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JANIS Dobbie wants her son behind bars. She's desperate to one day tell her friends that he's been sent to Barlinnie for six months, or even a year.

In fact, the longer the better.

Allan is a tragic example of how a single cannabis joint can often be the first step to misery for countless young Scots.

And news of his imprisonment would be met with a standing ovation in a small shop-front in the east end of Glasgow.

Whooping with delight they would all cheer and applaud, as Janis wiped a joyful tear from her eye.

But she'd also spare a thought for those less fortunate - like those with children who have just been set free.

It's a different world - but this is how the mothers of Shettleston's heroin addicts exist.

They know that as long as they're in jail they will be alive and possibly even clean.

They'll have food, warmth and clothing.

Janis can only pray that Allan, 24, is picked up by the police and thrown swiftly into prison - rather than being left to roam the east end begging, thieving, injecting.

But he didn't just wake up one day and become a heroin addict.

Like so many young people ravaged by the evils of the drug, his first step on the road to oblivion was taken by way of a cannabis joint.

Janis is chair of Gallowgate Family Support Group, which has buried seven children in the last three years. All were in their mid to late 20s.

One of them buried her son on Christmas Eve and another last Saturday.

Just about all of the dead were introduced to heroin via cannabis. And Janis feels a burning anger inside when she hears Tommy Sheridan apologise for the drug.

She says: "On Friday night, when Sheridan was screaming on about heroin on the NHS, the son of one of our women was lying in a mortuary, waiting to be buried the next morning.

"And anyone who says cannabis is harmless needs their head examined.

"Those who argue it should be legalised are the same people who tell us that cigarettes and alcohol are bad for us - but they want to give us something else to worry about.

"We're not burying 25-year-old alcoholics, we're burying 25-year-old drug addicts."

Janis, 43, hasn't seen Allan since early December - the same night he robbed his 80-year-old grandfather of pounds 50 for heroin.

She has no idea where he is or whether he's alive or dead.

Janis added: "I just pray that I get a phone call telling me he's in prison. It sounds terrible, I know, but unless you have experienced having addicts as children you won't understand what it's like.

"We know women who are at their wits' end because their son has just been let out. They can't sleep for worry."

The last time Janis saw Allan he was at her door in the Gallowgate begging for pounds 10 claiming it was to pay a waiting taxi driver.

But she knew the truth and refused to be sucked in.

Half an hour later, he was at her father's house, with another imaginary story.

Janis said: "He told my father I had sent him for some money, then brushed past him and robbed him of pounds 50. My partner managed to grab him and get the money back but I haven't seen him since."

Allan was a regular drug abuser long before Janis knew he had a problem.

He began with cannabis, moved on to solvent abuse, then was hooked on heroin.

Her older son, Jason, 26, is also an addict but is currently on a methadone programme.

She said: "Allan never came into the house and staggered around like he was drunk, so there was no tell-tale sign.

"After the cannabis he started sniffing glue and then it was lighter fuel and even nail varnish.

"I couldn't understand why I was always running low on nail varnish, or why the lighter always seemed to be out of gas.

"It wasn't until I came home from a night out in a taxi to find my flat completely wrecked and most of my belongings out on the street that I discovered what was wrong.

"He had taken a mad turn and went out on to the street shouting and screaming and even smashed up a police car which had been called to the scene.

"By the time I got home, he was in custody in a secure unit. He was just 14.

"At that stage, I knew very little about drugs but I was forced to learn very quickly."

Janis now runs the Gallowgate support group along with Jim Doherty.

Jim has two addict sons and two who have steered clear.

One of his boys was a talented footballer who represented Scotland at schoolboy level. Now he is a hopeless heroin addict.

Like Janis and the other group members, Jim is relieved when he hears that one of his addict sons has been jailed.

He said: "If someone comes into the group and says that their son has been given six months, everyone will applaud.

"They know he's going to be clean for that time and he will get food, clothing and will be alive.

"Some will say, 'Thank God mine is inside as well.'

Others will say, 'Mine is out and I'm worried sick.'

"My own son is in Barlinnie and I've never been so glad. His mum is sleeping at nights knowing he's safe.

"We believe the cannabis issue is the one that should be tackled. This area is full of 12 and 13 year-olds smoking cannabis and the majority are going on to harder drugs.

"And by the time they're 15 and 16, they're on heroin, with cannabis acting as the gateway drug.

"For many of these kids, cannabis has robbed them of their hopes and ambitions and taken away any chance they had of doing something positive with their lives.

"They're doing well at school and suddenly they take a smoke of cannabis and it's the beginning of the end. They lose everything to cannabis. It causes as much crime as heroin. We've got children stealing daily just to get cannabis.

"We started off as parents of addicts and we wrongly thought nothing could be worse.

"Now we have grandchildren with addicts as parents. We're talking about four and five year-olds who don't know what a knife, fork or plate is.

"They have never eaten off a plate or drunk out of a mug.

"Now when families are losing addicts, they aren't mourning them in the usual sense, they are actually saying they are glad because they are finally at peace.

"What kind of way is that to live?"
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 28, 2001
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