Uk: Labour Falls Out Over Drugs

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by weedboss, May 17, 2003.

  1. South Wales Drug Deaths Are 30 Times Higher Per Head Than Holland

    A Drugs Row Has Broken Out Between Two Senior Welsh Labour Politicians, With One Accusing The Other Of Getting His Facts Wrong Over The Risks Of Decriminalising Cannabis.

    Former Welsh Office Health Minister Jon Owen Jones criticised Huw Lewis, a new minister in the assembly government, for his "hardline approach" to drugs.

    Mr Jones, the MP for Cardiff Central, has long advocated decriminalising cannabis and two years ago tried to change the law to enable it to be sold in off-licences.

    He claimed that Mr Lewis, the Merthyr Tydfil Assembly Member had suggested there should not be a "proper debate" on drugs in Britain.

    'Quality cannabis'

    Ironically, the row was sparked by Mr Lewis's attack on Plaid Cymru over its attitude to drugs. He criticised new Plaid AM Leanne Wood, who he said had called last year for "quality cannabis" to go on sale. We've moved on from where we use drugs as a political football and kick it around

    MP Jon Owen Jones

    Ms Wood speaks for Plaid on social justice, which includes responsibility for tackling drugs. Mr Lewis, who has just been made deputy minister for social justice, asked whether Plaid would change its drugs policy, or if Ms Wood would change hers. Jon Owen Jones wants cannabis to be decriminalised

    "Decriminalisation risks encouraging the use of cannabis," said Mr Lewis.

    "I understand the Dutch desire to separate the markets for hard and soft drugs, but the fact remains that coffee shops are part of the commercialisation of cannabis in Holland which has led to an increase in use."

    But his Labour colleague said the approach backed by Mr Lewis had failed. Mr Jones said: "We've moved on from where we use drugs as a political football and kick it around."

    The MP described the drugs death toll in south Wales as horrendous and said: "We won't get anywhere by simply shouting at each other and calling one another names."

    Mr Jones said: "Huw Lewis is wrong on his facts, and wrong to suggest we should not have a proper debate on drugs in this country.

    "Cannabis use in Holland is considerably less than that in Britain. The evidence suggests that the Dutch experiment has been a success, not only in reducing the growth of cannabis use but more importantly cutting the link with hard drugs. Deputy minister Huw Lewis challenges Plaid on drugs policy

    "Where heroin use in Holland is decreasing and its users getting older, heroin use in Britain is increasing."

    Mr Jones said latest available figures showed that Holland, with a population of 15m, had 70 deaths from heroin, and the average age of an addict was 36.

    That compared with south Wales, where with a population of 1.5m there were 200 heroin deaths, and an addict's average age was 25.

    "To put that in context Holland has about 30 times less heroin deaths than south Wales per head," said the MP.


    "With the terrible and growing problems of drug use in Wales we desperately need a sensible analysis of the problem based on reliable evidence."

    In response to Mr Lewis's criticism, Ms Wood said a proper debate on drugs was long overdue in the assembly.

    The Plaid AM said: "It's a serious problem which has not been addressed by Labour.

    "The 'war on drugs' has been long lost and their initiatives haven't worked. It is time for a mature and enlightened debate which Huw Lewis obviously lacks."

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