British PM Ignores Experts, Set to Increase Penalties for Pot Smokers

Editor's Note: Shane G. Trejo is an intern at StoptheDrugWar.org. His bio is in our "staff" section.

As touched upon in Friday’s edition of the Drug War Chronicle, United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to reclassify marijuana as a Class B drug. This would restore its pre-2004 classification and change the penalties of marijuana possession from an already draconian two year maximum sentence to five years:

Gordon Brown said: "I believe that if we're sending out a signal, particularly to teenagers – and particular those at the most vulnerable age, young teenagers – that in any way we find cannabis acceptable, given all we know about the way that cannabis is being sold in this country, that that is not the right thing to do. "There's a stronger case now for sending out a signal that cannabis is not only illegal, it's unacceptable."
What is with all these politicians wanting to send a message to youth that certain activities are bad? It shouldn’t be the government’s job to act like the mommy and daddy of its citizens. And as always, the push for increased toughness has been sparked for no good reason and without any rationality:
The mental health charity Rethink said Mr. Brown should heed the committee's advice. The charity spokesman Paul Corry said: "Gordon Brown should put aside his personal views on cannabis and accept the fact that it does not make sense to reclassify. "Use of the drug has gone down since it was downgraded in 2004 and research by Rethink shows that only 3% of users would consider stopping on the grounds of illegality." … Steve Rolles, of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, told the Today programme reclassification was not the most effective way to alert people to the dangers associated with cannabis. He said: "Class C is still illegal. No one is saying it's harmless. I don't think increasing the prison sentence from two years to five years for possession is necessarily the way to do it. I think if we want to send out messages to young people, rather than mass criminalisation of millions of young people, I think the way to do it would be in effective, targeted public health education."
This message-sending nonsense is not only disgusting, it is ineffective. It should be common sense to know that while young people mature, some of them tend to rebel against authority. Taking a hard-line stance on marijuana is only going to make it seem cool and increase its usage amongst young people. In Switzerland, medicalization and harm reduction strategies related to heroin not only reduced crime, reduced usage and allowed addicts to be able to live functional lives but also managed to make the drug less cool to youth. From Issue #439 of the Drug War Chronicle:
And the Swiss may have succeeded in making heroin boring, the researchers suggested. "As the Swiss population supported this drug policy, this medicalization of opiate dependence changed the image of heroin use as a rebellious act to an illness that needs therapy," Drs. Nordt and Stohler wrote. "Finally," they add, "heroin seems to have become a 'loser drug,' with its attractiveness fading for young people."
You’d think politicians in general would try to become informed on the issues that they are deciding. But they often don’t, and some of them actually pride themselves on being uninformed. Here is a very telling quote from Conservative Party leader David Cameron:
"The Conservative party has a very clear view that it should be class B. People have had enough of reviews and the prime minister should stop dithering and get on and make a decision."

I am continuously shocked by the attitudes of people like these. Wouldn’t you want to wait for reviews and studies to happen before making a decision? This is a decision that will potentially put otherwise law-abiding citizens who happen to smoke pot in jail for up to five years. Wouldn’t you want to be as informed as possible before making a decision that could destroy lives and waste precious law enforcement dollars?

A disturbing trend amongst some politicians is the belief in state-enforced morality. This misguided belief keeps them from thinking rationally. Out of the issues he could possibly be worried about, PM Brown is worried about pot smokers? His moral grandstanding has made him seemingly oblivious to the fact that the result of marijuana reclassification will be potentially three more years in prison for a completely nonviolent personal act.

State-enforced morality is based on the faulty premise that the law needs to protect a societal purity. That is why that in spite of it being obvious that the war on drugs is a failure, it still continues to rage on. The message must be sent at any cost.

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Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Drug War Corruption

It seems to me that the British are learning from the US that a lot of money can be had by ignoring the facts and going after pot smokers. It certainly would'nt surprise me to learn the US is putting pressure on it's no.1 allie. I suspect the same is true for Australia.

How else can anyone explain it ?

Can anyone explain it?

