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25/01/2008 00:00:00

UK Cannabis Classification: a Flawed Debate



---
Louisa Degenhardt and colleagues (Nov 3, p 1541)1 refer to “more severe
penalties” and the “reimposition of criminal penalties” consequent on
moving cannabis up from class C to class B in the UK. Your earlier
Editorial2 also suggested that reclassification could lead to arrest
and, perhaps, a jail sentence. These statements are misleading.

The legal difference between cannabis as a class B or class C drug is
small. Legislation introduced at the same time as reclassification in
2004 meant that the only remaining difference was the maximum sentence
for possession (5 and 2 years for class B and C, respectively). However,
a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation3 showed that only 2% of
cannabis-possession offenders received a custodial sentence. Moreover,
of those who did get custody, most (>90%) seemed to do so because they
were concurrently convicted of other offences. Crown Court statistics
for 2005 listed only seven individuals who had a prison sentence of
longer than 1 year for possession of a class C drug. It therefore makes
little practical difference whether cannabis is class B or C.

Furthermore, the original decision to move cannabis down from B to C
does not seem to have affected young people's cannabis use.4 Therefore
moving it up again would also probably have limited effect.

Unfortunately, these facts are little appreciated in the UK, where the
decision is still viewed as a crucial and influential one. As Degenhardt
and colleagues point out, the danger is that the classification debate
distracts from the more pressing need to establish the actual harms
associated with cannabis use and what can be done to prevent them.

I declare that I have no conflict of interest.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673608601622/fulltext
--
LCA FORUM invites YOU: http://www.lca-uk.org/lcaforum/

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/webbooks05


Source: http://www.ukcia.org/news/shownewsarticle.php?articleid=13199
Author: The Lancet via UKCIA

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