UK - Cannabis 'should remain Class C'
3rd April 2008
The official body which advises the government on drugs policy has decided cannabis should remain a Class C drug, the BBC understands.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs' decision would appear to go against the view of Gordon Brown, who favours returning the drug to Class B.
The government asked the council to review cannabis's legal status amid concerns over stronger forms of it.
The council refused to confirm or deny a decision.
Chairman Professor Sir Michael Rawlins said a report would be sent to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith this month.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the decision was taken at a private meeting of the council, which discussed some significant new research from Keele University about links between cannabis and mental illness.
The study found nothing to support a theory that rising cannabis use in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s led to increases in the incidence of schizophrenia later on.
The Advisory Council's decision leaves the government in an awkward position, our correspondent adds.
Gordon Brown has indicated he favours transferring cannabis back to Class B to send a message about the dangers of the drug, particularly to teenagers.
If the government does reclassify, it would be rejecting the findings of the Advisory Council's panel of 23 drug experts, which has never happened before on a decision about drug classification.
Mental health charity Sane was one group which gave evidence to the advisory group.
Marjorie Wallace from the charity said not enough was yet known about the direct links between cannabis and the brain, particularly the developing brain.
She said she has heard of hundreds of cases where people have smoked cannabis heavily, in particular the stronger form of skunk, and gone on to suffer psychotic breakdowns, hallucinations, paranoia and feelings of fear.
"Young people are literally dicing with their minds and futures," she told BBC News.
"And if you have ever seen someone who has taken heavy cannabis and gone on a trip from which they have never really returned and you have seen the collateral damage to them and their families, then you have to look at it from that point of view."