Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Invasion of privacy - the law demands justification

“There is such a thing to the RIGHT TO A PRIVATE LIFE and the criteria by with authorities can justify interfering with that Right are clearly specified in the Act: it must be in the interests of law AND to protect public health, public order, national security or the Rights of others - law itself is NOT enough.

How does the SUSPICION that a person MAY be growing cannabis (breaking the law) pose such risks and how can the invasion of people homes be justified in terms of Human Rights.

If there is no known or potential victim, then how can there be a crime?

And at what cost?”

Cannabis factory find prompts Hull City Council to plan more inspections
Hull Daily Mail, March 27 2012
ROUTINE inspections of council-owned commercial premises could be stepped up after the discovery of Hull's biggest illegal cannabis factory to date.

Councillors want to tighten procedures despite warnings from one officer that checking for criminal activity could be viewed as "intrusive and offensive" by some tenants.

Three Vietnamese men – Toan Nham Vo, Dat Truong and Vuong Van Vu – were each jailed for a two and a half years in January after being caught growing more than 2,700 cannabis plants at the council-owned unit in Fountain Road just before Christmas.

The plants could have produced more than £2 million of cannabis.

Police officers took almost ten hours to clear the factory of plants, along with more than 320 lightning units, 283 transformers, 14 filters, 17 extractor fans and eight propagators. The operation was spread across ten rooms.

The unit had been empty, having previously been used as a skills training centre.
In a report, the council's assistant head of property, Nick Howbridge, said: "Historically, incidents of criminal activity in the 1,700 commercial properties leased by the council are rare and there have been less than a handful of cases over the past decade.

"Previous instances have involved a cannabis factory, sale of illegal cars and drug smuggling through hiding it in pallets."

In the report, Mr Howbridge said vacant units are inspected every three months while all units are reviewed annually as part of a statutory valuation process.
But he said introducing more inspections to check on possible illegal activity could cause problems.

"Our tenants are likely to find checks for criminal activity in their businesses both intrusive and, in some cases, offensive
"A much more formal approach or inspection to check criminal activity is likely to carry resistance and a poor response from our tenants."

Councillor Simone Butterworth, chairman of the council's value for money scrutiny commission, said reviewing the inspection regime was necessary.

She said: "We still want to see what can be done in terms of having more informal inspections of properties."

Monday, 26 March 2012

No Justice for Medicinal Cannabis Grower in pain

A very sad day for British Justice locking up a man that has clearly done now harm to anyone, just for growing a plant to ease his terrible suffering - like so many cannabis users now a victim of the law.

Given that he was growing cannabis for his own use and nobody outside his house would have been involved, I must ask what Right the police had to raid him in the first place?

We all have a Right to a Private Life, irrespective of what we choose to do in it, so long as we do not harm or risk public health, public order, national security of the Rights of others. How was Winston Matthews doing that? He wasn't.
The fact that what he was doing was against the law is not enough to give the police the right to interfere with hsi private life - Human rights law is quite clear on that.
It must be in the interests of law AND of protecting public health, public order, national security or the Rights of others. How was arresting and punishing Matthews justifiable then?
And how much did all these raids and court cases and days in prison and medication going to cost the public?
All in the name of what? Hardly Justice!
Pro-cannabis campaigner fails to overturn sentence
By Ben Endley
March 26, 2012

A PRO-CANNABIS campaigner who was jailed last month after repeatedly refusing to stop growing the drug has failed to convince a top judge he was too harshly punished.

Winston Matthews, 55, was handed a 10-month sentence at Guildford Crown Court on February 6 after he admitted producing, cultivating and possessing the drug - which he insists is his only relief from chronic back pain and hepatitis C.

Scores of cannabis plants had been found growing at his home in Upfield Close, Horley, by police and Matthews was also given another six months for breaching the terms of an earlier suspended sentence - making a total 16-month term.

Matthews, a former member of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA), stood for election as MP for East Surrey in 2005 however few voters shared his pro-cannabis stance and he finished in last place with 410 votes.

