Pubdate: Sun, 3 Feb 2008
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2008
Author: Richard Gray
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Relaxation of the law on cannabis has fuelled organised crime in the 
UK, police chiefs will tell an inquiry panel this week.

The Association of Chief Police Officers will urge the Government to 
reverse its decision, taken three years ago, to downgrade the drug 
from class B to class C status.

Senior officers will present evidence to a hearing of the Advisory 
Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the independent body asked by Gordon 
Brown to review the reclassification.

Critics claim that downgrading the drug sent out a "soft" message 
about its use.

Simon Byrne, who speaks for ACPO on cannabis and is assistant chief 
constable of Merseyside Police, will say that cultivation of cannabis 
plants in the UK has soared since the reclassification at the end of 2003.

More than 2,000 cannabis farms in England and Wales have been raided 
by police in the past year. Mr Byrne will claim that cannabis has 
become a "cash machine" for organised crime.

Experts from the Forensic Science Service will warn that cannabis now 
accounts for about three-quarters of all drug-driving cases.

Since 2004, more than 2,070 drivers have been confirmed as having 
taken cannabis before driving. Scientists will tell the advisory 
council that even small amounts of cannabis can impair driving ability.

A spokeswoman for the road safety charity Brake said the Government 
needed to introduce roadside drug breath tests urgently.

"Drug-driving is clearly on the rise and our research has shown that 
one-in-11 drivers under the age of 25 have admitted driving after 
taking illegal drugs," she said.

Psychiatrists will also present the latest evidence on the effects 
that cannabis can have on mental health.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, 
said: "While many people can smoke a joint with no long-term effects, 
for some young people regular use can double their risk of developing 
schizophrenia, in which a person may hear voices, and experience 
strange thoughts and paranoid delusions." 
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