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By Ian Kirby & Philip Whiteside, News of the World (UK), August 22, 2007

RELAXING laws against cannabis has ended in disaster _ and caused an EXPLOSION in hard drugs abuse.

That is the damning verdict of a secret dossier compiled by Tony Blair's own No10 Strategy Unit.

Their confidential report, seen by the News of the World, reveals how the government's decision to decriminalise cannabis two years ago has enabled dealers to wean a flood of new users on to deadly drugs, such as crack cocaine and heroin.

It says: "The vast majority of local drug dealers will use cannabis as an easy way of making money and increasing their client base.


"They will seek to secure more hard drug clients from among that base.

"Recent changes to the law have increased the number of people taking cannabis. The amount of hard-drug abuse has also increased. Although more research is needed, it appears the two rises are connected."

The report's findings were confirmed by News of the World investigators, who discovered our streets are riddled with cannabis dealers. It took just MINUTES to buy the drug in five cities across the country_and many pedlars were also pushing hard drugs.

When cannabis was downgraded to a Class C "soft" drug, the government claimed there was no evidence to suggest its use would encourage people to try harder drugs. But the new report concludes that almost all "high harm-causing drug users" (heroin and crack addicts) began by smoking cannabis.

There are now estimated to be 3.5million regular cannabis users in Britain_A FIFTH more than in 1997.

In public, the government insists that educating the public about the dangers of the drug, instead of punishing people for using it, is the only workable policy.

But privately, the No10 Strategy Unit warn: "Far more drugs are used now than in the past. The supply market is highly sophisticated and attempts to intervene have not resulted in sustainable disruption to the market at any level."

The Downing Street team's cannabis findings are part of a report on the overall drugs problem. It reveals that it is now EASIER to buy hard drugs on Britain's streets than ever before.

The report warns 260,000 heroin addicts spend 4 billion a year on the drug and cause 16 BILLION of crime to fund their drug habits.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis branded the government's drugs policy was a "total disaster".

He added: "Many continue to think cannabis is a safe, soft drug. They still wrongly think it is legal.

"And many more young lives will be damaged by the pernicious trade in this dangerous drug."