Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Note by Sir Keith Morris relating to the evidence of 11 December

  At the end of the hearing Mr Byrne (HM Customs) made a very important point. He mentioned that senior Colombian officials had expressed concern about possible changes to British policy on cannabis. I am sure that such concerns are widely held not only by Colombian officials but those of other producer and transit countries. Their fear is that decriminalisation (either formal or informal) of drugs would lead to an increase in consumption and a decrease in the aid they receive from the consumer countries to fight the drugs trade. This fear is in my view well founded because the former would be very likely to happen and the latter would be a real possibility.

  Legalisation of drugs is another matter altogether. I have long known that many senior Colombian politicians privately favoured such an outcome. This was confirmed during a visit I made in November, the first since my own views has been much publicized there following my Guardian article of 4 July. Almost everyone I met raised the subject with me. All thanked me for having made clear the cost that Colombia was paying in the drugs war. All but one then took exactly the same line. Legalisation of drugs was the only solution to Colombia's long-running internal conflict. The case for it had to be made in the consumer countries. Colombians could not do it. Most left unsaid the reason why. They would be denounced in Washington as soft on drugs. Those who spoke thus included people at the most senior level in government, the central bank, the political parties and the private sector. Their public duties and/or their public stand mean that their lives are daily at risk from the drugs traffickers and the three illegal groups of extreme left and right which draw their principal funding from the trade. Their views deserve to be taken into account.

January 2002

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