New Year drugs ‘free-for-all’
by T. Thompson Sunday December 26, 1999
Copyright: T. Thompson
People will not be punished for smoking cannabis and taking drugs during millennium celebrations as part of unprecedented police plans to adopt a ‘maximum tolerance’ policy for the biggest celebration the world has ever seen. As millions of people prepare to take to the streets for parties next weekend, police forces across the country are expected to turn a blind eye to drug use, enabling thousands of revellers to take drugs with virtually no risk of being prosecuted. Although the official police line is that they will respond to any crime as firmly as at any other time of the year, officers on the beat privately admit that, with up to five million people taking to the streets, they will struggle to cope with the higher than normal levels of drunkenness, let alone drug-taking.
‘If you tried to arrest every person smoking a spliff at the Notting Hill Carnival, you’d have a riot on your hands,’ said one Metropolitan Police officer who will be working during the celebrations. ‘We’d also fill every police station in the country in a few hours. During the millennium we might warn people to be a bit more discreet, but that’s as far as it goes. It will go on as long as the celebrations go on – probably at least two days.’ However, while anyone using small amounts of drugs on a personal basis is likely to be ignored, police are expected to crack down on dealing. Fears have begun to surface that recent seizures have forced some dealers to adulterate current supplies of drugs to stretch them over the celebrations.
Some of the additives are impure and can cause sickness or even death. Three drug-related deaths have been recorded during the last week and police fear more could follow next weekend. The biggest crowds are expected to turn out in London and Edinburgh. Emergency services have been placed on red alert with a series of drastic measures to ensure public safety and to counter the effects of the millennium bug, which could strike computers that have not been programmed to recognise dates after 1999.
All police leave has been cancelled nationwide. Troops in London and elsewhere are on standby, with some ready to move at 10 minutes’ notice. Extra hospital, fire and ambulance staff are on duty. A flotilla of emergency boats will patrol the Thames. Mobile phone networks face emergency cut-offs for all except key services as people swamp the networks with calls to friends and family. Key government Ministers are to meet at the Ministry of Defence at 7pm on Millennium Eve and again at 9am the following morning.
They insist Britain is better prepared than any other country to cope with crowds and computer crashes, but still admit things could go wrong. Emergency services have been warned to expect problems as varied as a rush of millennium babies, mass suicides by religious cults expecting the end of the world, and a terrorist attack on the Millennium Dome.