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New penalties for cannabis users announced

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  1. KomodoMK
    Those caught with marijuana for a second time will be fined £80 and after three strikes will be arrested when drug returns to class B



    Cannabis users face new penalties when the drug is upgraded to class B from January next year, the home secretary said today.

    Jacqui Smith said that those caught with cannabis for a second time would be fined £80 and after three strikes would be arrested.

    The drug was downgraded to class C in 2004, but fears over the increased use of stronger "skunk" strains among young people prompted a policy review and U-turn.

    Smith said she was "extremely concerned" about skunk, and its impact on mental health, especially if young people started to use it at an early age or "binge smoke".

    Skunk contains higher levels of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

    "While cannabis has always been illegal, reclassifying it to a class B drug reinforces our message to everyone that it is harmful and should not be taken," she said.

    "Fewer people are taking cannabis, but it is crucial that this trend continues. I am extremely concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis, such as skunk, and the harm they can cause to mental health.

    Smith announced last May that she would go against the recommendations of the government's scientific experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which was asked by the home secretary to take its third look at cannabis classification in recent years.

    The council's advice was that cannabis should remain class C.

    Under current rules, anyone caught twice with cannabis can still walk away with a warning.

    Smith said she had accepted police chiefs' calls for escalating penalties for possession in England and Wales.

    Smith said: "This is the next step towards toughening up our enforcement response - to ensure that repeat offenders know that we are serious about tackling the danger that the drug poses to individuals and, in turn, communities.

    "We need to act now to protect future generations."

    Prosecutions and jail sentences for using and supplying cannabis plummeted after the then-home secretary David Blunkett downgraded cannabis in January 2004.

    But police began to report that drugs seizures were much more likely to involve skunk than resin or lower strength marijuana.

    Humberside chief constable Tim Hollis, who speaks on drugs for the Association of Chief Police Officers, promised a "harder line" on drug users.

    "Where cannabis use is repeated or where there are aggravating circumstances locally, officers will take a harder line on enforcement and escalate their response accordingly.

    "Every encounter at street level provides intelligence and helps us to act against the criminal gangs who seek to profit from cannabis production and distribution."

    Danny Kushlick from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation condemned the move, accusing ministers of "populist posturing".

    He said: "Escalating penalties for possession only serve to further marginalise and criminalise millions of otherwise law-abiding people.

    "Criminalisation of cannabis possession is discriminatory and disproportionate when compared with tobacco and alcohol possession and counterproductive in so far as it gifts the market to organised criminals and drives the trade underground."

    The process for changing the classification of the drug requires votes in both Houses of Parliament. If both votes pass, the new rules will come into force on January 26.

    Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/oct/13/drugspolicy-drugsandalcohol

    # Hélène Mulholland and agencies
    # guardian.co.uk,
    # Monday October 13 2008 16.01 BST

Comments

  1. KomodoMK
    [h2]Further article from homeoffice website.[/h2]
    Source: http://nds.coi.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=381162&NewsAreaID=2

    Next steps for tougher action on cannabis

    Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today confirmed that repeat cannabis offenders will face tougher penalties. People caught carrying cannabis for a second time could now face an on-the-spot fine of £80 instead of a warning. This was announced alongside a Parliamentary Order laid to reclassify the drug to Class B from 26 January 2009.

    Reclassification is a preventative measure to protect the public. Cannabis is a harmful drug and poses a real risk to health of those who use it. The stronger strains, such as skunk, that now dominate the illegal UK cannabis market may increase mental health problems, especially if young people start to use at an early age or "binge smoke".

    That is why the Government accepted the Association of Chief Police Officers' proposal for a strengthened and escalating enforcement approach for possession in England and Wales. Under Penalty Notice for Disorder proposals, which the Ministry of Justice will shortly consult on, those caught with cannabis on a first occasion could still get a cannabis warning, but on a second occasion are likely face a fine of £80 and arrest if caught for a third time.

    Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

    "While cannabis has always been illegal, reclassifying it to a Class B drug reinforces our message to everyone that it is harmful and should not be taken.

    "Fewer people are taking cannabis, but it is crucial that this trend continues. I am extremely concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis, such as skunk, and the harm they can cause to mental health.

