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Europe: In Step Backwards, Britain Reschedules Marijuana as More Dangerous Drug

As has been expected for months, the British Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Wednesday that it will reclassify marijuana as a Class B drug, theoretically subjecting users to stiffer jail sentences. The move comes just four years after the government of Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, down-scheduled the herb from Class B to Class C.

In a message to Parliament Wednesday, Home Office Secretary Jacqui Brown made her best case for rescheduling marijuana. "Cannabis is and always has been illegal. It now dominates the illegal drugs market in the UK and is stronger than ever before. There is accumulating evidence showing that the use of stronger cannabis may increase the harm to mental health," she said, citing a new report from the government's advisory panel on drug policy.

"I make no apology for erring on the side of caution and upgrading its classification. There is a compelling case to act now rather than risk the health of future generations," Brown continued. "The enforcement response must reflect the danger that the drug poses to individuals, and, in turn, to communities. Those who are repeatedly caught with cannabis must face tough punishment, and that is why I have asked the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to propose more robust enforcement measures to reflect reclassification."

The government will also go after marijuana traffickers and "the trade in cannabis paraphernalia," Brown warned. She will seek a review of existing laws and police powers to curtail the sale and promotion of marijuana and associated items, she said.

But despite Brown's tough talk, rescheduling is likely to be more symbolic than anything. By Brown's own admission, underage offenders are to be treated lightly so they can avoid getting criminal records. Few marijuana possession offenders are likely to see the inside of a jail, let alone five years in prison. And the Association of Chief Police Officers has said it intends to mostly issue warnings and not arrest people in most cases despite the classification change.

While the ACPO supported reclassification, its position on arrests was made clear in February, when Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne, spokesman for the ACPO on marijuana matters, told the government in February police don't want to waste their time on small-time pot busts. "The world has changed markedly since cannabis was classified as a Class C drug four years ago," said Byrne. "Our substantive argument then in support of the change was the disproportionate amount of time spent by front line police officers in dealing with offenders in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. ACPO believes the service should retain this flexibility in dealing with instances of possession on the street, including the discretion to issue warnings in appropriate circumstances."

In addition to being mostly symbolic, the reclassification also comes in the face of a recommendation from the very government advisory panel on drug policy that Home Secretary Brown cited above, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that marijuana remain a Class C drug. In its most recent report on marijuana released Wednesday, the ACMD said:

"Decisions about advising on classification must, ultimately, be based on the Council's collective judgment about the relative harmfulness of substances within, and between, classes. On balance, taking into account the totality of the relevant issues and very mindful of the actual and potential harms, the majority of the Council advises that cannabis and the cannabinols remain in Class C. Although the majority of members recognize the harms caused by the use of cannabis to individuals and society, they do not consider these to be as serious as those of drugs in Class B."

Possession of Class C drugs (steroids, tranquilizers) is punishable by up to two years in prison. Possession of Class B drugs (amphetamines, Ritalin) is punishable by up to five years in prison. Possession of Class A drugs (LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, magic mushrooms) is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Rejected recommendations of its own advisory panel?

Jesus Christ... where have I heard that before... or more accurately... how many times have we heard about gov't ignoring it's own "advisory panels, commission, etc" ?

I understand how this happens in the u.s. which is driven by creepy christian delusion and manifest destiny against those that disagree with their brand of faith. But in Europe... what a disgrace... good thing I've been there and done that already!

Just Say NO... To tolerating Intolerant idiots & assholes!

what a shame

Time and time again the safety of MJ has been proven, will reefer madness ever end? By the way there are a lot of Christians that read the Bible instead of going with the flow of those that distort what it says. Read this verse: Gn:1:29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

britains cannabis policy is,

britains cannabis policy is, and most likely always will be, insane. they have very low quality contaminated cannabis products like gritweed and soapbar and instead of developing programs to detail these dangers instead claim that the one safe and potent product, sinsemilla, (which the british media has taken to calling 'skunk weed') makes you insane. This media frenzy has lead to this symbolic reclassification which has very little significance other than proving that the UK still isn't on the path to effective drug policy. Although, that was already clear to begin with. They have the highest use of europe. Britain is the america of europe.


Did you hear about how officials in the British government were caught funding a terrorist group splicing disease genes into cannabis?...they're calling it Bubonic Chronic. WATCH OUT!

'media headlines and scare stories'

Whatever politicians and the police might try to tell you, cannabis is not really a "controlled drug" in any meaningful use of the term "Controlled". Because it's an illegal drug there are no controls over the trade whatsoever and if you don't control the trade in a substance, you can't claim to control that substance.

For example, in recent years there have been many claims of increased strength or potency (are they the same thing?) but there is scant information to to base such claims on because proper records of "street" cannabis based on statistically valid sampling methods have never been done.

Of course, if cannabis were legal we would know the strength, not from surveys of what's on sale but because it could be properly regulated at the point of production. It would say how strong it was on the packet.
This is just one example of what a pragmatic approach to law reform could achieve, there are many others besides.
"Cannabis pragmatism aims to campaign for laws which both reduce the potential for harm to a minimum and protect the vulnerable.
Far from being being "pro pot" or "drug liberal" cannabis pragmatism is a campaign for effective and enforceable laws.

People use cannabis, they want to buy it and as there's money involved someone will supply it. That is the nature of capitalism, the driving force of our society.

A pragmatic approach to law reform doesn't claim cannabis is harmless - indeed we wish to draw attention to the potential risks because they should form the basis of the regulatory approach.
As with all things we must have reliable and firm data on which to base our laws and to do that we have to be able to measure and quantify the supply side. Prohibition makes this impossible.
Pragmatic cannabis law reform is a campaign for drugs policy toward cannabis based on proper control and regulation of the commercial supply coupled with effective harm reduction measures.
As long as the demand exists for a commercial cannabis supply there will be one. The issue is therefore how, not whether, we manage it.

If society is to achieve any success in its effort to reduce personal and social damage through drugs use, we must continually re-examine our own understanding and attitudes to drug use, misuse and abuse. It is worth noting that the overwhelming majority of those who use cannabis are not "problem users" and "normal" use ought not be labelled as "abuse". We also need to examine the successes, failures and costs of past and present control regimes.
Can we really justify punishing people for cannabis possession or growing a few plants when clearly neither individual nor society benefits through the prosecutions?
How does the implementation of law conflict with Human Rights, harm minimalisation and good policing?
Above all, it is essential to instigate a continuing dialogue between government, drug agencies, police and users."Unfortunately, the message given by this decision is that drugs policy can be driven as much by political considerations, media headlines and scare stories as by the evidence."

B crime in UK

Writing that marijuana is an 'herb' and not a drug does not help move the issue forward. Herb implies harmless & we all know that one can become addicted psychologically to cannabis. This is a permit to the prohibition crowd to claim that we (some of us at least) are out of touch with reality...howard

It's Jacqui Smith and She Smoked Pot

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in a television interview in 2007 that she had tried marijuana while an undergraduate at Oxford University in the early 1980s. (She added that she had smoked it "just a few times," had "not particularly" enjoyed it and now realized it was "wrong.") The admission prompted similar ones from UK Chancellor Alistair Darling; Treasury chief secretary Andy Burnham; Transport secretary Ruth Kelly; and Business and Labor Enterprise secretary John Hutton. Several senior Tory and Labour politicians, including the former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, previously admitted to smoking cannabis.


What a perfectly typical UK disgrace

Well, what `ya expect? Any western country that still maintains a monarchy has got its governmental head up its historical bum!

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