Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jan 2006
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Maurice Chittenden
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


THE senior police officer who launched a pioneering scheme to relax
enforcement of the cannabis law now says that the drug should not have
been downgraded.

Brian Paddick, a deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard,
describes the decision by David Blunkett, the former home secretary,
to downgrade cannabis to a class C drug as "all pain and no gain".

Paddick was a borough commander in Lambeth, south London, in 2001 when
he set up a pilot scheme in nearby Brixton whereby anyone caught with
a small amount of cannabis was warned rather than arrested.

This was widely seen as one of the catalysts for Blunkett's changing
of the law two years ago to regrade the drug. But the decision to
allow police to retain the power of arrest has caused widespread
confusion about the legal status of cannabis.

Paddick says his own scheme was based on an operational need to
concentrate on class A drugs such as heroin.

"By allowing police officers to continue to arrest for possession of
small amounts of cannabis, and by allowing police commanders to
declare their areas zero tolerance zones for cannabis, the
reclassification was unlikely to divert much police time towards more
serious crime.

"At the same time, reclassifying created confusion suggesting, quite
wrongly, that cannabis was less harmful at a time when stronger
strains were becoming more common and there was evidence of a link
with mental health." 
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