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UKCIA comments

Whilst it may seem logical for UKCIA to support the reclassification of cannabis to reduce the penalties, we now see it as a largely ineffective and pointless change, and one we are not happy to settle for. We were disappointed at the timidity of the initial announcement and since then it has been further watered down. Despite various pieces of misinformation that have slipped out, the possession, supply and toleration of cannabis in your property will still be completely illegal, and all cannabis offences are punishable by any means including imprisonment, with a subsequent criminal record. The only change is that for possession the maximum sentence will be 2 years.

Changes in legislation mean that the offence of possession is still "arrestable" upon the police officer's discretion unlike other class C drugs. Even the vague guidelines of when full arrest may or may not happen are only guidelines and no police force or individual officer has to follow them, which will result in the continuing of the situation we have now, often called "justice by postcode", whereby the punishment you receive for possessing cannabis depends on where you happen to be caught and what the officer's personal preferences are, leaving the door open for inconsistent policing countrywide and persecution of individuals.

The punishment for supplying cannabis remains exactly the same as it is now, a possible 14 years imprisonment due to increases in the sentences for class C drugs. The supply of cannabis therefore necessarily remains wholly within the black market in the hands of criminals. This means there can still be no regulation or control of what the dealer sells or to who they sell it to - the less ethical dealer is still free to sell cannabis mixed with more cheaper but more hazardous substances to children in order to maximise profits, and the big revenue organised crime can make in this business are still available to them.

UKCIA supports the harm reduction philosophy. Whilst cannabis is relatively a very benign "drug", we are aware that using it, like drinking alcohol or crossing the road, is not entirely safe and it can harm people's health. However there are ways of minimising the likely harm done to one's health during use - and this should be the goal of a sensible drugs policy. Whilst it is illegal, whatever its classification, the aim to reduce the harm caused to the individual and society by its use is impossible to achieve. Two main strands in this aim are that:

  • Users can never be entirely sure what they are smoking unless they are prepared to risk 14 years imprisonment by growing it themselves and there is documented evidence that much cannabis, particularlyresin known as soapbar, in the UK has been cut with all sorts of noxious substances in order to increase the profits to the dealer. Users cannot take what is sold as "cannabis" safely if they do not actually know what is in it.
  • There are several different methods of taking cannabis, each with pros and cons. Most cannabis users in the UK smoke cannabis in a spliff, mixing their cannabis with tobacco. Smoking a lot of anything is worse for your lungs than smoking less of it, and it is widely known how harmful and addictive tobacco use can be to your health, as is explained in the UKCIA Tokepure campaign. However cannabis users may continue to do so, unaware of the health benefits other methods may bring as standard drug education does not cover this subject. Frank, the Government's latest drug education campaign, for instance does not mention it at all. Important education, which could save people's health and even lives, can not and will not be widely taught to those who should hear it whilst cannabis remains illegal. How could they tell people not to use legal tobacco with their illegal cannabis without highlighting the hypocrisy of the laws?

Essentially, reclassification has turned into a charade, where nothing of significance will change. Users, both those medical users who rely on cannabis to make their lives worth living, and recreational users who enjoy an occasional toke will still continue to be at the mercy of the law, with imprisonment and criminal records still available for the most minor infraction. The cannabis industry will remain in the black market and hence uncontrollable. Reclassification has done nothing to restore our right to choose to use cannabis, and has done nothing to make the already-widespread use of cannabis, caused by the abject failure of prohibition, any safer for the individual or society as a whole. UKCIA will continue to campaign for the legalisation and regulation of cannabis which is the only way in which the law will not be a mockery, our rights respected, and the use of cannabis made as safe as possible.

Back to the UKCIA guide to the reclassification of cannabis.

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