Home Page of the DPNA Website Learn about the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas, its history, principles, members, supporters, and board Looking for information about drug prevention?  Check out our web page links, books, presentations, position papers, and brochures Want to connect with national, regional or international drug prevention sites?  Visit our extensive Links section. Keep up with the latest drug prevention news and events. Ready to become a part of the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas?  Sign up on line.

DPNA News and Updates
Drug Research
Drug Effects
Drug Information
Drug Trends
Best Practices
Drug Legalization
Drug Policy
Books and Guides
Funding Sources

Police 'confused' about cannabis possession law

Denis Campbell, social affairs correspondent
The Observer
January 21, 2007

The government's decision to downgrade cannabis to Class C status has left police confused about whether to arrest, caution or let free people they catch with the drug.

A major new study reveals that officers are mistakenly arresting cannabis users, even though offenders should now receive only a warning, in line with the reclassification of the drug in 2004 from Class B to Class C.

Many officers do not issue the 'street warning' to users - the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist - which police chiefs say should be the way of treating cannabis possession, according to the report from a team of criminologists at the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at King's College, London.

Mike Hough, the report's author, said: 'The government's intention to reclassify was intended to signal to the police that they should deal with cannabis possession offences with a lighter touch, and generally speaking deal with these offences by street warning. But our study shows that that's not happening.'

Jan Berry, Police Federation chairwoman, said: 'Despite reclassification, which we think is a waste of time, we still consider cannabis is a gateway to stronger drugs, and the problems that creates will continue.'

Harry Shapiro of Drugscope, said it was clear that beat officers were continuing to charge and caution offenders, and not simply warn them, because many disagreed with reclassification, not because they were confused about how to apply the law.

A Home Office spokesman said: 'The government's drug strategy, which involves education, enforcement and treatment, is working. According to the British Crime Survey, cannabis misuse has fallen among young people.'