Police raided Britain's most fortified cannabis café for a fifth time last week.

The heavily reinforced building in Lancing has so far proved impossible to close and many believe that it is time for the authorities to give up.

But the police need more support - not less - to eradicate a dangerous scourge which is damaging the community, TIM LOUGHTON MP tells MILES GODFREY.

Police raided Britain's most fortified cannabis café for a fifth time last week.

The heavily reinforced building in Lancing, has so far proved impossible to close and many believe it is time for the authorities to give up. But East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton is not one of them.

He has just written to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith asking her how she will help Sussex police close down a cannabis café in his constituency which has been operating with impunity.

The downgrading of cannabis to Class C is, he believes, at the heart of the problem, with mixed messages being sent to young users who do not know if the drug is illegal.

He is also clear in his belief that cannabis causes disorder and violence.

He told The Argus: "There is absolutely no doubt that officers do need new powers. I fully back the police in their attempts to tackle cannabis.

"There is a clear link between cannabis use and antisocial behaviour.

We must do all we can to tackle this scourge now. I have written to the Home Secretary asking her what she can do about this problem.

"It is very hard to get into these places and as soon as the police do, it appears that the evidence is burnt in a furnace.

"There are no grounds for fortification of what purports to be a café and this needs to be explored.

"Cannabis is illegal and it is the responsibility of the police to clamp down on illegal substances.

"It was wrong to downgrade cannabis to a Class C drug. There have been various reports showing links between cannabis and crime as well as mental health problems.

"It is not some harmless alternative to alcohol - it is a harmful substance that is a gateway drug to harder drugs.

"Various drug entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the legislation - they are exploiting the legislation.

Some say they are providing a community service - this is just rubbish. The café is a great nuisance to neighbours and we need a zero tolerance approach.

"Various people have come to me to complaining about the fire hazard and about some of the dubious characters hanging around."

Mr Loughton said the Gove r n m e n t needed to address the problem with the police's ability to enforce the law by carrying out shift raids and look at whether planning laws needed to be tightened t o stop the kind of heavy fortification seen at the Lancing café.

But many still believe that cannabis should be legalised or at the very least ignored by law-makers.

The argument from those in the pro-cannabis camp is that far more trouble is caused through alcohol abuse than through cannabis.

Joe Bloggs down the pub is far more likely to kick off after a few pints of lager than after a joint.

Some think cannabis cafés should be allowed to do business unchecked. It doesn't do anyone any harm - does it?

But there is also a significant school of thought within police ranks that serious crimes are being committed by crooks spurred on by the effects of cannabis.

The brutal murder of Michael Morgan, the 15-year-old from Lancing, is a case in point.

His killer and pal, Kieran Wright, 17, had consumed both booze and cannabis when, on July 1, 2007, he took out two kitchen knives and a table leg and stabbed him repeatedly in the head.

When Wright murdered Michael Morgan he described how everything had turned "black and red"

and admitted that he was "wrecked" on booze and cannabis.

While stopping short of directly blaming the murder on cannabis misuse, Chief Inspector Lawrence Hobbs, Adur District Commander, believes there is a clear link between cannabis and disorder.

He told The Argus: "I think it is clear there is a definite link between cannabis and antisocial behaviour.

"Part of the problem is that cannabis is, and pretty much always has been, seen as a chilled out' drug. A substance that which relaxes rather than agitates. But equally, scientific studies show that the drug affects everybody in entirely different ways.

"A new report published by the Home Office concludes that cannabis presents users with a serious risk of physical and psychological harms and hazards'."

And while stopping short of saying that cannabis can cause violence, it strongly links its use with severe mental health problems which could lead to violent outbursts.

Further to that it says cannabis is "anything but harmless" and urges ministers to give police further powers to tackle its sale and consumption.

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