Pubdate: Sun, 01 Sep 2002
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Observer
Author: Kamal Ahmed


People caught with cannabis are to be given 'on the street' warnings 
instead of being arrested and taken to a police station to face an official 

In a national roll out of the controversial pilot scheme in Lambeth, 
London, the Association of Chief Police Officers will announce that all 
police forces in England and Wales should abandon official cautions for 
cannabis possession. A binding guidance note is likely to be circulated in 

The association hopes that the new rules will help clear up confusion over 
cannabis policy across the country following the decision earlier this year 
by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, to reclassify it as a Class C drug. 
Blunkett said that arrests should only be made where there are 'aggravating 

In an interview with The Observer, Andy Hayman, the deputy commissioner of 
the Metropolitan Police and chairman of the Acpo drugs working group, said 
that it was now time for police forces to move on from the issue of 
cannabis and concentrate on Class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

'We have to formalise [our policy on cannabis] and get a consistent 
approach,' he said, adding that people caught with small amounts of 
cannabis for personal use will not be arrested unless they are under age.

'You will be challenged, because to have possession of that drug is 
illegal,' he said. 'But the guidance is going to say focus on class A.'

Commander Brian Paddick, the Metropolitan Police officer who first 
introduced the pilot project in Lambeth last summer, faced criticism from 
local residents. But research into the scheme revealed that police had 
saved hundreds of hours not officially cautioning cannabis users and that 
arrests for dealing in Class A drugs had increased.

Paddick has since been suspended from his role and moved to a desk job 
pending the outcome of an investigation into claims that cannabis was 
smoked at his home.

Hayman admitted that reports of a rise in the use of crack cocaine was 
causing high-levels of concern among many police forces.

'We believe it is the most under-researched area of drugs,' he said. 'For 
us to be able to make some meaningful enforcement activity we have got to 
understand the nature of the problem.'

Hayman added that he wanted to see more treatment centres for cocaine and 
heroin users and a 'rebalancing' of the system away from treating heroin 
addicts in the criminal justice system and towards treating them as a 
medical problem.
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