Labour crackdown on cannabis

Jacqui SmithLabour’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced that cannabis will be reclassified as a Class B drug, sending a strong message that the drug is harmful and should not be taken.

Cannabis use has fallen significantly across all age ranges and this is a testament to the success of the previous ten years of Labour’s Drug Strategy. However, the reduction in cannabis use must not be allowed to reverse.

Reclassification reflects the fact that skunk, a much stronger type of the drug, now dominates the cannabis market. It accounts for 81 per cent of cannabis available on our streets compared to just 30 per cent in 2002. The average age of first use is 13 years old and young people may binge on skunk in the same way as alcohol, trying to achieve the maximum effect.

If they do, the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs found that the consequences of this "may be serious to their mental health".

Taking effect from early 2009, the classification change will mean: Tougher penalties for repeat offenders; a national crackdown on cannabis farms; action against those who sell cannabis paraphernalia, including cannabis seeds; a new public information campaign highlighting the dangers cannabis causes to health; and new sentencing guidelines to ensure that cannabis supply near colleges and universities, mental health institutions, schools and prisons will be considered an aggravating factor.

Labour’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"Cannabis is and always has been illegal. It now dominates the illegal drugs market in the UK and is stronger than ever before.

"I make no apology for erring on the side of caution and upgrading its classification. There is a compelling case to act now rather than risk the health of future generations.

"The enforcement response must reflect the danger that the drug poses to individuals, and in turn to communities. Those who are repeatedly caught with cannabis must face tough punishment and that is why I have asked the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to propose more robust enforcement measures to reflect re-classification.

"It is also important that the organised criminals behind the growing threat of cannabis farms feel the full force of the law, and that we use every opportunity and means to disrupt their activities so that the UK becomes a high risk place for them to operate.

Alan Johnson Labour’s Health Secretary said:

"The message has always been that cannabis is a harmful and illegal drug and should not be used. We are determined to ensure that young people in particular are well aware of all the risks. Our multi-media 'FRANK' campaign will ensure that this is the case."

Labour’s Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls said:

"Cannabis use by young people has been falling over recent years but remains a persistent problem. The reclassification sends the right message to young people about the risks from cannabis use - this is especially important given its increased strength and the heightened risk to young people.

"We also know parents are concerned about the recent trend towards the use of stronger strains of cannabis by young people and the potential for significant mental health problems that would severely impact on a young person's future."
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Message posted by Wendy at 2008-05-17 21:09:02
Well Douglas and Kim - I never understand the reasoning behind voters like you - when you disagree with a Labour Government policy say ' I have always voted Labour but not any more. We can never agree with everything the party or the government does but to sentence this nation to another era of Tory Goverment because of a disagreement with a policy seems illogical to me when we think of the consequences if all of us do that. We are struggling even though we have regenerated this country and improved the lot of so many people.Stick with us through thick and thin and fight your corner from within.
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Message posted by Douglas at 2008-05-08 11:21:25
this move has prompted me to cancell my annual donation to the party and is making me seriosly consider my membership, this policy by 'daily mail editorial' reminds me of the tory years of thatcher and major. Gordon Brown is showing himself to be a buffoon in not listning to appointed experts and i for one beleive this style will acheive two things, a conservative, next goverment, and him to go down in history as the worst labour prime minister ever!
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Message posted by Kim at 2008-05-08 09:01:43
I've struggled to support Labour through many challenges to my beliefs over hte past year (having stuck with it through thick and thin) but this is the last straw and I predict will be so for many. Not because we are avid supporters of cannabis, but because this indicates how out of touch with reality this governement really is and because we are doing more harm to our young through this measure than good. It also blows any credibility by going against the advice of the governments' own expert advisors.
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Message posted by Andrew at 2008-05-08 17:03:35
I would strongly agree with Kim's opinion, and I shall be resigning my 12-year membership of the Labour Party.

Drugs policy should be based on scientific evidence not electoral politics. The decision to ignore the views of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reeks of electioneering and is no basis for ac rational, evidence-based policy based on harm reduction. Why fund the ACMD, if you're going to disregard its advice.