At London's Appeal Court on Thursday (March 22), his barrister, Ben Cooper, argued the sentence did not take enough account of his troubled background and the fact he was using cannabis to "self-medicate" in the privacy of his own home.

The barrister said Matthews had "stood for Parliament on a cannabis footing" and had been using the drug to deal with his pain for many years. Mentally and physically dependent on the drug, prison was "extremely hard" on him, the court heard.

Mr Cooper added that Matthews, who fractured his spine in a workplace accident when he was just 16, never supplies cannabis to anyone else, grows his own to avoid drug dealers and every leaf he cultivates is for his own personal use.
He found cannabis "far more effective" in relieving his pain than conventional medicines and, having turned his back on other substance abuse, "only uses cannabis because he wants to live a pain free life.

"He was using cannabis on a fairly large scale on a daily basis but he simply cultivates enough plants to keep him going", he told Mr Justice Haddon-Cave.

He does not qualify for prescription of cannabis-based drugs often given to multiple sclerosis sufferers and needs specialist help to "break his cycle of offending", Mr Cooper added.

However, refusing to release Matthews on bail or grant him permission to appeal, the judge said he had indicated at the Crown Court that he "would continue to cultivate cannabis come hell or high water".

Observing that Matthews is "something of a campaigner in this regard", the judge added: "He is a recidivist and he's not above the law just because he has personal reasons for using it".

Friday, 23 March 2012

Concerns over online drugs poll - comment

"legalising cannabis" is about law and Justice - we must ask first whether the possession or small scale cultivation of cannabis poses any threat or does any harm to others - in itself - not speculate. For instance, when it comes to unsafely driving whilst under the influence then that would come under driving laws just as over-the-limit drinking does: alcohol is not banned despite accidents, fights, destruction of property etc - and anyone proved guilty of that can be dealt with by the authorities irrespective of whether they are sober, drunk or high on pot. It would not be seen as just by many people to punish everyone that drinks alcohol because of what a minority of others do.

Likewise with illness: cannabis is actually far less risk to health than aspirin, tobacco, alcohol and it is surely not Just to punish users because they or others get ill?

Cannabis, like alcohol, is widely used in the UK - by millions - and those unable or unwilling to grow their own are exposed to drug dealers and crime - lack of information, availability of other drugs, contaminated cannabis that poses health risks of its own.

Imagine if the only source of alcohol was illegal dealers or manufacturers, that criminals control the supply! Oh yes, they tried that in the US and had to legalise alcohol again.

And the cost to the taxpayer of chasing over 3 million regular users, thousands of growers and dealers, only to find that however many or fined or locked up, there is more and more cannabis on the streets.

Then there is the ridiculous situation where people like Winston Matthews in Surrey are imprisoned for growing cannabis to ease the terrible pains of illness or injury - nobody else involved.

Consider the cost to the NHS of providing pharmaceutical drugs, often with their own risks and side-effects, to people that claim cannabis is more effective. Now Pharmacists are producing whole-cannabis extract containing about ten pounds worth which they sell at over £120 a can of spray to people in desperate need whilst they risk prison if they grow their own.

Of course there is the cost of potentially criminalising millions of our youth - for a crime without victims.

Not forgetting of course, that if it is legal to grow cannabis then it is legal to grow hemp - a valuable source of fibre, foodstuff, oils and environmentally-friendly fuels - local hemp could avoid the problem of transporting fossil fuels around the world and ease up on pollution.

And what of the negative impact: less profit for giant petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies, less work for the police and courts .. less money for drug dealers.

I voted in favour of legalising cannabis also realising that it is not cannabis that needs legalising because it is not itself illegal - it is the possession, cultivation and supply that is illegal and need legalising - the law is aimed at people, not drugs - the "war on drugs" is a war on drug-users, not substances.

I have studied the pro's and cons: I hear the cries that cannabis causes problems in a minority of users, and poses risks to others if people drive whilst high - but all those risks are made worse by the failed prohibition.

