced and highly respected psychiatrist but he's being a bit disingenuous when he writes that he has never seen "a psychosis due to cannabis" (letter, 20 December). There is a great deal of research which points to a connection between the emergence of psychosis and use of cannabis, but the exact relationship between them remains very unclear.

What is clear from my longer but much less distinguished career in the same field is that there are some people with a susceptibility, for whatever reason, to mental illness who should stay well away from cannabis – and other street drugs, for that matter. They are no different from those, myself included, who should keep away from alcohol, or others, with different vulnerabilities, who should avoid salty or fatty foods.

And this, surely, is the point. Drugs are just like anything else we consume. In moderation, they can be and are safely enjoyed by the majority of people who use them, but for a minority they pose a serious risk to their wellbeing and health. Normalising them through state regulation and taxation of their distribution and consumption has to be better, especially in the current economic climate, than the vast waste of public funds in the criminal justice system which is a direct result of their continuing demonisation.

Jeremy Walker, London WC1

It's the ban that kills the addicts

The welcome statement by the former minister Bob Ainsworth on the failure of prohibition to control drug use is yet another small turning point in the direction of what will inevitably come, namely decriminalisation.

Dr Trevor Turner compares this debate with that of legalising homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s. He might have done better to make the comparison with abortion law reform, which saw deaths from "back-street abortions" fall dramatically once abortion was seen as a social and public health problem and brought in to the NHS, rather than a criminal one.

Having as a GP seen the deaths of young men and women from illegal drug use in "the back streets", I have no doubt that it was the criminal nature of their activity that was the major contributory factor in their deaths. If drug use was seen as a public health problem and they had had legal, controlled access to their drugs, they would be alive today.

It is only when independent research into the impact of prohibition on the medical, social and economic state of this country is carried out that the evidence will be available to persuade politicians that current legislation is truly harmful.

Dr Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire

Just do it – and empty the prisons

It seems to be assumed that our politicians are scared to legalise drugs not out of conviction but for fear of the Daily Mail effect.

Has it not occurred to them that the party which defies the Mail (and of course the USA) will quickly become lauded as wise and forward-looking when it dawns on people that crime has fallen, the prisons are short of inmates, public expenditure has been considerably reduced, and there has been little or no effect on drug-taking? Or perhaps they really are just addicted to failure.

Jim Bowman, South Harrow, Middlesex

Cable's error changes the game of politics

Vincent Cable is an excellent constituency MP. Even as he took on added responsibilities with the Liberal Democrats, became a nationally respected spokesperson on the economy, and joined the Coalition as Business Secretary, he has continued to spend time listening to constituents and following up their concerns. I am one of many in Twickenham who have appreciated this.

Now that relationship will be different. MPs across the country will be more cautious. They will simply give their party's policy and never share any views of their own. Democracy is the poorer. Yes, MPs have their faults but I'd rather have them setting the agenda than the Telegraph or Rupert Murdoch.

Mary Holmes, Twickenham, Middlesex

I congratulate Vince Cable for being the only politician with the courage to stand up to the evil empire of Rupert Murdoch. Indiscreet perhaps, but far from being sacked he should be promoted to PM.

Reg Sheppard, Nanstallon, Cornwall

Surely all this talk of Lib Dem woe at Mr Cable's demotion is nothing more than spin. The man demoted for saying privately what the public wants to hear will gain much more stature than the one who publicly tries to silence him.

Tony Brooke, Hythe, Hampshire

Quite rightly, Vince Cable has been relieved of his power to rule on Murdoch's bid for full control of BSkyB after showing extreme bias before the event. He has been replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who is on record as saying: "Murdoch has done more for choice in British TV than anyone else." So, no bias there then?

Murdoch must be a very happy man today.

Ginger Gibbons, London SW11

Vince Cable is embarrassed about his "nuclear" gaffe and rightly so, and about his even more nuclear comments on Murdoch. No doubt they will haunt him for a long time. However, he is also a victim of entrapment, with two female reporters assuming false identities to tease the comments from him.

Since the expenses scandal, The Daily Telegraph seems to have got rather carried away with its role as witchfinder general and is now using distinctly dodgy methods to manufacture new shockers. No doubt those "reporters" will be fêted, and their careers will take off, but in the process we could lose an extremely talented member of the Government team at a time when the country is all too short of talent, and just when it needs it most.