The party should look to rebuilding the liberal coalition that sustained it through its heyday 1997-2001 instead of pandering to The Daily Telegraph and middle England.
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Message posted by John at 2008-05-09 06:59:32
Of course Stephen anyone could not be affected by your experience but I think we need to get some perspective. Alcohol is a far greater risk to family life then cannabis. The first route to cannabis is via alcohol or more usually tobacc the route from cannabis to harder drugs is purely because of its illegality. Where cannabis is seperated from harder drugs as in Holland use of harder drugs falls.
Family breakdown as you so aptly illustrate is a many factored problem including educational,employment and social conditions. As the Rowntree report showed those cannabis users who have a good education and employment conditions there cannabs use is rarely a problem. It is only when used by those of our citizens who are poorly educated with little hope of employment and living in poor housing condtions that use can turn to abuse. It seems to me that if we want to tackle such drug abuse we need to first tackle the social condtions that lead to abuse. Just focusing on the drug use is short sighted and ultimately pointless.
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Message posted by John at 2008-05-09 18:22:37
Hi Stephen first may I offer you my support for the work you do. I guess you are in Social Services an often very unfairly maligned profession but my wife also works in that area in her case with the terminally ill as an aside the number of families touched by the death of a loved one from alcohol or tobacco is alarming.
Back to subject as you so rightly say succesive Governments have really failed to address the fundamental causes of drug abuse. And I do use the word abuse as seperate from use.Many millions use alcohol with little detrimental affect yet there is a particuarly large minority 1 in 6 that have a hazardous relationship with alcohol but only a "loon" would call for the prohibition of alcohol.
What I think many fail to see in this debate is that the vast majority of cannabis users do so with little or no damage to themselves or their family, that is a fact.The ACMD say there is a 1 in 5000 chance of mental health problems among males that use cannabis this means over 99.5% of users do so with no risk of mental health problems Of course as you so rightly point out this minority as we probably can agree those in poor social economic circumstances are much more likely to abuse whatever drug and suffer the worst consequences.
This is a complex problem we have the instance of Holland where the use of cannabis is tolerated for adults and one of the lowest usage rates by young adults and a far lower incidence of hard drug use as cannabis is seperated from hard drugs.
I feel that we encourage the selling of all drugs particuarly cannabis by leaving the distribution and control in the hands of violent gangsters who specifically target our youth.It is possible according to a study by The University of Cologne and Kings College London to grow strains of Cannabis high in what they call canninaboids (CBD's) these are potently ANTI-psychotic and lower quite quantitatively the risk of mental health problems.If the Goverment regulated the quality and strength of cannabis for adults over say 21 then we could reduce substantially the risk to health.THis is impossible while we have a drug policy that includes criminalising users rather than it being purely one of public health
At the moment what we are doing is not working I hear kids say it is easier to get "weed" than alcohol and this is under prohibtion.! It is still illegal as a class C drug and dealers or growers can receive sentances upto 14 years if that doesn't act as a deterrent as it so plainly doesn't then what will.
In a free society I would hope that we aim for personal freedom aswell as personal responsibilty yet making sure we protect the most vulnerable in our society. I feel that we are not doing that at the moment by criminalising, alienating and disenfranchising the 3 or 4 million cannabus usesr in our society for whom it use is no more dangerous than the glass of Sauvignon Blanc I am sipping here! For our politicians to make some sort of moral position on a drug that by most account is safer than my wine cannot help but be seen as hypocrital and morally bamkrupt by many.
As you say it is a complex subject and your analogy of being shown a slaughter house I think is quite apt yes some may decide not to eat meat yet others will continue and that is what a free society should allow.
If we have caused millions to stop using the lethal and highly addictive drug tobacco by education, price and restriction of advertising and not had to jail anyone surely we can do the same with cannabis.
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Message posted by Stephen William at 2008-05-10 09:18:27
hi you make a very compling argument for and im running out of answers
but ill have one last crack .
here we go
as a foster carers we are encouraged to attend many courses on child care/what the child has gone through/drug addiction
i cannot record how many courses i have been on in the last 10 years
some are good most are repetative
some are a complete waste of time and money but we we attend ( at least we get a free coffee we used to get a meal but you have to bring your own
sanwhiches . council cuts ect .

one of the speakers who is invited to attend meetings around the country for different councils is a lady who has had her 5 children taken away from her due to her habit with drugs .
2 of her children have been adopted
one lives in this country one in austrailia . we have looked after 2
for the last 8 years and one was pleced in a childrens home. at the cost of over hundreds of pounds per week.
now this lady has involved herself with every antidrug campaign, she has all her expenses paid on trips ect
and has now started to get back on her feet over this time . on her lectures she spells out the true cost of what drugs have done to her and how she let herself slip. i phoned her up last night (we are good friends) and she explained that that time in her life as a young teenager she herself was in care in a childrens home unfortuntley about 1 in five of the children we have dealt with have come from parents who themselves have been in care) she went on to say she had no self esteem and quickly went on to canabis while in the home ,
after many different relationships and heavier drugs ahe was approaching 30 years .
she never explaind how she withdrew and i have never asked her

there are a couple of points to put over.