    "This is the next step towards toughening up our enforcement response - to ensure that repeat offenders know that we are serious about tackling the danger that the drug poses to individuals, and in turn communities. We need to act now to protect future generations."

    Criminalising people unnecessarily is not the Government's aim. However, the proposed new escalation of penalties will ensure the police and courts have a range of sanctions at their disposal so that the punishment is proportionate to the offence. Both reclassification and escalation for repeat offenders will reinforce the message that cannabis is illegal.

    The Association of Chief Police Officers' Lead on Drugs and Chief Constable of Humberside Police Tim Hollis said:

    "There is evidence of increasing harms to community safety associated with criminal behaviour around the cultivation, distribution and the use of cannabis.

    "While enforcement alone will not provide the total solution to a crime that is a global problem, this will act as a deterrent, along with better education about the impact of drugs.

    "Where cannabis use is repeated or where there are aggravating circumstances locally, officers will take a harder line on enforcement and escalate their response accordingly. Every encounter at street level provides intelligence and helps us to act against the criminal gangs who seek to profit from cannabis production and distribution."

    Alongside this, the Government also published its response to 21 recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). In accepting 20 of the ACMD's recommendations in its Report - Cannabis: Classification and Public Health, the Government has committed to taking forward work across a range of Departments.

    Children and Families Minister Delyth Morgan said:

    "The reclassification helps us get our message across that cannabis is not a harmless drug and that there are real concerns about how this will impact on the future of young people who use it. The FRANK campaign and our review of drug education will ensure that the potential harms are better understood by young people and their parents."

    Notes to Editors

    1. The Government's decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug was announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on 7 May 2008. The decision sits within the over-arching aims of the Government's 10 year drug strategy - Drugs: protecting families and communities.

    2. The required draft Order in Council will be listed tomorrow in the House of Commons Order Paper. Changing a drug's classification means affirmative resolution debates in both Houses before being submitted to the Privy Council for approval and subsequent implementation. Cannabis should become a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 from 26 January 2009

    3. The decision follows a review of cannabis classification which was carried out by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, at the request of the Prime Minister. The ACMD's full report is at: http://www.drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd

    4. The Government accepted 20 of the 21 recommendations from the ACMD report. The Government's response has been published today at http://www.drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk

    5. On 26 September 2008 it was announced that Mark Matthews had been appointed as national co-ordinator to combat cannabis cultivation. During National Tackling Drugs Week in May this year, 89 cannabis farms were shut down. Mr Matthews is now intensifying work in this area, working with law enforcement agencies to develop a comprehensive intelligence picture and robust national response to combat cultivation, making the UK a hostile environment for criminals involved in this illegal trade.

    6. Cannabis warnings were introduced specifically for the purposes of being consistent with reclassification of cannabis to Class C in 2004. Under current ACPO guidelines, a person can receive a second warning without any further escalation. The Government's decision to reclassify cannabis to Class B points towards a step change in the enforcement regime. The Home Secretary wrote to ACPO for proposals for a strengthened and escalating approach to possession which she and the Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw have accepted, subject to consultation on Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs). The proposed escalation for simple possession by an adult offender is :

    * one cannabis warning for a first offence;
    * one PND for a second offence;
    * arrest for a third offence, then to be considered for further action - including release without charge, caution, conditional caution or prosecution. All subsequent offences are likely to result in arrest.

    As the Home Secretary made clear on 7 May, the current procedure for under-18s caught in possession - which uses a reprimand, final warning and charge - will remain unchanged as it provides an appropriate escalation mechanism.

    7. The proposed escalation response for repeat offenders remains proportionate, is consistent with reducing police bureaucracy and continues to offer discretion and flexibility to the police. However, it does not preclude officers from immediately effecting arrest, for instance where there are aggravating factors present. It will not apply where there is any evidence of dealing or possession with intent to supply to others.

    8. When cannabis was reclassified to Class C in 2004 the policing approach in Scotland and Northern Ireland did not change. Cannabis warnings were not introduced. Anyone found in the possession of cannabis was and will continues to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal or Public Prosecution Service respectively where a decision on cautioning or prosecution will then be made.

