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Former PSNI police chief Alan McQuillan says time could be right to legalise cannabis

By Cate McCurry

Published 22/09/2016

DUP spokesman said the party does not support the idea of legalising cannabis
DUP spokesman said the party does not support the idea of legalising cannabis

A former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable has backed calls to de-criminalise cannabis saying it is time to consider the radical move.

Alan McQuillan made the revelation during a discussion with Ulster Unionist MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson who vowed to "break the legs" of any drug dealer he caught selling illegal substances to children.

Controversy: Alan McQuillan
Controversy: Alan McQuillan

The former senior RUC Special Branch officer said on BBC Talkback that current policies have created a "big cash cow" for organised crime and referred directly to cannabis.

When asked about whether he supported calls to regulate and de-criminalise drugs, Mr McQuillan said there's a "real scope" for the idea.

"It depends on what we are trying to achieve. All we are doing at the moment with the policies the way they are is creating a big cash cow for organised crime in particular in relation to cannabis," he said. "I think other drugs are radically different. I think there's a real scope for de-criminalising cannabis.

"It's been de-criminalised in a number of states in America and I support that. I think the time has come to consider that but by not doing that we've got to deal with what we are doing here. It should be about reducing harm, it should be about reducing damage, particularly in young people."

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He said that the focus should be shifted to educating parents and children on the dangers of drugs.

He added: "We need to invest in education, to be aware that often the people who are dealing drugs are corrupted young people who are paying for a habit by dealing to other children."

However, a DUP spokesman hit back at the comments saying the party does not support the idea. A party spokesman said: "People are entitled to put forward suggestions but it's not something we would be supportive of."

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Mr McQuillan's comments came after Mr Cochrane-Watson said that a young relative collapsed in the street in Antrim after taking an illegal substance.

"If I thought anybody was pedalling drugs to any of my family, I think I would seek to protect them in any way I could," he said.

"When I see drug dealers driving about in their fancy cars and with money to burn, it makes me angry. And when I know who these people are, it makes me frustrated why the police service, with all the intelligence they must be getting from people like me, why they can't be more effective."

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