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Cannabis Law Should Not Be Reversed Says Police Chief

Nick Allen, The Scotsman, 20th May 2005

Britain’s top policeman today suggested that the reclassification of cannabis should not be reversed.

If it was, then Sir Ian Blair would like to see fixed penalty notices issued, rather than arrest and prosecution, for possession of small amounts of the drug.

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Charles Clarke commissioned the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs to investigate whether new medical evidence linking cannabis to long-term mental problems had implications for the Government’s previous decision to downgrade the drug from Class B to the less serious Class C.

And just before the General Election, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the decision to downgrade it to Class C - the same as steroids and some prescription anti-depressants - was being looked at again amid emerging evidence that cannabis “isn’t quite as harmless as people make out”.

But Sir Ian said: “In London, in my view, we should stay where we are.”

If there was a change the Metropolitan Police would push “very hard” for fixed penalty notices, he said.

Sir Ian stressed that the Met was continuing major operations against cannabis importers.

But he said: “It’s a waste of time, in terms of policing, to deal with small amounts (of cannabis) because the courts and the CPS have consistently failed to do anything about it.

“There is no point a police officer spending hours dealing with something the courts and the CPS don’t do anything about.”

He did not say what level of fixed penalty he would envisage.

Offences currently attracting an £80 fixed penalty notice include being drunk and disorderly, shoplifting and selling alcohol to under-18s.

There are £50 notices for offences including being drunk in a public place, trespassing on railways, consuming alcohol under the age of 18, and dropping
litter.

Sir Ian also countered suggestions that there should be a double classification of cannabis based on different strengths of the drug.

Mr Clarke has asked the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs for its advice on varieties of cannabis containing high levels of THC, the active ingredient.

In his letter to the committee, the Home Secretary said: “I am aware the Dutch government are taking a particular interest in very high strength strains and are considering whether cannabis above a certain strength should be a higher classification.”

But Sir Ian said: “We would be arguing very strongly not for a double classification in terms of strengths. That’s impractical.”

The downgrading of cannabis to Class C, introduced by Mr Clarke’s predecessor David Blunkett, came into effect at the start of last year and means possession of small amounts of the drug is no longer normally an arrestable offence.

Police are instructed to deal with cannabis users with a formal warning and confiscation of the drug, except in certain aggravated circumstances such as smoking it outside a school.


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