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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK


Churchman calls for cannabis 'lessons'

Bishop Holloway says he was "disappointed" by cannabis

One of Scotland's most senior churchmen is calling for young people to be taught how to use recreational drugs responsibly.

Drugs in Schools
The Most Rev Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said he supported the calls made by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy for a Royal Commission on Britain's current drugs legislation.

He said he was in favour of an open debate on the subject and attacked what he described as a hysterical attitude towards drugs.

Bishop Holloway told BBC Radio Scotland: "It seems to me that as long as it's handled in a responsible way and we teach our young people to live moderately and use these recreational substances moderately, then that is a wise policy."

Bishop Richard Holloway: "Politicians are terrified of public opinion."
The bishop, who has courted controversy before by accusing the church of being too conservative, also admitted at the weekend that he had tried cannabis.

He is thought to be the first senior churchman publicly to admit taking an illegal substance and to call for its decriminalisation.

Bishop Holloway said: "The issue is so fraught with emotion and misunderstanding that we need an objective body that will look at it scientifically, morally, politically and help us all get a way forward beyond all the hysteria which characterises the debate at the moment."

Charles Kennedy: "We should have a searching examination of all options"
By restating his party's policy, Mr Kennedy has found himself at the centre of a political row.

He said there were signs that society's attitude to cannabis was changing from the sentences given to people who "plead guilty to possession or use of cannabis, but have been doing so for personal reasons associated with the alleviation of pain".

Mr Kennedy also told the BBC a number of police officers had publicly criticised the amount of time spent on dealing with certain drug-related crimes.

[ image: The bishop's comments have been criticised]
The bishop's comments have been criticised
The comments made by the bishop and Mr Kennedy have been criticised by anti-drugs campaigners.

Strathclyde Police Chief Constable John Orr said: "My view is quite simply this: 'Zero tolerance on drug taking is the answer.'

"Any move away from what in truth at the moment is a crime would need to be very carefully thought about."

The BBC's David Calder reports on the reaction to Bishop Holloway's comments.
Mr Orr said that there was "clear evidence" that some of the 92 people in Strathclyde killed by drugs this year had started out on cannabis.

Alasdair Ramsey, the head of pressure group Scotland Against Drugs, said the bishop's comments were "ill-informed".

He added: "It's important that people in the public eye should make statements like this with very carefully considered thought."

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