Take great care before changing drugs laws

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Friday, December 28, 2012 - 11:14


THE VIEW FROM HERE I don’t know if Nick Clegg is actually an expert on the use and effect of illegal drugs but he’s certainly prepared to clash with the prime minister on government policy surrounding this issue.

Mr Clegg favours a more open-minded approach to drugs, with the possibility of decriminalising some currently illegal, while Mr Cameron is opposed to any such move.

We should all take a keen interest in anything that is decided, because the problem is right here on our doorsteps.

Drug use is widespread on the Island, particularly among the young. As in every community, there is no school where drugs are not an issue.

A particularly astute headmaster once told me: "If any school tells you they haven’t got a drug problem, they are lying."

It is easy to pitch one’s own ideas into the argument but you really need to know a great deal about the matter if those views are to carry any weight.

Perhaps those best placed to judge are the professionals, who have worked with drug users, see how they have been affected and know how the system works.

Russell Brand keeps popping up to tell us his views but I’m not sure he, or any other person who has taken vast quantities of drugs, are the ideal experts. They must have been already daft to take drugs in the first place and I can’t imagine they’ve miraculously acquired any great intellect since subjecting their brains to mind-altering substances.

I am certainly in no position to give an personally informed view. But I do, as we all should, listen to what the experts say.

I was particularly interested when Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, who has immense expertise in working with severely vulnerable children, expressed her wariness about any drug-law reform.

"When cannabis was decriminalised, we saw use in young people at street level escalate," she said.

"One of the big problems is that it can in a lot of cases, especially with young people in stress, trigger psychosis. Our mental health provisions don’t have capacity to cope with the potential repercussions of legalising cannabis."

She also cautioned against imagining that legalising drugs would put them in a "middle-class leisure use context".

In reality, use would still be rife among the destitute, the deprived and the emotionally traumatised.

It is ironic we are discussing decriminalising drugs, which kill more than 2,000 people annually in Britain, while many in America are calling for tougher gun laws after the Newtown tragedy.

Does legalising something make it less harmful? Not, apparently, in America, where half the stock of individually owned guns in the world are to be found and where 9,484 people were killed by guns last year. In Britain, there were 39 gun killings.

So let us watch and listen and hope our politicians will be very careful before making any decision on drug-law reform. Certainly they should not (and I suspect this is the case with both Clegg and Cameron) jump on some populist bandwagon without calling in the experts.

Happy new year – don’t forget the emergency notice

Did you all have a nice Christmas? I do hope so but don’t think you can relax yet. After the first overload of frantic jollity, there’s still New Year to come, oh dear me, yes.

All that staying up until midnight and Auld Lang Syne and kissing everybody, even when they smell of whisky and there’s a bit of half-eaten sausage on their chin.

Still, we have to get through these rituals, including that of overnight visitors. Most of us would rather be in our own beds but it’s a rule at this time of year that you either have to uproot at great personal inconvenience or, just as bad, be the host and have your house overflowing with food and visitors, some of whom may be members of the family you’re not mad about.

You may think it’s OK just to usher them in and shove a glass in their hand but you’d be wrong.

According to UL, which is apparently an "independent product safety certification organisation" (sexy, mmm?), as soon as visitors arrive, "be sure to talk to them about your family’s emergency escape plan. Let them know where you keep fire extinguishers and first-aid kits."

Remember, too, "the bath can be a hot-spot for injuries. Consider installing grab bars in the shower to prevent falls for visitors of every age" and "ask guests to help remind you to turn off all holiday decorations before going to sleep. In case an accident happens, post emergency numbers near the phone. Point it out to guests."

I adore it. Any future guests in my home will be greeted, not with a mince pie and mulled wine, but escape plans, grab bars, and emergency numbers. Should guarantee they’ll never return.

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