This article is wrong on a lot of things. It is sloppy reporting. The issue is NOT about an increase in sentence, in the UK is is very difficult indeed to be imprisoned for personal use of ANY illegal drug, sentencing guidlines stop it. Secondly, cannabis use is Britain has not gone down except for a narrow part of the age spectrum where it is down and replaced by cocaine use. The UK is sufferring from an epidemic of use among early teenagers and pre-teens with consequent increase in pshchoses and mental illness. The home -grow cannabis is low in CBD and high in THC and very differrent to the traditional cannabis resin used in the UK. Cannabis in the UK was downgraded four years ago from on the whim of one politician and pressure from the liberalisation/legalisation lobby. If Brown re classifies it will only be to put cannabis back where it was in the scale of harms. The issue is not about sentencing. It is about users and potential users not being misled about the huge harms of cannabis

Learn more about cannabis

Whether marijuana causes psychosis is very debatable:

http://www.medicalmarijuanaprocon.org/bin/procon/procon.cgi?database=5-D...

"The home -grow cannabis is low in CBD and high in THC and very differrent to the traditional cannabis resin used in the UK."

I don't know if what you're trying to say is that in the past in the UK there was mostly only hashish use and that now there is more green marijuana use. You know, hashish usually has a higher thc cotent than green marijuana. Plus, no matter what you smoke, no matter how strong, marijuana is marjuana. There is no reason that stronger marijuana would have different effects on health. First of all, if the weed is stronger people usually smoke less of it. It can be unpleasant to be too high (not to mention expensive). Plus, even if you were to smoke a lot, being high is being high. It's not acid, you know. Believe me, if you knew anything about marijuana, you'd know how ridiculous this "marijuana now is different from marijuana in the past" thing is.

Learn to be more skeptical about the things you hear about marijuana.

It's not about sentencing?

Class B has lower penalties: a maximum of five years and/or unlimited fine for possession; fourteen years and/or unlimited fine for production or trafficking.

Class C has the lowest penalties: a maximum of two years and/or unlimited fine for possession; five years and/or unlimited fine for trafficking.
(as of Jan 29, 2004).

(this is from http://www.erowid.org/psychoactives/law/countries/uk/uk_law_definitions....)

Even if it is true that it is difficult to get sent to jail, isn't the official policy still prison?

Can you please elaborate on when you say "sentencing guidelines stop it". I have to admit, i don't know the details about UK drug policy and i'd like to know what you mean by that.

Please direct me to where i can read more

"Secondly, cannabis use is Britain has not gone down except for a narrow part of the age spectrum where it is down and replaced by cocaine use. The UK is sufferring from an epidemic of use among early teenagers and pre-teens with consequent increase in pshchoses and mental illness."

Where can i get these statistics? Do you have statistics from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90s too?

The reason i ask for the statistics

just to be more clear, (and to make my point, since i'm not getting a response) is that I would honestly be surprised if there really is some kind of 'epidemic' which has never happened before.

A whim?

"Cannabis in the UK was downgraded four years ago from on the whim of one politician and pressure from the liberalisation/legalisation lobby."

The science was with him and still is; the government's drug advisory body today is against reclassification. If anyone is acting on a whim, it is Brown.

go have another drink, Brown, you fricking hypocrite

when's the last time someone under the influence of only cannabis killed a person in the UK? How many people under the influence of only alcohol have killed since then? Keep drinking and keep stonewalling, you bigot. If drug warriors really cared about children or simple justice, they'd be advocating either a ban on alcohol or public health based harm reduction strategies for dealing with all drugs. They prefer harm intensification strategies to put it mildly.

SMOKIN A BLUNT RIGHT NOW

PASS THAT SHIT TO THE LEFT HAND SIDE

"THE LIBERTY BONG"

ROLL THAT SHIT,
LIGHT THAT SHIT,
SMOKE THAT SHIT!

How many teens are even paying attention to the messenger?

How many teens will this law change impact?

From what I understand, it's the minimum sentence that will concern most people.

It's Classic

Funny that the 3 major countries under the British crown are all taking on classic Anslinger-esque fear rhetoric to try and wag the dog. It worked in the states in the 30's, but today? In England, Australia AND Canada? I guess the bolder the attack, the less relevant the facts become for these drug warriors. skunk! lol. i've had skunk, and there's plenty better bud out there. they just cling to keywords and lie lie lie.

