Source: Essex Gazette [UK]

Pub Art: Cannabis downgrade is a ' waste of time' say MP's

Pub Date: Thursday, 30 October 2003

Author: Gina Marden

Cited:  The Legalise Cannabis Alliance




ESSEX MP's have Slammed government plans to downgrade cannabis from a class B to a class C drug.


Under Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposals, possessing the drug will no longer be an arrestable offence.


It is hoped the reclassification will allow police to concentrate their efforts on tackling class A drugs.


But the proposals debated in the Commons yesterday (Wed) have met with strong Opposition from MPs and pro-cannabis groups.


Angela Watkinson, Tory MP for Upminster, said she would vote against the plans, as cannabis was the "gateway" for users to "take stronger drugs".


"Most people who are hard drug addicts start on cannabis," she said. "The Home Secretary is hoping to reclassify it on the grounds that police can concentrate on targeting class A drugs.


"But evidence shows cannabis and heroin have similar effects on the brain," she added.


Linda Perham, Labour MP for Ilford North, also voiced concerns about the move and said she would vote against the downgrade.


"I am concerned about the dangers the drug poses to health. People use it for medical reasons, but it's not administered by a doctor and that is not safe," she said.


Don Barnard, Chelmsford spokesman for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance branded the downgrade a "waste of time".


"The government should look towards the legal regulatory control of cannabis," he told The Enquirer.


"This reclassification makes no provision for those using cannabis for medical reasons not to be punished. It will just be left to the discretion of police officers."


Officers will have the power to arrest individuals in situations where they are repeatedly found to have the drug or are found smoking it near children.


Currently around 80,000 cannabis users are arrested and fined for possession each year.


Under the Home Office proposals, users will instead face a warning and have the drug confiscated.


A regional spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers praised he plans and said the reclassification would "allow police to focus more time and resources on hard drugs".


If the plans are given the green light, cannabis will be downgraded on 29 January 2004.

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