1 when you put forward your argument
it is apparent to me you far better educated than myself possibly have a middle class life and earnt every penny you have acquired

your argument appears to lend itself to everyone "who would like" as you put it freedom of choice
you are able to control your life and are sensible in your actions and you can enjoy life for the forseeable future.

now lets take the childen in childrens homes . in our area there is a number of homes and when you go county wide the amount of childrens homes must run into quite a few
then one can go nation wide how many ?
i would suggest the average middle class family will never discuss childrens homes and possibly think they dont exist .

now take it a bit further, if you think all the staff that work in a childrens home are all the most caring people on gods earth and dont do it for the money but for the love of the children you are due for a revalation
(the pay is very poor )

the children/kids are tough from the age of 4 upwards they become thieves
they fight often dont go to school or go to special school that are for violent kids .
all the carerers at the childrens home work shifts some women some men
the women bring in sweets to give to the kids the kids are then on a high
the women sit and chat the kids run around ect the older ones who have been in a childrens home all their lives are tough they acquire the weed ect as and when they need one child who had moved out of a home into our care casually mentioned that he and his friends often smoked cannabis with the male careres .bear in mind that all in that childrens home would like to be else where possibly owning a middle class house driving a middle class car ect
so now the teen agers have been introduced to cannabis do you thing they will control their habit or will they try somthing stronger as the lady above . they still have no future
mebe unable to read or write
when i have pleaded with them to do home work and i will help. no need they respond when i get my own flat i will sell drugs .
if its a girl leaving the home as a teenager she will soon have a child
this child will go in care society will have to fork out the £40.000 per year to bring the child up
the boy who left the childrens home to go out into the world will make sure the local childrens home is well supplied .

i even looked after one child for anumber of weeks who drank petrol/gasoline when he could not aqcuire the weed he craved for
he had lost all his teeth and there was a hole in his mouth where his gums had been (he is now back in a childrens home)

surely the whole cost of people having the freedom to chose cannabis is too much .
the children pay with horrible lives and no education
society pays at least £40.000 per child i am sure its a lot more but i dont have the figures to hand
the private comanies that run the childrens homes do make a lot of money i will admit and we do need them because some children especialy teenagers do prefer them to family life .

i know that if there was a full ban with very heavy penalties for dealing in cannabis possibly even life in prisonment it will still be a desirable product. but my argument has always been that it is too destructive a product to leave as a class c drug . some times freedom of choice can be too costly

i rest my case
i have enjoyed your company
and await your reply
many thanks for your time

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Message posted by John at 2008-05-10 12:13:22
Hi Stephen,

I do appreciate your comments and have enjoyed our little discussion.( the wonders of the internet) yet you seem to ignore the fact that cannabis use by under 18's is lower in Holland where cannabis use is tolerared by adults.Also in the UK more young kids where smoking it when it was last Class " B" than are now under "C".THis is solely down to education and information. Kids do not like being told not to do something they are much more likely to do it if it is forbidden. The Governments move is wholly political and not based on science or facts. No matter how much a particular mother may have heart felt reasons for blaming her childs deteriation on Cannabis the facts are inescapable that for the vast majority it is not as harmful as alcohol. The so called gateway theory is a myth for those with a predisposition to addiction the usual route is tobacco, alcohol then cannabis then to addiction of harder drugs. Again I point you to the example of Holland where the sale of cannabis has been separated from other illegal drugs they have an astoundingly lower level of heroin addiction than we do.
It is an unreachable ideal that we will have a society free of drugs. In Thailand in 03/04 they killed over 2,000 (many innocent family menbers) so called drug users and dealers this move was so succesful ( I'm being sarcastic) that they are making moves to repeat this initiative.If the threat of death is not enough to stop peole using/dealing drugs then we have to look elsewhere for an answer.
I am not a cannabis user except like most of our MP's the odd puff in my youth but I do have a probably nieve view that our society should have a sound principle of evidence based policy that respects individual freedom but demands individial repsonsibility but at the same time acknowledging that many are vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society and need our help and protection. THis is a fine balance respecting freedom but protecting the weak. I do on occasion lurk around some of the so called Cannabis forums the internet is a great tool for gauging others opinions without actually meeting face to face. What I see is that the so called Cannabis community is as worried and concerned about the use of cannabis (in fact all drugs inc tobacco and alcohol) by under 18's. I think we have to look deeper at our society to see what causes our kids to binge drink and use drugs to excess rather than the drugs themselves if we are ever going to solve this problem.
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Message posted by pete  at 2008-05-08 08:19:15
Cannabis was at one time rife in Britain and grew wild but the Gentry did not like the serfs having it as they would not slave so hard, and people that knew of its medicinal properties centuries ago were burnt as witches' as only the Establishment can tell you what you are allowed to take and what your not, like (Tobacco, Alcohol only, and guaranteed to kill). However I have noticed that one of the Head Police Officers Members has reported that they want it put back to a class "B" drug as downgrading it has led to a state of cannabis Grow rooms springing up around the country. Well here is a solution to solve the whole problem Mr Cop. Allow EVERYBODY that wants a smoke to grow their own as the Spanish and Dutch do. It would cut out the commercial market as Nobody that wants to smoke will pay for it if he can grow his own. In Spain you are allowed to grow 6 plants and have up to 50 grams for personal possession. Why should any policemen's opinion mean anymore than anybody else's. What do they or for that matter the Government and the drugs advisory Committee know about it? For that matter what gives Jacqui Smith the right to criminalise others for what she did (does?) herself. This "Skunk is 3 times stronger than the cannabis of years ago is rubbish t. The THC content may be higher but that is not the only cannaboid in cannabis. A royal Nepalese may have only 8/9% THC but would be WAY WAY sdtronger than any of the skunks around today. And as for the Government giving a dam about the Peoples health. Pass me the sick Bucket.
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Message posted by pete at 2008-05-08 08:07:40
I suggest they read this as the cannabis users are going to vote against them in revenge (And Deservedly so)
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Message posted by Toby at 2008-05-08 01:52:33
I'm an ex-Labour Councillor and a continued Labour supporter, but this move is simply daft.

