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Cannabis Effectively Decriminalised in the UK

Author: Jonty Adderley
Friday, October 26, 2001
Police will no longer be able to arrest cannabis users in the UK, following an announcement from British authorities this week that the drug is to be downgraded from Class B to Class C. The unexpected development came as Home Secretary David Blunkett recognised their Prohibition-style approach was damaging the credibility of all drug laws.

"Having cannabis one level down from crack or heroin is not something young people find credible so they are more likely to ignore everything else you are saying," a Home Office official told the Standard. "David firmly believes if a law has not got any respect you should change it."

The dramatic policy change was welcomed by many of Britain's mainstream newspapers with some criticising the Minister for not going far enough.

"Parents are acutely aware that a war on drugs, while cannabis is still illegal, is a war on their children," the Guardian said. "Up to 50% try the drug. Where Mr Blunkett falls down is in failing to downgrade LSD and Ecstasy from A to B Class, as recommended by the Police Foundation National Commission, and rejecting its suggestion that possession of Class B and C drugs should be made non-imprisonable. The reason was pragmatic: prison does more harm than good."

Right wing establishment journal the Daily Telegraph also welcomed the change, declaring, "Mr Blunkett is to be congratulated. But now he should show he has confidence in his assessment that cannabis is not an unacceptable dangerous substance and have the courage to take the next logical step forward by legalising the drug for an experimental period."

In recent times 81,000 people a year have been busted for cannabis possession with 14,963 being caught in London last year. The law changes, which are expected to be formalised in early 2002, are expected to save police and courts tens of millions of pounds and transform the way cannabis is viewed in Britain.

'The home secretary's announcement that he intends downgrading cannabis finally marks official recognition that the drug is widely seen as no more harmful than tobacco or alcohol,' said the Guardian.