Pubdate: Fri, 12 Sep 2003
Source: Edinburgh Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2003 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Cited: Association of Chief Police Officers
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


NEW police guidelines on how to deal with cannabis users do not set a
"personal use" limit, it emerged today.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) issued the new rules
because Home Secretary David Blunkett will downgrade cannabis from Class B
to Class C early next year.

But the senior officers did not specify a maximum weight at which cannabis
smokers can claim their stash was for personal use.

The guidelines set out when officers will still be able to arrest people
caught with the drug, which will remain illegal.

Acpo's new guidance said possession of cannabis would "ordinarily not be an
arrestable offence", although officers should use their discretion on
whether to arrest users of the drug.

However, people smoking cannabis in public should be arrested, the
guidelines said.

Those who local officers know have repeatedly been found with the drug
should also face arrest, it went on, although the idea of a "three strikes
and you're out" policy was dropped last year.

And those in possession of the drug inside or near places where there are
children - such as schools, youth clubs or play areas - should also face

Mr Blunkett's decision to downgrade cannabis was designed to free police
time to target Class A drugs such as heroin and crack.

Acpo drugs spokesman Andy Hayman, the Chief Constable of Norfolk, said:
"The proposed reclassification of cannabis will mean that officers will
still have a power of arrest for simple possession."

The guidelines published by Acpo today were just 600 words long, but an
additional document explained that setting a "personal use" limit would
lead to dealers simply carrying around amounts below the limit.

The Home Office said cannabis would be reclassified on January 29 next year
if approved by Parliament.

Mr Blunkett began the final stage of the process to downgrade the drug
today, when he introduced a draft order in the Commons.

He said spending on tackling drugs would be increased by UKP447 million
over the next three years.

Danny Kushlick, director of drug reform group Transform, said: "We are
beginning to see the formalisation of a totally anomalous policy that
allows possession but not supply.

"The drugs whose prohibition causes the most crime and mayhem are cocaine
and heroin and it is cocaine and heroin whose supply most needs to be
legally controlled and regulated by government."

He added: "These guidelines will make little or no difference to
communities suffering as a result of endemic drug misuse."
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