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What does reclassification mean?

The possession, distribution and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in the UK at present, under the legislation of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This is the act that lays out the rules of which substances are illegal for what purposes, and what the punishments are for breaking the rules. It has been modified many times since its creation in 1971, but the general legislation regarding cannabis has remained fairly constant.

The Act divides prohibited drugs up into 3 "classes" - A, B and C, supposedly according to how dangerous they are to use. Class A are the drugs which it was decided cause the most harm, and C the least. The punishment you receive for possessing, dealing or producing the drug in question is down to its class. At the moment the punishments are:

General Nature of OffenceMode of ProsecutionClass A drug involvedClass B drug involvedClass C drug involved
Production, or being concerned in the production, of a controlled drug.(a) Summary6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.3 months or 2,500, or both .
  (b) On indictmentLife or a fine, or both.14 years or a fine, or both.5 years or a fine, or both.
Supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug or being concerned in the doing of either activity by another.(a) Summary6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.3 months or 2,500, or both.
  (b) On indictmentLife or a fine, or both.14 years or a fine, or both.5 years or a fine, or both.
Having possession of a controlled drug.(a) Summary6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.3 months or 2,500, or both.3 months or 1,000, or both.
  (b) On indictment7 years or a fine, or both.5 years or a fine, or both.2 years or a fine, or both.
Having possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply to it another.(a) Summary6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.6 months or the prescribed sum, or both.3 months or 2,500, or both .
  (b) On indictmentLife or a fine, or both.14 years or a fine, or both.5 years or a fine, or both.

From the inception of the act, cannabis has been classified under class B, although oil extracted from herbal cannabis is in class A, as is pure forms of cannabinol (a chemical cannabis contains) and its derivatives.

Under the proposed reclassification of cannabis, cannabis will move to class C hence reducing (but not eliminating) the punishments for its use. It is expected that cannabis oil will also be class C after the change. The reason given for these changes is that the Government now believe that use of cannabis is not as harmful as that of other class B drugs and wish the law to reflect this. They feel it will give their "do not use drugs" message more credibility to acknowledge this. In addition it is hoped that these changes will free up police time to focus on prohibiting the more dangerous drugs in class A, such as crack cocaine and heroin, as the majority of police time, arrests and confiscating with regard to drugs is being used up on cannabis.

Back to the UKCIA guide to the reclassification of cannabis.

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