The great cannabis classification debacle: what are the likely consequences for policing cannabis possession offences in England and Wales?

Paul J Turnbull
Drug and Alcohol Review 2009, 28 (2): 202-9
The British government downgraded cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004; but in 2008 it reversed this decision,and cannabis is due to be reclassified back to Class B in January 2009. In this Harm Reduction Digest, Paul Turnbull assesses the impact of reclassification to Class B focusing on policing and the legitimacy of drug law. The government cited the availability of stronger strains of cannabis and a large rise in the number of UK-based "cannabis farms" as the reasons for this decision.This is set against a backdrop of a trend of declining levels of use in the UK and a number of jurisdictions throughout the world adopting civil rather than criminal procedures to deal with cannabis possession offences. It concludes that tougher penalties for cannabis possession will have little deterrent effect on use and that the focus of law enforcement is likely to continue to fall disproportionately on young men from black and minority ethnic groups. Turnbull concludes that a better approach would be to use targeted public health approaches to reduce cannabis use and harm.

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