07/05/2008

'U-Turn' As Cannabis Reclassified To Class B

Cannabis has been reclassified as a Class B drug, it has been announced today.

In making her decision The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith went against the advice of The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which wanted to keep it a Class C drug.

The council has not been overruled for 30 years.

Ms Smith said in Parliament today: "Cannabis use is falling significantly across all age ranges, and this is a testament to the success of the Government's drug strategy.

"However, I am concerned to ensure that the classification of cannabis reflects the alarming fact that a much stronger drug, known as skunk, now dominates the cannabis market. I want it to be clearly understood that this powerful form of cannabis is an illegal and harmful drug."

"My decision to reclassify cannabis is part of the relentless drive to tackle drugs and the harm they bring to families and communities, and I will seek to do that by the end of the year."

In the ACMD report published today, it stated that the Council was "still very concerned about the widespread use of cannabis among young people" and "although the numbers of users decreased over the past few years, cannabis still poses a threat to the health of those who use it".

However, one of the recommendations was that cannabis should remain a Class C drug and that there is little evidence that cannabis is a significant cause of "acquisitive crime or anti-social behaviour".

Other recommendations were that a "concerted public health response was needed to drastically reduce its use".

Last week Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the Government needed to issue a warning to young people of the dangers of using cannabis.

In February, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) recommended cannabis reclassification to the ACMD.

Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside Police and ACPO lead on drugs, welcomed the Government's announcement.

"Cannabis today is much stronger than it was previously and the UK market is dominated by 'skunk'.

"We want those criminals who are investing extensively in cannabis factories to realise that the UK is not a soft touch - a message backed by police raids on over 2,000 cannabis farms in the last 12 months.

"Reclassification to Class B will not, in itself, solve the problems that our communities are experiencing in connection with cannabis use - but it does send a clear message to young people that this is a dangerous drug," he said.

However, a ACPO spokesman told the Guardian Newspaper last week that chief constables do not want to "criminalise young people who are experimenting".

Deborah Cameron from Addaction, a leading specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity, says that changing the classification of cannabis will not deter people from smoking it.

Cannabis was originally downgraded from a Class B to Class C drug by former Home Secretary David Blunkett to give police more of a chance to tackle 'hard' drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

(DS)


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