I would advise anyone seriously concerned about those risks to use the WWW and search for evidence, because there are several reports out there claiming cannabis has little detrimental effect on driving skills and poses only a small risk to a small percentage of people predisposed to certain mental health condition eg http://tinyurl.com/79zcjmj”

Leicester Mercury, March 23 21012
Concerns over online drugs poll

Regarding the online poll about the legalisation of cannabis, I was rather perturbed to see that so many seem to be in favour of a change in the law.
Admittedly the respondents are a self-selected group and not necessarily representative of the general population but their influence may be important.
In addition to the concerns about mental health, progression to other drugs, etc, I do wonder how many of those wanting to decriminalize cannabis have considered its detrimental impact on daily functioning.
Very recently, a research paper in the British Medical Journal found that cannabis use doubles the odds of having a motor vehicle crash.
So I would suggest if the rules concerning so-called "recreational" drugs are to change then it will also be necessary to consider implementing drug-driving legislation in order to keep the remainder of the community safe from the increased threat of road accidents.
Personal use of drugs has wide-reaching effects beyond those on the individual and this must not be forgotten.
Eleanor Mather, Earl Shilton.

Drugs charge man shown clemency- comment

So what harm did this man Loveridge actually do? How much did the police raid and court case cost - thousands of pounds - and how does this make society a safer or better place to live in?

Sure he broke the law, but a law without Justice - for it attacks Human Rights and personal choice without reason - a law that needs to be scrapped - after many billions of pounds have been spent it clearly does not work - there are more cannabis users and growers in the UK than ever.

Personal possession and cultivation for own use ought not be be criminal offences, and legal and controllable outlets for adults to buy cannabis should be set up to take it out of the hands of crooks, provide consumer protection (just like with alcohol and other consumables), separate the supply from hard drugs and tax the profits.

Drugs charge man shown clemency
Ely Weekly News, March 23 2012 

A man found with cannabis has escaped having a suspended sentence activated.
Wayne Loveridge, 30, of Ely, appeared at Cambridge Crown Court yesterday charged with possession of cannabis.
He was in breach of a nine-month suspended sentence imposed by Cambridge magistrates last June after he was found with a small amount of Ecstasy.
Robin Miric, prosecuting, said police executed a search warrant in January at Morley Drive, where Loveridge lives, and found a bag containing a small amount of herbal cannabis concealed in the finger of a glove.
Loveridge admitted possession of cannabis and breaching his suspended sentence.
In mitigation, Charles Myatt said Loveridge did not know how long the cannabis had been at the house and could have been there prior to the suspended sentence being imposed.
He said Loveridge had completed a curfew order, was doing well with his work with the probation service and showing an “improved attitude”.
For possession of cannabis Loveridge was sentenced to one day in prison.
Judge Anthony Bate did not activate the suspended sentence but added additional sessions to be completed with an alcohol key worker.
He told Loveridge: “If you commit another drug offence it may be very different next time.”

Inverness drug suspected choked trying to swallow cannabis - comment

I'm sure the public will sleep sounder at night knowing that the police and courts are spending precious tax-payers money locking up a man like this - what harm did he do to anyone but himself?

If he'd swallowed the contents of a whiskey bottle he would may have been shouting or fighting in the street. Then he would have deserved arrest and punishment - but had he simply been quietly drunk the police would presumably left him alone and the perverting the cause of Justice would never have happened.

What you do not report is WHY police hassled him in the first place - what was he doing to attract their attention?

Inverness drug suspected choked trying to swallow cannabis
Highland News, March 22 2012

