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Heartbroken mother finds ally in hardline chief constable; Some say making cannabis available cuts use, others that it opens the door to hard drugs.

HEARTBROKEN June Jones has a special reason to campaign against the decriminalisation of cannabis - she believes the drug was responsible for her son's death.

Mrs Jones, 57, saw her 24-year-old son, Marcus, deteriorate from being a ``normal, happy-go-lucky young man'' to someone who became withdrawn with no interest in holding down a job.

On December 4, 1995, Marcus was found dead in his bed after taking an overdose of methadone and temazepam, drugs which Mrs Jones believes he ``graduated'' on to after a two-year addiction to cannabis.

``I don't believe in declassifying the drug or making it legal at all,'' said Mrs Jones, who lives with her husband, Barrie, at Gelli, Rhondda. ``What the Government is doing is giving a green light to drug dealers to make easy money. People will think it is acceptable to take drugs.

Mrs Jones blamed Marcus's addiction on boredom and unemployment, causes she believes lie at the root of the problem in Wales.

``Why is the Government suddenly trying to make it easier for people to take cannabis?'' she said. ``In Marcus's case it led on to harder drugs because it was not enough for him. If it hadn't been for cannabis he would be alive today.''

Mrs Jones believes the courts and police should take a tougher stance, not only on dealers but users as well. ``At the moment they go to rehabilitation centres which aremore like holiday camps,'' she said. ``The only way ahead is to deter them from taking it in the first place, even if that means putting them in prison.''

Recently South Wales Chief Constable Sir Anthony Burden said that drugs was ``one of the main problems'' and that the police should take a hard line approach.

``More than 70 per cent of our day-to-day crimes like burglaries and street robberies are to feed drug habits,'' he said. He also vowed there would never be a cannabis cafe in the area, following proposals by campaigner Jeffrey Ditchfield to open a similar shop in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

``Cannabis cafes will never happen in South Wales for as long as I am chief constable,'' said Mr Burden.

Inspector Paul Cannon of Rhondda Police agreed that, rather than legalising cannabis, it was time to crackdown on users.

``They need to know that taking cannabis is a criminal offence and they should face the penalty,'' he said. ``Burglary is a criminal offence and we don't shy away from prosecuting offenders, so why should we turn a blind eye to cannabis use?

``I am absolutely 100 per cent convinced it is a gateway drug that leads to more serious drug use. I've spoken to many heroin and crack users and every single time they started with cannabis.''

Insp Cannon refuted claims that legalising the drug would free up police time. ``Our workload would increase even more,'' he said. ``Dealers have very little moral principle, they don't just deal with cannabis but a whole array of harder drugs. It would open that market up to even more people.''
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 11, 2002
Words:502
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