    9. Reclassification of cannabis to a Class B drug has a number of consequences in terms of maximum penalties. For possession of cannabis as a Class B drug, the maximum penalty on indictment increases from two to five years' imprisonment. On summary conviction, in respect of which the majority of possession cases are dealt with, the maximum imprisonment penalty remains the same at three months, although the maximum fine that the Magistrates' Court can impose increases from £1,000 to £2,500. For the supply and production offences for cannabis, the maximum penalties on summary conviction increase to six months' imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine (from three months and/or a £2,500 fine respectively). The penalties for other offences relating to cannabis are unaffected, including the maximum penalty on indictment for supplying or producing cannabis of 14 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

    10. Data from the British Crime Survey continue to show cannabis use is falling steadily across all age ranges. Between 2002/03 and 2007/08, the proportion of 16-24 year olds reporting the use of cannabis in the last year fell from 26.2 per cent to 17.9 per cent, equating to a drop of more than 30 per cent over the period.

    11. A survey of secondary age pupils shows that young people had more negative attitudes to cannabis in 2007 than in 2003. 10 per cent of 11-15 year olds thought it was "okay to take cannabis once a week" in 2003, dropping to 6 per cent in 2007. Furthermore cannabis use among 11-15 year olds, 16-24 year olds and the wider adult population have all been falling fairly consistently since 1997.

    12. The FRANK campaign has been successful in shifting young people's attitudes towards cannabis use. In a survey to measure the effectiveness of the campaign, the number of 11-14 year olds who said that cannabis is "very likely" to damage the mind of someone rose from 45 per cent in 2006 to 58 per cent in 2008. Young people who want to know more about the risks of using cannabis or other drugs can contact the FRANK website and helpline: http://www.talktofrank.com 0800 77 66 00.

    020 7035 3535

    Client ref 173/2008

    COI ref 166316P
  2. Nature Boy
    This is a very short-sighted move. I was under the impression that cannabis use has decreased in the UK since its move to class C. This new strategy won't reduce cannabis use, it will just increase arrests thus causing cannabis to become more lucrative due to the natural profitability of selling a legally high-risk substance. It puts more money into the big time black market wholesalers' pockets and it throws more non-violent low-level dealers and users in prison. This does not make sense from the point of view of reducing use or tackling dangerous criminals, it isn't even recommended by the scientific consultants. What the fuck is going on? This is blatant tyranny.
  3. MrG
    So that simply proves that the FRANK campaign has successfully continued the litany of lies and half-truths perpetuated by the powers-that-be.

    "Aren't we doing a great thing?"

    "What's that?"

    "Well, the percentage of kids who believe that cannabis is very likely to damage the mind of someone has increased from 45% to 58%"

    "But is that statement true?"

    ". . . erm, yes it has increased from 45% to 58%"

    "No, is the statement about cannabis being *very* likely to damage the mind, true?"

    ". . . erm, probably, who cares anyway . . . we're winning the War on Drugs, let's crack open the champagne!!!"
  4. chillinwill
    An update

    Plans for tougher penalties for cannabis possession were unravelling within hours of being announced yesterday by the Home Secretary.

    Jacqui Smith outlined a tiered approach of stiffer sanctions for adult offenders repeatedly caught with cannabis after it is upgraded to a Class B drug in January.

    Ms Smith said that she was backing a “three strikes and out” system of dealing with adult offenders, starting with a warning from police, increasing to an £80 fine for a second offence and arrest for the third time that a user was found with cannabis.

    The approach was undermined immediately, however, when the Home Office said that warnings for a first offence would not be placed on the police national computer. This would make it difficult for police to check whether someone found with the drug was a first or second-time offender, particularly if the cannabis user was caught in a different police force area from where he or she lived.

    The drug was downgraded to Class C in 2004 by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary at the time, but Gordon Brown has made clear that he wants the decision reversed, despite a recommendation by the official Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that the present classification should not be changed.

    Ms Smith, who admitted last year that she had tried cannabis while at university, added: “We need to act now to protect future generations.”

    Tim Hollis, the Chief Constable of Humberside, who speaks on drugs for the Association of Chief Police Officers, has promised tougher action against drug users.

