UK: New policy on drugs

United Kingdom Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced a more liberal stance on cannabis, as the government strives to free police resources for more serious issues, such as the growing crime rate due to the increased use of hard drugs.

The new position adopted by the British government cuts a middle way between the more liberal positions of the Netherlands and Portuguese governments, and the rest of the European Union. Whereas in the Netherlands, cannabis smoking is openly allowed in certain cafes, and in Portugal, use of drugs has been decriminalised (though not legalised), in the UK, cannabis has been declassified from a class B drug down to class C.

This reclassification is expected to take place by July 2003, while at the same time the maximum jail sentence for dealing in class C drugs will be increased from five to fourteen years. Possession of cannabis will not be decriminalised, as in Portugal, but it will no longer carry an automatic arrestable tag.

The British Home Secretary has announced his plans as being part of a bid to free police resources for more serious issues, such as dealing and class A drug abuse. Crack cocaine and heroin are destroying areas of Britain’s inner cities and the social fabric is breaking down in certain areas, with crime rates soaring at increase ratios of up to 50% per year. It is these figures which the New Labour government wishes to attack, since it came to power on a zero tolerance message, on drugs, in 1997.

The measure has received a mixed response in the UK, however the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesperson Andrew Hayman states,” This will ensure that cannabis is more accurately classified when compared with other drugs”..

The new measures will coincide with an advertising campaign against drug use targeted at schools.

John ASHTEAD PRAVDA.Ru London United Kingdom

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