Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, standing in front of a tired-looking Gordon Brown, told the House of Commons today she would ignore advice from the government's scientific advisors and upgrade the classification of cannabis from C to B.
Smith decided to ignore advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which has studied links, or the lack of them, between mental illness and cannabis use since 2007. The group of 23 scientists decided there was no such link in its report delivered to the Home Office last week. Gordon Brown made clear his view by describing skunk cannabis as "lethal".
Smith said she would write to the Association of Chief Police Officers to establish a system of escalation for those caught possessing the drug. She said she was not necessarily against warnings for cannabis possession, but wanted such warnings recorded to ensure further offences were dealt with more strongly. David Davies, Tory shadow Home Secretary, welcomed the decision.
The Home Secretary said she wanted additional aggravating circumstances including selling cannabis near colleges, universities, mental health facilities and prisons. Which should cover most urban areas.
She also said she was talking to Acpo to see how they could curtail the sale and promotion of cannabis paraphernalia. Presumably this would be aimed at pipes and rolling papers and such, but we would further suggest woolly hats, combat trousers, prog rock albums and cheesy corn snacks. Most of these items are already sold with disclaimers that they should only be used to smoke legal substances.
The second paragraph of the Home Office press release reads: "Cannabis use has fallen significantly across all age ranges and this is a testament to the success of the previous ten year Drug Strategy. However, the reduction in cannabis use must not be allowed to reverse." Which sounds to us like someone's been at that lethal skunk stuff.
Cannabis was downgraded by David Blunkett in 2004. ®