    Danny Kushlick, from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said that the move was “populist posturing”. He said: “Escalating penalties for possession only serve to further marginalise and criminalise millions of otherwise law-abiding people.”

    Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4938527.ece
  5. Herbal Healer 019
    just another example of ignorance...weed has been tolerated in the Netherlands and have they had any problems with increased use or "dangerous weed"...uh no
  6. doggy_hat
    I don't understand the concept of higher potency weed being more dangerous at all. If it takes less to get high then the person smokes less. It's like saying whiskey is more dangerous than beer, because drinking a bottle of whiskey is worse than drinking a 40oz of beer.

    How can people eat up such stupid bullshit?
  7. MrG
    It appears to me that this is something of a crippled measure from the government. They want to appeal to the sherry drinking middle-england Daily Mail readers with all their talk of "three strikes and you're out", yet the actual penalty scheme is somewhat handicapped at the off by the point raised about there being no way of knowing if someone has already been warned in order to *really* hit them hard with the equivalent of a parking fine and, if you do actually manage to nab someone for a third offense, the options include release without charge, caution, conditional caution or, finally, prosecution.

    Not quite the teeth of the real "three strikes" system I think Ms Smith is trying to pretend this is.
  8. Micklemouse
    In the real world dear Doggy, it doesn't work like that. In the real world people get through equivalent amounts regardless of strength in the same time, sometimes quicker, topping up as the high wears off & the negative effects of the "come-down" kick in, putting off & adding to the come-down, which is where the problems of paranoia, anxiety, & sometimes aggression as a result generally set in.

    In my opinion & experience one of the main mistakes the U.K. government made at the outset was not differentiating between different strains/strengths of cannabis. A Certain Mouse & many of his friends find the higher grade cannabis unsmokeable, & always have even when they were serious smokers (before anyone comes up with any "He needs to smoke more to get through it" BS!), & in his experience in the community & on acute psychiatry wards people have less adverse effects from hash/grass than on Skunk or any of the higher potency strains. One piece of harm reduction advice he has given that has kept people out of hospital, sometimes for years is "Don't smoke skunk!".
  9. aerozeppelin123
    "We need to act now to protect future generations" Oh wow thank god our government is there to protect us by arresting us and giving us a criminal record...God forbid we were treated like adults and allowed to make our own decisions as to what to put into our own body...what a wonderful country we live in.

    Seriously though, it's not going to affect very much at all, and tbh any possible deterrent effect from the law (which is doubtful anyway) is pretty much absent...I mean even if you're caught twice, you only have an £80 fine to deal with. Which is still not great, but I would imagine that the vast majority of cannabis users are never even caught once by the police, so there's a big 'safety cushion' between getting caught for the first time and ending up in real trouble.
  10. Nature Boy
    The problem isn't necessarily that the strains are stronger. The problem is that skunk is grown in order to contain the highest THC levels possible without any consideration for harmonising cannabinoids that prevent psychotic symptoms from emerging. Strains in the Netherlands are a lot more potent but don't seem to bring about any anxiety comparable to British street skunk. Although this may have to do with the psychological aspect of being able to smoke without being reprimanded, I think it has more to do with the chemistry of the cannabis itself.

    Realistically, we're discussing something that should not even be an issue here. Should cannabis become legally available, quality assurance measures would be taken with the added bonus that the free market would be able to decide for itself which strains people want. Research done on cannabinoid levels suggest a clear abnormality when it comes to street skunk. There are many forms of cannabis that are extremely high in THC, from Moroccan hashish to cannabis oil to ice-o-lator to cannabis cup-winning weed strains and beyond, yet there are no widespread problems reported. The British government's propaganda doesn't help either. It allows for anyone with behavioural problems who happens to smoke cannabis, to use that cannabis habit as an excuse for everything from unemployment to butchering your granny with a hacksaw.
  11. Mr. Giraffe
    Micklemouse may have a point in terms of imbalanced, high-THC strains, but should note that the anecdotal reports of skunk induced madness are not borne out in the statistics. I would suggest two factors for the anecdotal accounts of mind-melting skunk:

    1. Much of the mass market is made up of quickly grown, chemically fed, non-flushed product which contains serious amounts of what are effectively plant steroids. These are likely to cause unpleasant side effects.

