Cannabis reclassification in the United Kingdom

Cannabis reclassification in the United Kingdom refers to the transfer of cannabis [Cannabis is primarily a herb or plant but, generally, UK law treats the herb itself as a drug, whether or not a particular specimen or variety has real drug potential, or is grown for drug purposes. The Home Office takes the view that special licences are needed (issued under the Misuse of Drugs Act) when the herb is grown for non-drug purposes, even when the variety of cannabis used is unlikely to produce any real drug material. (Non-drug purposes include production of hemp fibre).] to a different Class of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. As Home Secretary in Tony Blair's Labour government, David Blunkett announced in 2001 that cannabis would be transferred from Class B of the Act to Class C, removing the threat of arrest for possession. Arrest would still be possible for distribution, however [See [http://www.idmu.co.uk/homeoffpr.htm "Blunkett to focus on the menace of hard drugs", Home Office Press Release 255/2001, 23 October 2001] .] . The transfer eventually happened in January 2004, after Class C penalties for distribution had been stiffened. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had recommended such a reclassification as early as 1979, a view endorsed by the Runciman Report [cite paper|author=The Police Foundation|title=Drugs and the Law: Report of the independent inquiry into The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971|url=http://www.druglibrary.org/SCHAFFER/LIBRARY/studies/runciman/default.htm|year=1999] in 1999.

The change was designed to enable police forces to concentrate resources on other (more serious) offences, including those involving "harder drugs". The Government has argued that the reclassification of cannabis has had the desired effect, with arrests for cannabis possession falling by one third in the first year since reclassification, saving an estimated 199,000 police hours. When the change was introduced, there were several attempts to establish Dutch-style cannabis cafes. Mostly, however, these have failed. The new law creates no real protection or respectabilty for such establishments, and police have forced their closure.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which was enacted on 1 January 2006, abolished the concept of an 'Arrestable Offence' by making all offences arrestable. This has meant that people may once again be arrested for possession of cannabis in the United Kingdom. In his Prime Minister's Questions on July 18th 2007, the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the home secretary (Jacqui Smith) was reviewing again whether to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug. [ [http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,70131-1275881,00.html Cannabis May Be Reclassified As Class B] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6904547.stm BBC NEWS 18 July 2007] ] On 7th May 2008 Jacqui Smith confirmed that cannabis in the UK would be reclassified as a Class B drug. [ [http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gWNS5_wYkUT1LikzHWuAkgnX-1uA The Press Association: Smith snubs experts over cannabis ] ]

Criticism

In 2003, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) criticised the United Kingdom for considering reclassification of cannabis. The INCB's annual report warned that::"The reclassification of cannabis by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Briton" [sic] " and Northern Ireland would undermine the efforts of the Governments of African countries to counter illicit cannabis cultivation, trafficking, and abuse."

Philip O. Emafo, INCB chairman, said::"It is important that consensus prevails in international drug control. No government should take unilateral measures without considering the impact of its actions and ultimately the consequences for an entire system that took governments almost a century to establish."

During the 2005 general election, Tony Blair announced that the reclassification of cannabis would be reviewed in light of new scientific research, and the issue was referred to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Early in January 2006 Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said that on the basis of advice from the Advisory Council, a decision has been made not to reclassify Cannabis to Class B. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4625404.stm Cannabis will remain class C drug] ]

Footnotes

ee also

* Cannabis
* Cannabis (drug)
* Cannabis rescheduling
* Hemp
* Legalise Cannabis Alliance
* Legal issues of cannabis
* Cannabis political parties

External links

* [http://www.idmu.co.uk/homeoffpr.htm Blunkett to Focus on the Menace of Hard Drugs] , Home Office Press Release 255/2001, 23 Oct. 2001.
* [http://www.incb.org International Narcotics Control Board] .
* [http://www.incb.org/e/ind_ar.htm Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2002] , E/INCB/2002/1.
* [http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/280/roadtovienna.shtml Road to Vienna: British Government Chides International Narcotics Control Board on Cannabis Rescheduling Critique] , Mar. 28, 2003.
* [http://www.headsite.com/cannabis-news-9-w.asp Cannabis news] Major cannabis news - UK and international
* [http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Cannabis/ Legalise Cannabis petition on the Prime Ministers website]


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