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Damaging Division On Cannabis

The Yorkshire Evening Post, Editorial, 25th June 2005

IT would be a great shame if clashing personalities and differences of ministerial opinion, rooted in a macho reluctance to back down, were to be set ahead of the welfare of children and young people.

But that’s the danger if Home Secretary Charles Clarke and his predecessor David Blunkett can’t settle their arguments over cannabis soon.

A restored ‘B’ classification for this, an undoubted gateway drug to harder substances, is only a small hope of protection for thousands of youngsters now receiving a false safety message. But it is the only hope they have.

Clarke and Blunkett are in conflict over the legal status of cannabis Blunkett insisting he was right to downgrade it, Clarke anxious to restore its stricter classification, in light of expert opinion.

It’s right that government should have the sense to change its mind when it knows it might have been wrong. It is not right and is most irresponsibly improper for law impacting on the physical, mental and emotional health of a generation to depend on who has the Prime Minister’s ear and the most clout in the circles of greatest power.

The new Home Secretary looks set to re classify the so-called “soft” drug to restore its B grading following concerns about the effects of a particularly strong form of cannabis known as skunk.

Mr Clarke ordered a review on the downgrading following a report from the Netherlands, which linked it with psychosis and the advisory council on the misuse of drugs is due to report back to him later this year.

Tony Blair has also indicated that reclassification is on the cards, promising to go back to class B if the experts recommend it.

But David Blunkett, now Work and Pensions Minister, is proving to be a fly in this salving ointment. He insists he was absolutely right to downgrade the drug in 2002.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post he would be warning Mr Clarke that reclassifying the drugs would put back added pressure on the police whose time had been freed up by the reclassification.

That’s really not much of an argument at all. He appears to be saying that if police resources are insufficient to meet the demands of necessary law, the law should be scrapped to accommodate the shortfall.

Surely the opposite should be true. And surely it is for government to ensure, in the interests of public safety and order, the police forces are resourced adequately to fulfil all known duties of law enforcement.

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