A MAN choked when he tried to swallow a piece of cannabis resin after being challenged by two plain clothes police officers in Inverness.
George Macaulay fell to the ground and had a fit during the incident in Farraline Park in the city.
He ended up being jailed at Inverness Sheriff Court today for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The court heard Macaulay (26) of Perceval Road, Stornoway, was approached by police officers who suspected he was in possession of controlled drugs.
Ms Robertson said: "They noted he had his hand in his jacket pocket. He removed his hand from the pocket and began to swallow something he had placed in his mouth. He fell to the ground then proceeded to have a fit."
She said Macaulay had tried to swallow a small quantity of cannabis which had a "nominal street value".
Macaulay (26) admitted on October 18 placing the drugs in his mouth and attempting to swallow them to pervert the course of justice and possession of the Class C drug.
Solicitor advocate Michael Chapman said Macaulay had very little recollection of the incident because of the fit he suffered as he attempted to swallow the resin.
He said he was serving a prison sentence with a release date on March 31.
Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood commented Macaulay could have been killed over a small quality of cannabis and jailed him for 14 days.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Change the drug laws - solve the problems

Since when has arresting and locking up drug dealers actually reduced the flow of those drugs that the Government seems to have randomly selected to make the possession and sale illegal?

Maybe for a few days, but the profit motivation - especially amongst those already "addicted" - is massive and if a prison sentence does not deter them, neither will a longer prison sentence.

Remove that profit motivation by enabling addicts to get their supply of clean drugs - without being offered other drugs - through doctors and pharmacists - must be the sensible alternative - take control of the supply of addictive drugs just like the Government has at least some controls over alcohol (at least those that drink it CAN choose to avoid criminal supplies).

That way quality and dose will be assured, addicts will be identified and any profits made taxed.

Alcohol is one of the most damaging drugs in our society causing violence, absenteeism, illness and premature death, for those that use it to excess.  Yet I don't here calls to lock up drinkers or pub managers.  Just look back at US prohibition and see the EXTRA damage it caused - and that extra damage is now being caused by the ban on the possession and supply other drugs.

And it is costing the taxpayer BILLIONS annually.  In the name of the "war on drugs" which is in fact a war on some people that possess or sell some drugs whilst other drugs are allowed.

Why don't the politicians change this?  Simply because they fear their jobs as the Government and the press have convinced the people that prohibition is the best way.

So it is up to the voters now to open their eyes and tell their politicians that prohibition is an expensive and disastrous failure.

DRUGS INQUIRY: 'Put the dealers behind bars for much longer'
Leicester Mercury, 12 March 2012

In the first of a series of articles about the impact of drugs in Leicestershire, Mercury crime correspondent Ciaran Fagan spoke to a former addict to find out his views on drug laws

If former heroin and crack addict Phil Ward could change one thing about Britain's drug laws he would see dealers spending at least 20 years behind bars.

The 40-year-old was in the grip of the two highly-addictive drugs for more than 20 years and has been in and out of prison for the crimes he committed to support his habit.

Now clean and living and working in Loughborough, the father of three said: "People are still making a lot of money out of heroin, even though the price is stupidly low.

"If you add up all of the costs to the country – the NHS, the police, the courts and all those victims of crime – it's a huge figure.

"If I could change the way things work, it would be the sentences dealers get. Heroin is evil and it destroys lives. These people destroy lives and make a lot of money out of it.

"So the people who make money out of selling it – not the low-level people, I mean the people driving around in flash cars – should go to prison for at least 20 or 25 years."

He also advocates a system where the state would prescribe heroin to users. However "recreational" drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy should remain illegal, he said.

"It's very hard to get people to come off heroin, but it can be done," he said.
"When you stay off it you think you are dying, you get cold sweats and stomach cramps. But you're not dying, you're actually getting better. After three days it feels better and after a week you're right as rain.

"I don't think the police can keep up with the drugs market. There are cutbacks everywhere now, including police.

"Drug dealers aren't having cutbacks though are they?

"When I first started taking heroin in the late 80s, I had to go to Liverpool or Manchester to get it because it just wasn't available here.

"Now it's all over the place. It's an evil drug but the whole issue of addiction is pushed under the carpet in this country for some reason.

"I think it's good that the politicians are having this debate now. They should listen to people like me who know what it's like to be addicted to this stuff and have been inside the prison system."

Should our drugs laws be changed?

The Leicester Mercury today launches an online opinion poll asking readers if they support a major overhaul of the country's drugs laws.

Readers are asked whether they believe highly-addictive drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine should be decriminalised.