I know the very sadly missed Brian Hanrahan would never have stooped so low.

Ian Bartlett, east Molesey, Surrey

I see the evil Mr Cable spread all over the paper, but what of the brave "under-cover reporters" who cleverly deceived him into thinking he could trust them with a few personal opinions? Why are they not up there in the headlines? I don't even remember seeing their names

Once again, media reporters who, like that other creep Assange, think they have a messianic duty to report to the whole world every word that everybody has to say, are destroying a perfectly good politician.

Dr Tim Lawson, Cheam, Surrey

The familiar saying that there is no fool like an old fool springs to mind. It seems the easiest way to get information out of men of a certain age is to send in an attractive-looking young female reporter or two – it seems to work every time.

Paul Donovan, London E11

Murdoch dominance of the UK media following the acquisition of 100 per cent of BSkyB would be unprecedented, and would create more opportunities for the bullying of government and stifling of true democracy which we saw throughout the New Labour government. That was in this country. Look overseas at organisations such as Fox News to see what might follow here.

So while Cable had to lose his powers over competition in the media, Jeremy Hunt should remember that he too has a duty to the country and to be fair to all media organisations, and not allow his anti-BBC prejudice to sway his judgement in favour of Murdoch. After all, could you see the Murdoch organisation publishing news that was detrimental to its interests as the BBC did with the Cable story?

Jonathan Pickering, Farnham, Surrey

Bankers in the gutter

Not only do we have to bail out the bankers with our taxes, now we have to pay NHS staff to stop them choking on their own vomit ("Welcome to the war zone: the field hospital for sozzled City staff", 20 December).

Anyone who turns up pissed at A&E should be breathalysed and charged a hefty amount on a sliding scale in direct proportion to their blood alcohol levels. The amount should then be multiplied by a factor in direct proportion to their annual salary (including bonuses).

Will nobody stand up to these appalling people? Are they completely fireproof? No wonder people are furious.

Max Fishel, Bromley, Kent

The bankers should be paid every penny of their bonuses. After all, these people are masters of the universe. For every £50,000 of bonus they should be obliged to create one wholly new, worthwhile, long-term, properly paid job with development prospects for a person who either has never had a job or has just left school.

This should be a day or two's work for masters of the universe. Of course it might be more difficult for greedy chancers who've managed to parlay a minimal and useless "talent" into a vast income, but we all know this is not the case.

William Taylor, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

This Christmas, as poverty and inequality increase, bankers are rewarding themselves £7bn in bonuses. This is exactly the amount the Government is raising from us through increased taxes and cuts in benefits, education, health, pensions and care services. Bankers are getting around so-called government restrictions and compensating themselves for "lower" bonuses by increasing their pay.

Who is in charge of this country? Is this a democracy? And what are we going to do about it?

Malcolm Naylor, Otley, West Yorkshire

Enthusiasm for Radio 3

I am truly sorry that Howard Edwards (letter, 20 December), finds the current presentational style on BBC Radio 3 to be so far from his preference; sorry for him, that is, since he seems to be missing so much by engaging with music from a self-imposed position of elevated, elitist hauteur rather than joining the community of music enthusiasts out there who experience real excitement from discussion, including personal opinions and experiences from both listeners and presenters, about what is being broadcast.

As an avid R3 listener, I find current presentation to be like a breath of fresh air when compared with the stuffy, gloomy intonations of 30 years ago. At 62, I can remember them clearly.

What is wrong with terms such as "brilliant" and "fantastic"? These are used by people who have been genuinely excited by what they have heard. We should be at full throttle over trying to dispel the widespread impression I grew up with that "classical" music lovers are in some way a "cut above the rest" and more discriminating than others. I enjoy hearing the views and personal experiences of today's animated, enthusiastic and personable programme hosts; I can then email them with my own, possibly quite different, opinions.

I do wonder just who Howard Edwards refers to when he so arrogantly pontificates about what "the discerning Radio 3 listener wishes to hear". Yes, we do like complete works as opposed to the excerpts of Classic FM; when coupled with intelligent and informed comment, which for me can be as off-the-cuff as the presenter chooses, we have a thoroughly engaging and accessible listening experience.

