17 October 2006

The Macho Rev Hargreaves and his Cannabis Campaign

After the tragic stabbing of Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba in Hackney in October, you could not avoid seeing or hearing George Hargreaves in the media afterwards.

It was widely alleged in the media that the boys who stabbed Mr. Muteba had been smoking cannabis before the attack. Hargreaves used this as the catalyst to launch a broadside against cannabis and to announce that thanks to an 'anonymous donor' he was going to court for a judicial review of the ACPO policy in relation to cannabis policing.

Hargreaves says that an anonymous donor has given him the required money to launch his High Court challenge. But in practice he could probably fund ths himself being a wealhy man. He earns, it is estimated, some £10k per month - from record royalties.

For the anti-Gay Hargreaves also wrote the Gay club anthem "So Macho," sung by Sinitta.

We discuss the review of policing cannabis in a separate article (see above.) Here, we want to set the record straight on Hargreaves and his campaign.

In the local press and on the Radio 4's Today programme, Hargreaves represented himself as a local pastor, dismayed at seeing 'his' community in Dalston torn apart by cannabis, and watching young people's mental health deteriorating.

In fact, the Reverend Hargreaves is a Christian Fundamentalist who established Operation Christian Vote and has parliamentary ambitions. He sees the purpose of Government "the purpose of government is the maintenance of freedom and justice solely in accordance with biblical principles."

He adds cannabis to his list of 'anti's' most notably anti-abortion and anti-gay. He believes that people should be arrested and charged for even small amounts of cannabis. Presumably he believes this would have a deterrent effect, or that a short spell in detention would correct wayward young people, rather than merely criminalising them at an early age.

In the sad case of Mr. Muteba, he didn't mention the lack of recreational facilities in Dalston for young people, the growth of gang culture, the lack of community policing on the Holly Estate. All he focussed on was cannabis.

And, like the Daily Mail and the other campaigners, Hargreaves likes to string together unproven and often incorrect statements to support his condemnation of cannabis.

He claims that use of cannabis has escalated; research shows that use of cannabis amongst 11-15 year olds, and 16-25 year olds has actually declined since 2003 [BCS, DoH].

He claims that use of skunk has escalated since reclassification; the widespread use and availability of skunk had been increasing over the past decade, and is not a reflection of reclassification. Indeed, the evidence is that a licensed and regulated market would ensure a wider range of strengths, rather than our current reliance on strong homegrown skunk'

he repeats the argument that cannabis causes schizophrenia, an assertion not borne out by the evidence. While there is clearly a relationship between cannabis and mental health, this has not be shown to be a causative link. It's tragic that anyone would want to exploit the tragic death of a person, to promote their own moral and political agenda. Something that the Reverend Hargreaves has no compunction about doing.


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