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UK: Clarke agrees to meet cannabis group

Naomi Canton

Evening News, Norwich

Saturday 04 Mar 2006


Home Secretary Charles Clarke has finally agreed to meet a city-based
pro-cannabis group amid mounting controversy over the classification of
the drug.

The Legalise Cannabis Alliance has secured a meeting with the Norwich
South MP at the Home Office in London next week.

Mr Clarke had previously snubbed the organisation, but has now agreed to
listen to what it has to say.

The meeting comes at a time when drugs are top of the political agenda

A new study demonstrating the link between psychosis and cannabis -
written by Prof Tom Barnes - has just been published, adding more
pressure on the Government to take a fresh look at the price paid by
increasing numbers of young people dependent on cannabis.

This week, Surrey coroner Alan Crickmore called into question the
Government's drugs laws after claiming that, in one of every 100
heroin-related cases he presided over, cannabis was also being used.

Two years ago, the Government downgraded the classification of cannabis
from Class B to Class C, but Mr Clarke is coming under increased
pressure to regrade it.

Instead, he has ordered a sweeping review of the laws covering illegal
drug abuse, after accepting research linking it to mental illness.

Today, he explained why he had now agreed to meet the alliance, which
regularly puts forward nominees to run for seats on Norwich City Council.

Mr Clarke said: "The purpose of the meeting is for them to set out their
case on the question of cannabis and we will have an exchange of views.

"It's an opportunity for them to say what they consider the Government
should be doing and I will listen."

But he added it was "very unlikely" he would reclassify cannabis.

Alliance spokesman Don Barnard said he was delighted Mr Clarke was
granting it an audience. "This is something we never expected to get and
we shall be taking advantage of it. We have been trying to get to meet
Home Secretaries for years, so I am pleased this has come about. We hope
to address the issues we disagree on. We will be saying that the
Government should involve cannabis users in the development of future
cannabis policies and decisions."

He added: "We are not planning on persuading him to change his views on
classification of the drug, but we want to be involved in policy-making."

What are your views on cannabis and other drugs?
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