    2. For a decade or more, the Irish and UK market has been chiefly composed of soapbar hash. Though this has changed in recent years, the fact that Irish smokers had acclimatised to shitty product (1% THC at best) meant that we were unprepared for proper weed.
  12. Zentaurus41
    Alongside this, the Government also published its response to 21 recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). In accepting 20 of the
    ACMD's recommendations in its Report - Cannabis: Classification and Public Health, the Government has committed to taking forward work across a range of Departments.


    This is out right government lies, the above paragraph suggests that the ACMD recommendations was to reclassify cannabis to a class B drug. If we
    actually examine the recommendations by the ACMD we can clearly see that their
    recommendations was to have cannabis remain a class C drug.

    This is also a tactic used by frank which can be found else were in the forum.

    http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication-search/acmd/acmd-cannabis-report-2008?view=Binary

    In July 2007 you asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review
    the classification of cannabis in the light of real public concern about the
    potential mental health effects of cannabis use and, in particular, the use of
    stronger strains of the drug. I have pleasure in enclosing the Council’s report.
    You will note that, after a most careful scrutiny of the totality of the available
    evidence, the majority of the Council’s members consider – based on its
    harmfulness to individuals and society – that cannabis should remain a Class C
    substance. It is judged that the harmfulness of cannabis more closely equates
    with other Class C substances than with those currently classified as Class B.
  13. Expat98
    Are you just guessing here about the chemical makeup of the cannabis in the two countries, or is this based on actual data? Is there really that much of a difference between Netherlands cannabis and the skunk in Britain?

    On the contrary, there have been many threads posted here about statistics that purportedly show that mental health problems are much more common with skunk than with low grade cannabis. SWIM thinks there is actually something to these studies and statistics (i.e., it's not just government propaganda).
  14. Mr. Giraffe
    Not if the macro-trends are considered; namely that rates of psychosis haven't gone up even a little bit despite the prevalence of so-called 'skunk'. Indeed, at the ACMD hearings, the UK government's own mental health advisor stated categorically that cannabis doesn't cause mental illness.

    You must remember that one person's stoned daydream is another person's panic attack, so my guess is that some of it is down to people who just don't like being stoned, even though they may enjoy extremely low quality hash, in which the active ingredients aren't really cannabis but glue and coffee and painkillers and so on.
  15. Expat98
    That's not a very persuasive argument. If you want to find out whether cannabis can cause mental problems, the most important statistics to look at are the statistics specifically dealing with cannabis, not the statistics on the overall level of psychosis.
  16. Rightnow289
    Actually SWIM has a friend who was taken into psychiatric care (Cannabis Psychosis) due to non stop smoking of normal soap bar tack so to say that skunk is worse is just plain stupid. Marijuana can damage people but I believe that most people who use cannabis also use other substances as my above friend did so there is no real way of telling whether its the cannabis that has done the damage or something else. All I can say is that when my friend stopped smoking cannabis he got better. At his worst he was seeing people getting out of cars taking photographs of him and allsorts. Also he could not interact very well with people at all but thankfully his is also now better.

    Also funnily enough SWIM agrees with nature boy. When SWIM went to Amsterdam never had any ill effects from cannabis use but over here it is a different story. Paranoia and anxiety are a common factor in Skunk smoked over here for SWIM. Maybe he has a point
  17. KomodoMK
    Little fishy knows of a couple of people who only smoked weed that suffered problems. The first one was a prolific smoker and got through god knows how much skunk a day, eventually he suffered from psychosis but did go on to make a recovery. However, he does now seem slow in the head and it has certainly had some irreversible effects.

    The second one popped a toot (bong) immediately after he was hit over the head with an iron bar, and ended up being admitted to a mental institution. Poor bloke was doing things like walking down the street naked saying Osama Bin Laden would order another terrorist attack if he didn't. Whilst the skunk isn't directly to blame for his condition, it seems it did play a part due to him smoking directly after sustaining a head injury.
  18. Stephenwolf
    Hmmm...less people are using after a policy change reducing risk of using, well thats no good at all, increase risk again as that CLEARLY decreases use of the illegal substance...
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