Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/214/8624
Lilley The Pinko?
PETER LILLEY and the right wing London Evening Standard and Telegraph, leading members of the Tories, more often seen as the party which locks people up, have called for the legalisation of cannabis.
This follows on from Brixton police effectively decriminalising cannabis - people found with small amounts of the drug will no longer be prosecuted. The government has told customs officials and police to give up hunting for cannabis smugglers and dealers.
Lilley wants to popularise the Tories after their humiliating election result. He calls for licensed premises where small quantities of cannabis can be bought in line with the Telegraph's campaign for a 'Free Country'.
These right wingers claim to care about the devastation that heroin brings to many working-class communities, arguing that if those wanting to buy cannabis can avoid using pushers of hard drugs it will reduce the chance of them buying heroin or cocaine.
What the Tories mean by a 'free country' is one with the 'freedom' to sack workers, pay low wages and profit from privatising our public services. Once cannabis is legal, tobacco companies are likely to become the new dealers, using resources far greater than the current pushers to persuade people to smoke it.
Peter Lilley is no champion of people's rights. As Secretary of State for Social Security in the last Tory government he cut benefits for the disabled, unemployed and asylum seekers.
Benefits for single parents were frozen and the retirement age for women raised to 65. The Job Seekers' Allowance (forcing the unemployed to accept the worst of jobs or lose benefits) was his creation.
But it must be hard to rebuild the Conservative Party when a Labour government is continuing Tory policies. Surveys show that between 70% and 80% of the population favour relaxing the cannabis laws.
Labour seem to be slowly relaxing drug policy even though Blunkett promised to "rid the country of the plague of hard drugs" when he became Home Secretary. Some Tories see this as an issue where they could appear radical.
Recent research shows that the "war against drugs" is being lost. As prosecutions and seizures increase so does the availability and use of drugs. In other countries where cannabis is legally sold, then there is a fall in the use of harder drugs.
While the rich and others with affluent lifestyles use heroin and cocaine mostly for a leisure pursuit, the dealing and use of hard drugs in many working-class estates present a different picture. Here it leads to wasted lives through constant use and addiction as well as rampant crime as users steal to feed their habit.
Trevor Phillips, black deputy leader of the Greater London Assembly argues against ending prohibition of class A drugs because black youth find that there is money to be made from drugs "thus learning that if he wants the Mercedes or the gold chain, here's an alternative to study and work."
But many youth (black and white) use drugs in the first place to forget their problems. Many people turn to dealing to improve their lifestyle when decent jobs are at a premium, even when people get a good education. No prospects and alienation from society breed a drug problem whose consequences for working-class communities is appalling.
Capitalism is firmly to blame for the conditions of many working-class youth and their communities. Capitalism will profit from the misery they bring by being the worst drug pushers.
At present they push alcohol and cigarettes; they would gladly do the same with cannabis too. We are not in favour of profits being made out of selling cannabis.
Doctors should be able to proscribe heroin to addicts and there should be facilities for testing drugs and balanced advice on their use. People should not be criminalised for taking drugs and there must be rehabilitation for addicts.
Such reforms could ease life for drug users and their communities but capitalism and its defenders like Lilley merely want to make profit from addiction and dependency.
In The Socialist 13 July 2001: