Monday, 28 March 2016

Just say .... whaaat?

Last Wednesday in the House of Commons Norman Lamb MP, a health minister in the 2010-15 coalition government, introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to legalise and regulate the use of cannabis. Such Bills are more a means of ventilating opinion than a serious attempt to legislate because of the shortage of parliamentary time to discuss private members' Bills - and ten-minute rule Bills have low priority. However, they are not always nodded through at first reading stage. It is open to another member to oppose and also for those in attendance to vote against the Bill's introduction. In times gone by, decriminalisation of drugs was such an emotive issue that Lamb's Bill would surely have not been easily approved. Times are changing.

A day or so earlier, the "war on drugs" initiated in the States was discredited by a quotation from an article in Harper's magazine. John Ehrlichman, an aide to President Nixon, confided in journalist Dan Baum:

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Older followers will recall that Ehrlichman was involved in the Watergate cover-up and was gaoled as a result, so that his evidence should be weighed against his resentment against the Nixon regime. It still rings horribly true.

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