Police 'confused' about cannabis possession law
Denis Campbell, social affairs correspondent
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
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.'
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.'