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Legalise dope, says MP.

Byline: Richard Hazlewood

THE Government is being urged to reconsider a South Wales MP's bill to legalise cannabis.

Cardiff Central MP Jon Owen Jones says ministers should look again at his proposals - which failed to make it onto the statute books last year - to help in the fight against street crime.

Mr Jones, a former Welsh health minister, last year tabled a private members' bill in the Commons to legalise cannabis for medicinal and recreational use.

He argued that the current illegality of cannabis gives huge profits and control of supply to criminal networks and also criminalises many people for whom the drug's use is seen as harmless fun.

Cannabis takes up most of the UK drug trade, estimated to be worth around pounds 10-20bn a year.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has proposed reclassifying the drug in a move that would no longer make possession an arrestable offence.

Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday launched a new cross-government crackdown to tackle rising street crime after figures showed a one-third rise last year.

Home Secretary Mr Blunkett had earlier announced a new robbery reduction initiative to get police and court authorities to combine to target street criminals in the 10 urban areas where four-fifths of all such offences occur.

Mr Jones has pointed to the London borough of Lambeth where an experimental scheme of not arresting anyone caught with cannabis has led to a 35 per cent drop in street crime.

"For an inner city area like Lambeth to achieve a huge fall in street crime, bucking the national trend, is a tremendous achievement, " the Labour MP said.

"If we are serious about tackling the problems of crime in Britain then a new approach to our drug laws is needed.

"When I first proposed my private members bill to legalise cannabis the main argument I used was that it would cut crime.

"If you legalise cannabis you take huge amounts of money out of criminals' hands and free up police time to deal with the things people really care about - muggings, burglary, theft and violent crime."

CAPTION(S):

HIGH TIME Cardiff Central MP Jon Owen Jones believes the government should consider legalising cannabis.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 21, 2002
Words:361
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