Undecipherable signal

Gordon Brown says:

"There's a stronger case now for sending out a signal that cannabis is not only illegal, it's unacceptable."

Is it acceptable as a Class C Drug? Plus, what the hell does "unacceptable" even mean? Gordon Brown needs to realize that if he wants to send signals, he needs to say things with some kind of content and meaning. Using vague adjectives like "unacceptable" doesn't send any kind of comprehensible message. How "acceptable" or "unacceptable" should marijuana be and why? He could say something more along the lines of: "Marijuana can sometimes be harmful to your health. It can cause paranoia. It can cause weight gain.", something like that.

The only problem with sending actual comprehensible messages about marijuana is that after doing so, he would never be able to conclude with "and that's why i think you should spend five years in prison for it".

Can something be legal and still be unacceptable to the society?

Like tobacco smoking, porn, adultery, etc. etc. I'm sure there are more kids that would be embarassed and ashamed if their parents found them possessing porno material than a bag of marijuana.

Gordon Brown's an Idiot!

No offense to idiots everywhere but Gordon Brown is a PUPPET!
He also happends to be a FearMonger! How dare he and others fighting this Stupid Drug War continue to drag our children into the argument. We don't arrest adults who drink or engage in sexual acts just to send a message to kids that it is wrong for them to engage in those actions. It is every Parents responsibility to instruct their children as to what choices to make in a difficult world. Arresting a responsible adult for smoking a substance known to be safer that alcohol is insanity. Brown, Bush & all others who support the Drug War are control freaks. That's why they call it a controlled substance. Although one would agree that these substances are poorly controlled. These warriors will never win out and will only continue to drain precious tax resources. These are ignorant, impotent, useless, Figure Head Cheerleaders who never manage to make positive change but only continue the same ancient outdated ideals with no real imagination. Just PUPPETS is what History will remember them as!!!!! J. Velasco Brownsville Texas

It's not about teenagers, it's about all people

It's not about teenagers, it's about people in general. Drug warriors don't believe ANYONE can be trusted with their own bodies. But they know voters are not going to like to hear that, so they say it's about protecting the kids. It isn't. The idea of prohibition is to protect people (all people) from themselves, not just the kids. What prohibition is really about is treating all people like kids, but they can't phrase it that way. They always spin the actual idea and try to make it sound good by saying "we're trying to protect the children". Then why the hell not just make it illegal for the kids and legal for the adults? Wouldn't that make more sense if it's "all about the children"?

HEY MON

THIS IS SHUMBA VEENSTRA THE RASTA MON
JAH LIVES MON
PASS THE DUTCHIE TO THE LEFT HAND SIDE
FREE THE HERB MON

cannabis prohibition

Yup, Brown, Harper, and Bush are a-------.

I encourage everyone to smoke pot. If anyone tells you you can't smoke, tell them to go f--- themselves.

Sam Sharp

Money quote

Gordon Brown said:

"...given all we know about the way that cannabis is being sold in this country..."

There are serious issues with the way in which cannabis is sold in the UK. It is sold in a black market, which leads to crime, violence, possible impurities, and, yes, development of the dreaded high-THC strains. This seems like an excellent point for Transform to bring to the forefront.

'Money quote' is right

those words "...given all we know about the way that cannabis is being sold in this country..." can be most powerfully turned against Brown. I would add that prohibition contributes to drug use by children, and,not just in the case of cannabis. The dealers and often impoverished users in the black market it creates have every incentive to entice children into using drugs, or better yet for the dealers, dealing drugs.

'can anyone explain it': do you really believe...

that cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol? How many people does alcohol kill in the UK each year? How about cannabis? If you can't admit that alcohol is way, way more deadly than cannabis, you're not being serious. If your response is that we have enough problems with alcohol, my response is: exactly. I'm not claiming weed is a problem free substance for children or adults, but it is a bizarre and totally unacceptable place to draw the line, favoring a megakiller like alcohol over relatively very non-toxic cannabis. Bigotry enshrined into law.

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