CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Council target cannabis smokers in ruined lives poster campaign

Council leaders have never taken 'social drugs'

22 March, 2018 — By Richard Osley

A bus stop poster explaining how ‘Ricky’ ended up working on a cannabis farm

CANNABIS smokers are being met with guilt-trip bus stop posters warning that “a bit of weed” ruins lives.

The Town Hall launched its public awareness campaign last week with a photo of a man enjoying a hedonistic party and blowing smoke circles into the camera. But it came with a message that 17-year-old Ricky, based on a real case, was now living a miserable life on a cannabis farm.

The move to confront ‘social’ drug takers is partly aimed at establishing a link between light recreational use and Camden’s historic drug market, and the violence which stems from it. Both the council leader and its crime chief have said they have never touched recreational drugs themselves, although the posters are not meant to be judging those who did.

There were warnings yesterday (Wednesday), however, that the posters’ message had been misjudged. Green Party councillor Sian Berry said the communications team had created good campaigns on engine idling, but its attempt at drugs education “sounded like something going back to the 1980s and ‘Just Say No’, which we know didn’t work”.

She warned that the campaign’s message of a small bit of recreational drug use leading to hugely calamitous consequences in the criminal underworld risked being seen as too much of a “gulf”, which wouldn’t sink in. “The campaigns which work best are simple: so you say when you park your car, please remember to turn off your engine – not ‘Stop driving because you are killing children’, and it’s the same with this,” said Cllr Berry.

She agreed with Green Party policy on legalising cannabis but even if this happened, there would need to be good public health campaigns about minimising the risks. “I would run a campaign along the lines we see for people to buy Fairtrade coffee, something simple,” she said. The council campaign covers other so-called party drugs, including a warning about cocaine use and the link to the violent underworld.

Town Hall community safety chief Nadia Shah said: “When I grew up I was a youth worker from quite a young age so I saw the dangers and it was not something for me. I’m not making a moral judgement about a little bit of weed or what other people do but the public need to know what lies behind the drugs market which we see at Camden Lock. We’ve been very worried about the rise in youth violence.”

She said that the New Journal would have to ask everybody individually to determine how many Camden councillors and staff working on the campaign occasionally smoked cannabis. Asked if she thought that class the B drug should be legalised, she added: “My view is that people will have different views on that but it is up to the government.”

Town Hall leader Councillor Georgia Gould said she had never tried illegal drugs. “We have seen a big rise in youth violence with young people being groomed for the drugs trade,” she added. “The campaign is about raising awareness and starting a debate. We all live in one community and it’s important to know what’s happening on our streets.”

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