Newshawk: Dick Evans
Pubdate: Sun, 16 Jan 2000
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The New York Times Company
UK: Britain's Anti-Drug Chief Mowlam Smoked Cannabis
LONDON (Reuters) - British cabinet minister Mo Mowlam, recently appointed to head the Labor government's anti-drug campaign, admitted Sunday she had smoked marijuana as a student.
``I tried marijuana, I didn't like it particularly, and unlike President Clinton I did inhale,'' Mowlam, 50, said after British newspapers reported she smoked the drug when studying in the United States in the early 1970s. The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said that a fellow student at Iowa State University, where Mowlam studied politics, had seen Mowlam with a cannabis cigarette in her hands at a party.
In an interview with Sky Television, the former Secretary for Northern Ireland, said the incident would not compromise her new position as coordinator of the government's drug policy.
``It happened in America, it was something many people experimented with,'' she said. ``If I had bought it, sold it, used it frequently it might have done, but I didn't.'' Britain's Conservative party has seized upon Mowlam's admission, just as Republicans criticized President Clinton, who admitted to smoking, but not inhaling marijuana during his 1992 presidential campaign. As well as her anti-drug role, Cabinet Office Minister Mowlam's duties include ensuring that government policy is implemented. ``Anyone who takes responsibility for leading our policy against drugs should themselves be able to say with conviction and from personal conviction that one must just say no to drugs,'' said Andrew Lansley, Conservative Shadow Minister.
Britain's government has taken a tough stance against drugs, but a report partly funded by the Home Office is expected to call for the decriminalization of cannabis and a shake-up of the country's drugs laws. Mowlam and her team will respond to the report by the Runciman Committee, a quasi-Royal Commission, when it releases its findings next month. At present, possession of cannabis can be punished by up to seven years in jail in Britain but long sentences are rarely imposed.
The latest Home Office figures indicate that about 500 people were imprisoned in 1997 for possession of cannabis.
A recent MORI poll found that 80 percent of Britons supported the relaxation of cannabis laws while only 17 percent believed that cannabis should remain illegal.
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk
The New York Times (USA)