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Milestones to reclassification

It is hard to say exactly when the idea of reclassification began. It was certainly before David Blunkett's time as Home Secretary, although he is the first politician to actually put it in motion. Below are a few significant steps in the progress towards reclassification.

1979The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the "Government's statutory independent advisory body" releases recommendation that cannabis be reclassified to class C. Nothing was done.
2000The Police Foundation, chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman, publish a report "Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971" which recommended that "Cannabis should be transferred from Class B to Class C of Schedule 2 of the MDA and cannabinol and its derivatives should be transferred from Class A to Class C".
06/02/2001The Government responds to the Runciman report, discarding the recommendation claiming that "Existing scientific evidence, which fuels doubts about the health risks associated with cannabis use, persuade the Government that it would not be right to reclassify cannabis at this moment in time".
24/07/2001The Home Affairs Committee announces that it is to do an inquiry on whether the current drug policy is working.
22/10/2001Home Secretary David Blunkett proposes reclassifying cannabis to class C, telling a House of Commons committee meeting that "Cannabis would remain a controlled drug and using it a criminal offense...but it would make clearer the distinction between cannabis and Class A drugs like heroin and cocaine". He tasks the ACMD to produce report on this proposal.
01/03/2002The ACMD produces a report "The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971" which again supports reclassification, saying that "The Council believes the current classification of cannabis is disproportionate in relation to both its inherent toxicity, and to that of other substances...that are currently in class B."
09/05/2002The Home Affairs Committee releases a report "The Government's drugs policy: is it working?" which concluded that "We support, therefore, the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C". UKCIA comment on the report, saying that whilst it is welcomed it won't solve the cause of the drugs problem and that "no true harm reduction is possible when drugs are supplied by the present illegal market".
10/07/2002Blunkett announces to Parliament that he "will seek to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug by July of next year". The Shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin responds "There are two coherent, alternative strategies on cannabis and the Home Secretary, in his statement today has not adopted either of them.". UKCIA comments that the new policy is "muddled and confused".
01/07/2003The promised reclassification date arrives and nothing is done. It becomes apparent that the Government is seeking to change the Criminal Justice Bill so that cannabis possession, which would have been a "non-arrestable" offence due to its reduced maximum prison sentence after reclassification, is still an arrestable offence.
11/09/2003The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) release guidelines as to how the cannabis law should be enforced after reclassification takes place. There is a "presumption against arrest" for possession of small amounts cannabis in private but they make it clear that "despite reclassification, it remains illegal to possess cannabis" and that "the power of arrest could be used on every occasion".
29/10/2003The motion to reclassify cannabis is debated in the House of Commons. It is passed, 316 votes in favour, 160 against.
12/11/2003The motion to reclassify cannabis, passed by the House of Commons, is debated in the House of Lords. It is passed, 63 in favour, 37 against, but as an addendum to the motion they add that "this House notes that the order may lead to increased use of cannabis with risks to the health of young people and regrets that the order is being made before the Government's proposals concerning class C drugs have been finalised."
20/11/2003The modifications to the Criminal Justice Bill, essential for the Government's planned cannabis policy, are almost blocked by the House of Lords. However compromise on jury trials, unrelated to cannabis policy, allow the Bill to proceed hours before the end of the Parliamentary session.
29/01/2004?New date for cannabis reclassification to take place.

Back to the UKCIA guide to the reclassification of cannabis.

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