Readers are being asked if they believe cannabis should be legalised. They are also being asked whether they believe highly-addictive drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine should be decriminalised
They are also being asked if they believe cannabis should be legalised.

Responses to the online poll – on the Mercury's website – will feed directly into a major inquiry being conducted by the Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, and could shape the future of the country's drug laws.


1. Should possession of cannabis be legalised?
Click here to add your vote.

2. Should possession of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine be decriminalised?
Use the panel on the right of this article to vote on this question.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pointless, expensive and failed drug prohibition policy must go!

Well I know it's not up to the police to change the law but for them to think that by evicting people from their homes is going to reduce crime and specifically drug dealing, is an illusion.

ALL efforts by Government and police to reduce dealing, over forty years of it  - have failed.

There is more drugs, more addiction, more crime, more illness and more death, than ever!

Kids as young as eight have been found with drugs in school.  A huge percentage of teenagers have tried drugs and booze - it's not just cannabis.  Whilst drugs get contaminated or cut, whilst they remain available in every town and city, whilst the dealers' profits rise along with addiction, the zero-tolerance policy has failed miserably and has cost many many billions of pounds; over one million people in the UK have a criminal record for cannabis and many of those never actually harmed anyone!

The answer is staring us in the face.

Instead of arresting dealer after dealer, simply creating opportunities for others to step in (as they do), alienating the youth and often abusing people's humans rights in the process - locking up people's who's only "crime" is that they choose to use one drug rather than another, wrongly discriminating between drugs like alcohol and plants like cannabis .. why not ...

.. take the bull by the horns, use common sense, recognise people have and always will take substances to change their moods - take the drugs out of the hands of criminals by legalising the possession, production and supply

This should be an immediate step for cannabis.  As the late Eddie Ellison, retired head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, once said: "cannabis ought never have been made illegal."

Legalisation of cannabis cultivation would mean that people would be able to grow plants for their own use in their own homes and stay away from dealers that may offer other drugs.

Legalisation of commercial production and supply to adults would allow quality control, point-of-sale advice, tax on profits, separation from the world of hard drugs and crime - and it would save BILLIONS of pounds of tax-payers money every year.

There are also many hundreds of thousands of people that do or could benefit medicinally from controlled doses of cannabis.  Unlike many prescription drugs, cannabis has no fatal dose, no unpleasant side-effects (for the vast majority) and no need for more pills to counteract those side effects.

It is time for our Government to tell us exactly and honestly why they stay with such an expensive failed policy of prohibition.

Using drugs will cost tenants their homes, warn police
Western Gazette, March 8 2012.

Police in Crewkerne have warned housing association tenants they will be evicted if they use drugs or take part in antisocial behaviour.

Officers are taking a hard stance on the issue and say those responsible could be made homeless if they do not heed the warnings.

Pete Paskin, beat manager for Crewkerne, said: “We are working with the housing associations to tackle drug dealing and drug abuse under the banner of crime reduction and antisocial behaviour.

“We’re sending out the message – don’t think you won’t be made homeless if you take part in antisocial behaviour and drugs. There is a high likelihood you will be.

“You will lose your home if you don’t heed the warnings.

“This should serve as a reminder to everyone, expect a bang on the door from the police and housing associations if you are involved in this sort of activity.”

A spokesman for Yarlington Housing Group, one of the associations working with the police, said: “When we receive a complaint about any sort of antisocial behaviour we would take steps to bring about a conclusion which is acceptable to the parties involved and go to lengths to reach an amicable solution.

“This process may involve the issuing of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts. If this does not bring about a successful result and the antisocial behaviour breaches the tenancy agreement, then we have the option to take the matter to court to impose compliance with an agreement, or ultimately to repossess the property.”

This latest warning comes after a Crewkerne ketamine dealer was forced to pay back more than £16,000 of criminal gains.

Inspector Jackie Gold, head of south Somerset neighbourhood policing, said she is personally committed to ridding Crewkerne of drugs.

