AN attempt by a Labour MP to legalise the personal use of cannabis failed
yesterday as his Private Member's Bill was talked out in the Commons. Jon
Owen Jones (Lab, Cardiff Central) published his Bill before this week's
announcement by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, that possession of
cannabis will no longer be an arrestable offence. Mr Jones, a former Welsh
Office Minister, tried to go further, saying that the cultivation of
cannabis should be lawful for recreational and medicinal use.

He advocated licensing systems for the importation of cannabis and its
commercial cultivation.

The MP said: "All over the developed world =97 with the exception of Sweden
and the American Federal Government =97 governments are slowly taking
incremental steps that can only result in full legalisation. I confidently
believe that cannabis will one day be legalised."

Mr Jones joked that the Palace of Westminster might one day have a cannabis
coffee shop, like those in Amsterdam, running alongside its late-night bars
and cigarette machines.

The MP described the plight of a constituent diagnosed with haemophilia at
birth who had been contaminated by blood transfusions with HIV, hepatitis C
and possibly vCJD, and smoked cannabis to dull the pain and help him to=
sleep.

"However hard I have looked, I cannot find any justice or any rationality
in the state's treatment of this man and I am glad that the Home Secretary
has acknowledged that," he said.

The illegal trade in cannabis, estimated at =A31.5 billion a year, simply
financed organised crime and brought youngsters into contact with suppliers
of hard drugs, Mr Jones said. The former Sports Minister Tony Banks
supported the Bill. He said that he had never tried cannabis but that he
believed in personal freedom.

Andrew Rosindell (C, Romford) opposed it, declaring: "To legalise is to
legitimise and to legitimise is to encourage."

The Bill ran out of parliamentary time and goes to the back of the queue
for backbench legislation, rendering further progress unlikely.


Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Fri, 26 Oct 2001
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd
Contact: letters@the-times.co.uk
Website: http://www.the-times.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/454
Author: GREG HURST, PARLIAMENTARY CORRESPONDENT