A group of police and crime commissioners aligned with the
The law enforcement leaders are calling for cannabis to be reclassified as a Class A drug, the same category assigned to drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Police and crime commissioners are elected officials that oversee law enforcement operations in England and Wales, although they are not directly involved in passing criminal laws or managing police forces.
At a Conservative Party conference being held this week in Birmingham, England, a group of police commissioners argued that new health data on cannabis justify stricter regulation of the drug and harsher penalties for offenders.
Stricter Classification for Cannabis Would Increase Penalties
Currently, cannabis is listed as a Class B drug by the U.K. government, carrying penalties of up to five years in prison for possession and up to 14 years for production or trafficking. The harsher Class A drug designation for cannabis would make penalties for marijuana offenses more severe, including jail terms of up to seven years for possession and penalties of up to life in prison for cannabis producers and suppliers.
However, a Home Office spokesperson has said there are no plans to assign the stricter classification to the plant, an idea that cannabis policy reform activists have characterized as “dangerous” and “crazy,” according to a
At the Birmingham Conservative Party conference, a group of police and crime commissioners called for the change in cannabis policy, saying that it is “time we realized that it is not just a little bit of weed.” David Sidwick, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said that cannabis is “driving harm” in communities.
“We’re seeing it because it’s a gateway drug,” he said. “If you look at the young people in treatment, the number one drug they are in treatment for is cannabis.”
Sidwick, who formerly worked in the pharmaceutical industry, claimed that a “wealth of new data” on the drug’s effects on health has come to light, meriting a “re-evaluation” of the penalties associated with cannabis offenses. He added that law enforcement is needed in conjunction with drug education and rehabilitation, saying that designating cannabis as a Class A drug would provide clarity in enforcement policy.
“There are so many crimes linked to drugs that, actually, by addressing this, by giving us this clarity, it makes it clearer for our police to be able to do what they need to do,” he said.
Gateway Drug Theory Debunked
Research does not support the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads users to more harmful or addictive substances. In 2017,
“Research shows that marijuana could more accurately be described as a ‘terminus’ drug because the vast majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other illicit drugs,” reads the report.
A spokesperson for the U.K.’s Home Office said that the potential dangers associated with cannabis do not warrant the stricter designation sought by the law enforcement leaders.
“There are currently no plans to reclassify cannabis, which is controlled as a Class B drug in the UK on the basis of clear medical and scientific evidence of its harms,” the spokesperson said.
Peter Reynolds, the president of CLEAR, a group that campaigns against cannabis prohibition, said the proposal to reclassify the drug is “completely crazy,” adding that the Conservative commissioners are “promoting ideas which will increase crime, violence and child exploitation.”
“The idea of doing more of the same as the past 50 years, which has quite obviously dramatically failed, is ridiculous,” Reynolds said. “The only people who want this are ignorant politicians and the people who sell illegal drugs, I’m crystal clear about that.”
Franziska Katterbach, European president of Khiron, an international medical cannabis company with operations in the U.K., said that the Conservative police commissioners are making “unpragmatic demands in connection with understandable problems related to the black market and drug addicts, want to roll back legal-political progress and revive long-disproved clichés of cannabis as a gateway drug.”
“I think these demands are related to a lack of training for police officers, with prescriptions of medical cannabis also already being confiscated. It is scientifically proven that cannabis is not in the same category as heroin, cocaine or ecstasy in terms of health protection,” Katterbach added in an email to High There.
Katterbach continued, “At the same time, there is no question that cannabis can be a risk, especially for younger people, but the dangers are mainly related to the uncontrolled black market. I would like to emphasize that in this discussion we must be guided strictly by scientific findings and pragmatic solutions, not by political ideology.”
Although proposed by a group of police and crime commissioners, as of right now, changing the classification for cannabis isn’t in motion.