She said: “Crewkerne is a low-crime area and generally a safe place, but like any other town around the country, it’s got crime and we monitor crime trends very carefully. Part of my job is to keep Crewkerne as low in terms of crime as possible and keep it safe.“Drugs have a major impact on local communities like Crewkerne. It drives up crime such as burglary and car thefts because people need to fund their habits.

“Any drug dealing we deem to be serious business. We take a very dim view of it and personally I pull out all the stops to curtail any drug-dealing activities.”

PC Paskin is working with every local housing association in the area such as Yarlington and Knightstone.

He said: “We have had one person evicted from Rhydderch Way in January and are closely monitoring other areas of the town. “With antisocial behaviour and the drugs that propagate it, it affects other residents and their quality of life. People in the area notice an improvement in the standard of living right away when those responsible are evicted.”

Monday, 5 March 2012

Cannabis growers MUST be jailed says top judge as he ignores 'soft' guidelines and imprisons six men

When Professor Nutt, the Chair of the Government's own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the panel that recommended that the Government did NOT upgrade cannabis to class B again, spoke against Government policy in a lecture - he was sacked!

Now we have a Crown Court Judge openly speaking against Government sentencing policy on cannabis, using the courtroom as his soapbox - will he be sacked?

I doubt it!

Cannabis growers MUST be jailed says top judge as he ignores 'soft' guidelines and imprisons six men
Mail On-Line, Monday March 5 2012
By Chris Brooke

A senior judge has ignored ‘soft’ new drugs sentencing  guidelines by jailing six men for growing cannabis.
Judge Alan Goldsack criticised regulations that came into force last week and defied the authority of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales.
Under the new guidelines, at least four of the six offenders who were jailed at Sheffield Crown Court should probably have been given a community penalty.
Home-grown ‘skunk’ cannabis production is said to have reached ‘epidemic’ proportions in South Yorkshire, the area around the court, and judges there have been routinely jailing even low-level offenders in an effort to clamp down on the industry.
The judges have been following ‘clear and succinct’ guidance given by the Court of Appeal early last year, urging tougher sentences.
However under the new guidelines, the sentence range, if no more than nine plants are involved, goes from a conditional discharge to a medium- level community order.
Even where 28 plants are involved, the sentencing range is from a low-level community order up to 26 weeks in jail.
On Friday Judge Goldsack, the Recorder of Sheffield and the most senior judge sitting at the city’s crown court, sentenced 13 cannabis growers in one hearing.
He told the court it would ‘not be in the interests of justice’ to follow the new guidelines.

‘Suddenly reducing sentences, which have been seen as appropriate and hopefully effective in reducing a very common form of offending, would seriously undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system,’ he said.
In a lengthy address to a packed courtroom, Judge Goldsack said it was clear that cannabis was being widely grown in attics, cellars and bedrooms, and that a few plants could produce a substantial amount of the drug.
He said: ‘There is the clearest possible evidence of the damaging impact on local communities of this particular type of offending.
‘The hope was that before too long the level of offending would drop off dramatically once potential offenders realised the sentence they face if caught.’

Judge Goldsack said that in his judgment, where an offender has grown cannabis with an actual or potential yield close to or more than 1 kilo (2.2lb), an immediate custodial sentence is justified. He jailed six offenders and gave another seven community penalties.
Gary Woodward, 31, of Maltby, near Rotherham, was jailed for 15 months and Alexander McGregor, 23, of Shiregreen, Sheffield, was imprisoned for ten months.
Mark Bolton, 47, Matthew Taylor, 28, Gary Brearley, 45, and Robert Healey, 24, all from Barnsley, each received nine months.
All admitted producing cannabis, which prosecutors accepted was for their personal use. Woodward had four previous convictions for possessing cannabis and admitted supplying to friends.
Later counsel for several of those jailed indicated that they would be appealing.
The Sentencing Council is a  public body set up to promote a ‘clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing’.
Members include senior judges, a magistrate, solicitor, barrister,  academic and police and probation service officials.
The courts ‘must follow’ the guidelines it publishes ‘unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so’.