It's daft because the evidence suggests that use has declined since being downgraded to Class-C; the police have since been able to concentrate on socially divisive crime; and, put bluntly, millions will continue to smoke whatever the penalty.

Users know the risks, but they also know that they are small in comparison to socially acceptable drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. The use of 'skunk' notwithstanding, users know how to regulate their intake and (despite the crass use of the "fatal" label) there is no lethal dose.

Weighed against alcohol addiction or so-called binge drinking (both of which often lead to violence), cannabis is almost socially harmless. What har there is to society stems from the illicit nature of the drug.

The risks to mental health are overstated and users know it, as do their friends. Three generations know that it did them no harm now, and they all vote. They are unlikely to read the Daily Mail however.

You want to send a message? Bravo you are, but it's the wrong one.

Criminalising the cannabis using generation - and that now includes those under 45 in reasonable numbers too - is not the way to win elections. Telling people what they can do privately, when it does no harm to anybody else, is a sure-fire way of ensuring that they see Labour as 'the State' and nothing more.

We are an inclusive Party - the People's Party - yet for no good reason millions are being told "you are serious criminals". Worse than that, they can see that it is the criminal code which is at fault, not their actions. Making cannabis more easily accessible by reducing the tariffs involved in it's handling, helps to separate the link between cannabis and Class-A drugs. You knwo it, I know it, anybody who goes to a nightclub knows it!

I guess these comments are moderated so this will never be published, all well and good, but for heavens sake step back from the Big Brother, Daily Mail-friendly posture. That path only leads to alienation and resentment, when we should be the Party of freedom and justice.

The libertarian aspect of Labour seems to have died with Robin Cook, and that's a crying shame because frankly we need to include more people, not make them think we're looking over their shoulder waiting to give them five years, a fine, or a criminal record for doing what they already know is better than a tin of Stella.

And you wonder why we're lagging in the polls...
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Message posted by John at 2008-05-07 16:03:24
So the use of Cannabis has fallen since downgrading. So almost 200,000 hours annually of Police time has been saved. So the link to Schizophrenia and psychosis is probably far less than thought and associative rather than causitive.
Yet we have Gordon Brown ignoring the countries experts and potentially criminalising nearly 3 million non violent users.Nevermind the money this sigoing to cost us all.
The Governments hypocrisy is astounding the risk of mental health problems caused by alcohol is far greater than that of cannabis yet this now carries a 5 year prison sentance.
THis has absolutley nothing to do with protecting the Publics health but is political posturing of the worst kind. As a life long labour voter I am appalled at this Government bending over backwards to appease the scaremongering of papers like the Daily Mail. It's time for Gordon to go
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Message posted by tim at 2008-05-07 17:37:16
What "causes" mental health problems is a complex mix of environmental, biological social and psychological factors of which cannabis use can be one strand. I find it very hard to see how a reclassification back to Class B will contribute significantly to public protection (by dissuading cannabis use). The real danger here is that criminalising young users of cannabis with mental health problems makes mental health services' efforts to help a group who are already marginalized even harder. Especially as Gordon Brown went against the recommendations of the relevant experts in making this classification it looks like a PR exercise which totally miscalculates both public and expert opinion.
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Message posted by anthony at 2009-02-16 21:33:58
I helped Labour get in when i was 18 every one in my area old enough to vote wanted change most of us just left school wanted cannabis to be legal and saw Labour as our way of doing this, but how things change. I can guarantee my generation 30-40s will not be voteing Labour at the next general election. ban smoking in pubs has not gone down to well in our area where do we spend time now? i for one will not stand outside in the rain and cold to smoke iv have not been to a pub since the ban! think of the £'s iv saved and the TAX they are missing out on.

back to cannabis do the right thing and let everyone make up their own minds we are all sick of being told by people what to do and we will show this when it comes to the next vote listen to your potential voters thats why we put you in in the first place we can put you out just as easy!
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