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FURY AT HASH CAFE PLAN; Government sink Scots move to legalise cannabis.

THE Government yesterday slapped down plans to allow Dutch-style cannabis cafes in Scotland.

Rebel MSPs submitted a motion to the parliament calling for Scotland to be made a testing ground.

The move comes on the eve of a major inquiry into drug abuse which is to be carried out by the Scottish Executive.

The inquiry will go to public consultation later this year.

But officials last night said they have no intention to allow any research on whether cannabis should be legalised to take place.

Sheridan has lodged a motion before the Parliament calling for Scotland to be made the UK test bed for legalising cannabis.

He wants cannabis cafes set up north of the border for four years to see whether it will cut drug crime.

The Government is also under pressure from SNP MSP Margo MacDonald, who has called for a Royal Commission into drug use.

MacDonald, who met Scots drugs minister Angus MacKay yesterday, said she was astonished that the executive was already ruling out areas for inquiry.

But Mackay, Deputy Justice Minister said later: "What is the point of devoting resources to looking at issues that we have no power over.

"Legalising drug use is a UK matter and is not a matter for the Scottish Executive."

Tory deputy chief whip Bill Aitken said: "What are they trying to do? Turn the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow into downtown Amsterdam."

He claimed there was a clear link between cannabis use and subsequent hard drug addiction.

He said: "A case might be made for cannabis use being legalised for medicinal purposes. Any right-minded person would reject any attempt to legalise it for anything else."

Leading psychiatrists attending an Edinburgh conference on alcohol and drug abuse were also critical.

Dr Colin Drummond, of St George's Hospital, London, said: "It's not just a case of legalising something so that we can enjoy it more.

"Cannabis is a major player in mental illness and a lot of the people we treat have problems made much worse by cannabis use."

The Government-backed Scotland Against Drugs was also against the move.

A spokesman said: "There is evidence to show that cannabis has been the gateway drug to other substances in a drug taking career."

But Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan said the Government stance was a "disgrace".

"This is an appalling lost opportunity. The executive have got to get their heads out of the sand.

"One in five Scots are using cannabis every weekend.

"The continued criminalisation of a million Scots for smoking a joint is totally unsustainable.

"We have to try new methods and new approaches."

He said: "We have more addicts and more crime related to illegal drugs than 10 years ago.

"The 'Just say No' campaign is a nonsense. It's time for a new, radical approach."

"Our current approach is not working.

"We have more addicts and more crime related to illegal drugs than 10 years ago.

Margo MacDonald said: "I am very surprised to hear anything is being ruled out before the inquiry has even begun."
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Author:Mackenna, Ron
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 5, 2000
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