Jeremy Sykes, New Ash Green, Kent

I am glad that some Radio 3 presenters show their enthusiasm for the music they are playing over the airwaves, particularly since quite a few are trained musicians themselves, and so have insights to share. Some presenters have a more Olympian style, so it's good to have a mixture of the two. I'm not personally so fond of programme trails, but there is so much else to enjoy.

Radio 3 can be very bold in its programming policy. When the schedules were cleared for the complete works of Bach, I was uncertain about the whole idea. Would I be bored by Bach day in, day out? Not a bit of it. Any doubts were swept away by the amazing variety of programmes: documentaries, plays, historic performances, discussions on performance style. I couldn't wait for the next Bach bite. Now I look forward to the Mozart project, which I have no doubt will educate and entertain in equal measure.

Glynne Williams, London E17

WikiLeaks fights for morality

Robert Readman (letter, 21 December) has completely missed the point about the "leaking" of information. Whose information is it?

WikiLeaks is taking to task the behaviour of those people, elected or not but paid for handsomely by all of us, who apparently run the world by machination, lies and other skulduggery. Who do they think they are? What right do they have to complain if we mugs who fund all this dangerous nonsense demand to know what they are playing at on our wages?

Carole Penhorwood, Bristol

By pointing out that WikiLeaks deals in "stolen" information, Robert Readman expresses his concern for the state of morality in modern society. Might I suggest that Julian Assange is motivated by precisely this same concern – except that he does not confine his attention to petty theft?

Mr Assange's moral concerns – and , indeed, my own – range more widely: the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the unlawful killing of civilians in both those arenas; the torture of terrorist suspects; the unlawful imprisonment without charge for eight years of 174 Guantanamo detainees; and more generally the lies and duplicity of national governments concerned in any or all of the above.

We cannot expect society to be moral if governments do not act morally. Society cannot ensure governments act morally without transparency and constant scrutiny.

Derek Morison, Glasgow

Robert Readman writes that I and other WikiLeaks supporters "would be the first to scream if someone hacked into our private files and made them public".

That may well be true, but I can honestly say that nowhere in those private files would it say that I have ever opened fire on an unarmed crowd from a helicopter gunship, or that I have deprived a dying child of life-saving medical care. Perhaps Mr Readman might reflect on his disanalogy and conclude that where war crimes are involved, the "crime" of hacking is rather insignificant.

Joe Smith, Liverpool

Black workers face jobs bias

Oliver Wright's article "One black applicant in 100 gets 'fast track' Whitehall job" (17 December) resonates strongly with the complacency, platitudes and bias which we have encountered in our research. Wright is commenting on the closed shop of Whitehall jobs; we have similarly researched inequity of employment opportunities for Black teachers in Liverpool's teaching workforce and the restricted numbers of Black inhabitants of the city employed in the Liverpool Council workforce.

Only 0.05 per cent of Liverpool's teaching workforce is Black; only in one of the monitored years does the number of British African Caribbean teacher graduations from Liverpool's higher education institutions exceed 10; only 2 per cent of the Liverpool Council workforce is Black.

Professor Bill Boyle, School of Education, University of Manchester

Free speech and fruit-picking

Lordy, lordy. What is all the hullabaloo about? On 14 December you reported: "Let the unemployed pick fruit, says Tory councillor". Surely this is just an extension of "buy British", "shop locally" etc.

Providing all other factors are equal, what on earth is wrong in giving the job to someone born and bred in this country? This is common sense, not a slight against a particular segment of the population.

If we are not careful we shall find ourselves in a world where everything we say has to be examined for any slight nuance that could be misunderstood, to the point where free speech is jeopardised.

Stephen Rotherham, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Ashes humility

I think it hypocritical for one of your leading articles (20 December), to be chastising the English cricketers for making too much of their excellent victory in the second Test. Of course the team celebrated, but to my recollection it was the media, including contributors to The Independent, who were guilty of predicting the outcome of the series and the imminent demise of Australian cricket. Quotes from the coach and players all seemed to take the line that this was just one victory and there was still a series to be won.

M Curtin, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

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