Blunkett Opens Up Drugs Laws 

Blunkett Opens Up Drugs Laws 
Posted by CN Staff on July 10, 2002 at 20:10:06 PT
By Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, yesterday announced the most far-reaching overhaul of Britain's drug laws but ruled out the eventual legalisation of cannabis. Simple possession will be treated on a "seize and warn" basis only by the police in London from this autumn and by next July at the latest in the rest of Britain. But Mr Blunkett, in confirming his decision to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug, also announced that the police will be given a reserve power of arrest if the offence involves children, public disorder or a "flagrant disregard for the law". 
Mr Blunkett's decision to downgrade cannabis from a class B drug to class C ends 30 years during which more than 70,000 people a year have been arrested by the police for possessing the drug. But he told MPs that he firmly rejected the legalisation of cannabis and announced that the maximum prison sentence for trafficking in the drug will remain at 14 years. The package of measures includes a 183m boost for drug treatment services over the next three years, an expansion of heroin prescription for hardcore addicts and a limited licensing of addicts injecting themselves under medical supervision. The new drugs policy comes ahead of the publication today of the annual police recorded crime figures which are expected to show a 6% increase in the crime rate in the 12 months to March 2002. Much of the rise, particularly the increase in violent crime, is believed to be drug-related. Mr Blunkett said the focus of government policy now is to tackle class A drugs that kill - heroin, crack, ecstasy. "Cannabis is a potentially harmful drug and should remain illegal. However, it is not comparable with crack, heroin, or ecstasy. A greater differentiation between drugs which kill and drugs that cause harm [is] both scientifically justified and educationally sensible," he said. Calling for an "adult and mature debate", the home secretary said that decriminalisation and legalisation were not on the government's agenda, "nor do we envisage a time when this would be appropriate". His statement was supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan police, who said it would enable them to concentrate on tackling hard drugs. The Met said that the Lambeth experiment, where police have been cautioning rather than arresting users in order to target dealers, will be amended at the end of this month so that the new "seize and warn" approach can be introduced. The reserve power of arrest for "aggravated possession" requires legislation and so the change will not be introduced across Britain until next July. New Acpo guidance to be issued this autumn will enable chief constables to implement the "seize and warn" policy earlier if they want to. The shadow home secretary, Oliver Letwin, claimed that the apparent resignation in protest of the former drugs tsar, Keith Hellawell, as a part-time adviser to the Home Office on international drug matters was evidence that Mr Blunkett was intent on handing over control over cannabis to the dealers. It was "a muddled, dangerous policy" that would lead to an "open season for drug peddlars", he said. But Roger Howard, of the drugs charity DrugsScope, welcomed the decision and said Mr Blunkett should have gone further and scrapped the two-year prison sentence that possession could still carry.Special Report: Drugs in Britain:,2759,178206,00.htmlSource: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Alan Travis, Home Affairs EditorPublished: Thursday, July 11, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: comment Website: Articles:Blunkett The Brave in Changing Law Leaves Police with Dilemma Seeks To Downgrade Marijuana Cannabis Growers Leery of 'Softer' Laws
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