By Alfa · Feb 7, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    Casual Cocaine Use Angers New Met Chief

    The new head of Scotland Yard took a swipe at London's white collar and
    celebrity drug culture yesterday by threatening to arrest weekend consumers
    of cocaine at dinner parties and in clubs and bars. Sir Ian Blair, who took
    over as the UK's most senior police officer yesterday, said there were an
    increasing number of people who saw no harm in having the odd "wrap of
    charlie" at the weekend.

    But he promised to make an example of casual users in an attempt to show
    that no one is above the law. "I think there are a group of people in the
    capital who believe they are in some way taking harm-free cocaine," said
    Sir Ian. "I'm not interested in what harm it is doing to them personally.
    But the price of that cocaine is misery on the streets of London's estates
    and blood on the roads to Colombia and Afghanistan.

    "People think it is okay to use cocaine but I do not think it is okay. We
    will have to do something about it by making a few examples of people so
    that they understand."

    The new Metropolitan commissioner stressed his officers would still target
    the drug-dealing "Mr Bigs", and would use assets recovery law to confiscate
    their profits. But he issued a stern rebuke to middle-class and celebrity
    drug users that they could expect no leniency. He said it was
    "disappointing" that James Hewitt, one-time lover of Princess Diana, had
    received only a caution for cocaine possession.

    People were having dinner parties where they drink less wine and snort more
    cocaine. "The tests on the toilet seats of various clubs will tell you an
    awful lot of cocaine is going on in the centre of London and people think
    it is exempt from policing. There are no areas of the capital which are
    exempt from the law on drugs."

    Petra Maxwell, press officer for independent drugs information
    organisation, DrugScope, said the price of illegal drugs, including
    cocaine, had dropped dramatically in the past few years as the number of
    casual users rose. She said even recreational cocaine users should not
    underestimate the health risks, but it was debatable whether arresting them
    was the best use of police resources. British Crime Survey figures for
    2002-03 showed 642,000 people in England and Wales admitted taking cocaine
    within the past year, and 275,000 said they had taken it in the last month.

    Ms Maxwell said a DrugScope survey last year found a gram of cocaine had
    fallen from UKP70 to UKP50 in London, and cost just UKP30 in Nottingham and

    "It's not cheap but many young people earning decent salaries would easily
    spend that on drinks on a night out in London," she said. "Cocaine is a
    harmful drug. It can cause heart problems and other illnesses and while it
    is psychologically rather than physically addictive, trying to come off can
    bring on anxiety attacks and associated symptoms.

    "However, you could argue that casual cocaine users are often people who
    can afford their drug habit and the only crime they are guilty of is
    drug-taking, and that the police might be better off concentrating on
    dealers and some other class A drug users of crack cocaine and heroin, who
    are associated with all sorts of crime."

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