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UK: Government should 'get real' over plans to regrade cannabis.

Alex Ellis

Essex Enquirer

Thursday 12 Jan 2006

Government should 'get real' over plans to regrade cannabis.

AN ESSEX Pro-cannabis campaigner has called for the government to "get
real" over plans to reclassify cannabis back to Class B.

Home Secretary is expected to announce the decision, which will make
possession of cannabis an arrestable offence, within weeks.

The downgrading of cannabis from Class B to a Class C drug became law in
January 2004 under the guidance of former Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The U-turn comes as new evidence about the potential devastating mental
health side effects came to light.

But Don Barnard, Essex Spokesperson for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance
(LCA), said "under no circumstance" does taking cannabis lead to using
harder drugs or mental illness.

We must not confuse the word 'use' with 'abuse'." he said. "The vast
majority of people who consume cannabis do not abuse it. There is plenty
of evidence that cannabis has medicinal qualities. But like anything it
can be harmful if used incorrectly or in excess."

But a consultant psychiatrist at Chelmsford addiction clinic, Dr
Christopher Mayer, Said downgrading cannabis exposed many more people to
drugs - and had a knock-on effect to cocaine use.

As an adult psychiatrist I have seen an explosion in the number of drug-
illnesses over the last 5 to 10 years. Cocaine is going to become a
serious problem, Dr Mayer told the Enquirer.

Bob Spinks Tory MP for Castle Point, said he would support any move for
reclassification, warning cannabis was the stepping stone" to harder drugs.

"It was absolutely outragious they changed the law in the first place.
It sent out an entirely wrong message to young people. Drugs destroy
lives and it is about time we had a tougher approach to policing it," he

Angela Smith. Labour MP for Basildon and East Thurrock supported
downgrading cannabis in 2004, but said it was a "difficult issue"

She said: "Cannabis is not the same as heroin or crack cocaine and it's
not necessarily a criminal matter but does have severe health
implications and is linked to schizophrenia.

"It is a matter of whether it should be dealt with by criminal law or if
there are better ways to deal with it and hopefully Charles Clarke will
provide some useful guidance."

Side Bars Quotes With photos:

Russ Shepard 34, courier, Grays: Some say it's alright and others are
dead against it so that causes problems. If you're smoking cannabis and
causing trouble you should be dealt with. I do see a connection with
cannabis and depression and that is a concern."

Jade Bennett 22, unemployed, Basildon: I don't see a problem with
cannabis. If my own family used it I would be a little worried, But if
it's used in a responsible way, I can't see why the law needs changing.
Using Cannabis probably does lead to long-term Drug abuse for some

Kerry Gleed, 21, Housewife, Canvey: I can't stand drugs so I think it
would be a brilliant idea to reclassify cannabis back to a Class B
drug. It wrecks lives and destroys families and relationships. In the
long run it leads to more serious drugs and kids are surrounded by
them enough already.

Alan reader, 73, retired, Basildon: "Cannabis should be banned. It has
been proved that relaxing the law leads to bigger problems. They are
even thinking about changing the laws in Holland so that only nationals
can use it there. it leads to hard drugs use and there is a link with
mental illness."





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