Europe: Britain Will Not Reclassify Cannabis as a More Harmful Drug -- Advisory Council Calls Risk of Mental Illness "Very Small" 1/20/06

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British Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced Thursday that he will not reclassify marijuana as a Class C drug. The drug was downgraded from Class C status to the less harmful (and less punished) Class B in 2004, but Clarke had the country on tenterhooks for the past few months as he publicly agonized over rescheduling pot, citing alleged mental health problems and the confusion supposedly engendered by making possession merely a ticketable offense in most cases.

Last year, Clarke asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to reexamine cannabis in light of charges its use could lead to schizophrenia or psychotic episodes, especially among young users. The council issued its recommendation in November, and Clarke has not released the report, but leaks to the British press suggested the council had stood by its earlier decision to support classifying cannabis as a less harmful, Class B drug.

Clarke admitted as much as he told parliament cannabis would stay where it is. "I have decided to accept the Advisory Council's recommendation, which is supported by the police and by most drugs and mental health charities to keep the current classification of cannabis," he said. Instead of stiffening penalties for marijuana, the government will undertake a public awareness campaign for users and a crackdown on growers and dealers, he said.

"Everyone needs to understand that cannabis is harmful and it is illegal. Our education and health campaigns will clearly transmit that message," Clarke said.

The Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that the advisory council had found the risk of someone developing schizophrenia as a result of marijuana use was "very small" and that marijuana was a "substantially less" harmful substance than other Class B drugs, such as amphetamines and barbiturates.

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Issue #419 -- 1/20/06

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Feature: Alaska Bill to Recriminalize Marijuana Fast-Tracked, Passes Senate | Feature: With Conservatives Poised to take Power, Canadian Drug Reform Ponders an Unfriendly Future | Feature: Swiss Marijuana Legalization to Go to Voters... Unless Parliament Acts First | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Supreme Court Ruling: Administration Cannot Use Federal Drug Laws to Block Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law -- Attempts Increased Pain Levels Among Dying | Medical Marijuana: San Diego Term Limits Initiative Filed in Response to Supervisors' Attacks on State Medical Marijuana Law | Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Governor Puts Compassionate Use Act on Legislative Agenda | Mothering: Utah Appeals Court Overturns Child Endangerment Charge in Marijuana Breast-Feeding Case, But Upholds Law Itself | Marijuana: "Weeds" Actress Mary Louise Parker Wins Golden Globe, Says "Legalize It" | Europe: Britain Will Not Reclassify Cannabis as a More Harmful Drug -- Advisory Council Calls Risk of Mental Illness "Very Small" | Latin America: Colombian President Forced to Probe Paramilitary Influence-Buying | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar |

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