are in Activism / The
British government on drugs
Limits of Possession
Act 2005 was passed, it included an
amendment to the original Misuse
Of Drugs Act such that a court must assume that someone possessing a specific
quantity of drugs or above was intending to supply it.
the time, these amounts were not specified. Some dissent was noted in opposition
political parties and police organisations such as the ACPO,
mainly claims that when an amount was specified, drug dealers would carry just
under that amount in order to avoid prosecution for supply. The difference between
the punishment for a possession offence and a supply offence is significant. Under
the current laws, cannabis, possession can lead to up to 2 years imprisonment,
whereas supply gets up to 14 years.
the end of November 2005, the Telegraph
reported that values for these amounts had now
been proposed by the Home Office. The proposals for cannabis are that possession
of an amount greater than 4 ounces or 10 pieces of cannabis resin, and half a
kilogram or 20 bags of cannabis leaf, must be assumed to be evidence for a supply
offence. These limits may sound high at first sight, but it is far from unheard
of for personal stashes to reach this level. This is particularly the case with
the increasing amount of people who grow their own cannabis for personal use in
order to try and avoid the added risks and dangers of going to black market drug
dealers, some of whom value profit over any sort of welfare consideration.
course, as is usual with certain papers reporting on topics regarding the War
On Some Drugs, it was not reported with great clarity or objectivity, rather under
the headline "New
drugs limits to allow 500 'joints' for personal use". The figure of 500
joints was attributed to the higher end of how many spliffs could be made allegedly
based on figures of amount of resin used per low-strength joint from Drugscope.
The Daily Mail went a
few hundred better and claimed that 4 oz would be enough for 810 joints. As especially
under prohibition, there can be no set amount of cannabis per joint, the exact
figure is pure conjecture and in the end irrelevant. However the reporting spin
and words such as "escape" and "allow" have created the impression
that this law change is some sort of irresponsible free-for-all liberalisation
whereby malicious drug dealers will be able to wander down the street forcing
499-or-less joints onto innocent children with impunity.
misinformation is not at all based on the reality of the situation, and obscures
a hugely worrying precedent which reverses the supposedly steadfast concept of
innocent until proven guilty.
there is no "liberalisation", or even a movement towards the sensible
regulation and control policies that could be seen under controlled legalisation,
here. Owning any amount of cannabis will still be illegal, and selling any amount
of cannabis will still be cause for a supply offence. All penalties remain the
same. These amounts are guidelines to the upper limits of possession and nothing
more. If it can be proven (as would normally be the necessary case) that you are
supplying someone with cannabis, you will still be prosecuted for a supply offence
no matter how little cannabis you possess.
only thing that changes is that if you possess a greater amount of cannabis than
the limit is set at (i.e. 4 oz of resin if the current Home Office proposals are
kept), then irrespective of whether there is any evidence that you intended to
supply the cannabis, in the words of the Drugs
Act, "the court or jury must assume that he had the drug in his possession
with the intent to supply it". You may contest this, but only if you can
muster up hard evidence that you were not intending to supply it.
is in direct contravention of the legal convention that you must both have the
intention of committing a crime ("mens rea"), and actually commit a
crime ("actus reus"). Following this legislation it will be legal and
indeed normal for you to be prosecuted for a supply offence without anyone having
to prove either of these factors. You can be prosecuted for a crime, and end up
with a long prison sentence, without any semblance of evidence. There is a clear
presumption against innocence.
is an example of the already harmful and ineffective laws supposedly governing
the cannabis trade growing even more dangerous; in this case further prejudicing
our right to a fair trial. Indeed it is hard to see how this legal development
is compatible with Article 6 of the Human
Rights Act 1998 - "Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be
presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law".
one really imagine the presumption made that, if you had a wine cellar replete
with 50 bottles of wine, you clearly are intending to commercially supply alcohol
on an unlicensed and hence illegal manner being taken seriously with no other
updated 11th December 2005
to the British Government On Drugs