HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Chief Praises Cannabis Scheme
Pubdate: Fri, 15 Mar 2002
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2002 BBC
Contact: http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/forum/
Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/558
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)

POLICE CHIEF PRAISES CANNABIS SCHEME

The police chief pioneering a tolerant approach to cannabis has told 
BBC News he is "very pleased" with the success of the scheme.

Lambeth Police Commander Brian Paddick said the pilot project - under 
which people found with small quantities of cannabis are let off with 
a warning rather than being arrested and cautioned - should be 
continued.

The scheme had saved a lot of police time and had led to a "dramatic 
increase" in arrests for hard drugs and much better relationships 
between the local south London community and police, he said.

Mr Paddick's comments came a day after a government-commissioned 
report said cannabis should be downgraded from a Class B to a Class C 
drug.

It was his first interview since controversy blew up over remarks he 
had posted on a website about anarchy and drugs.

Mr Paddick said the community supported the scheme so much that it 
was now starting to work with the police against more serious drug 
crime.

"The community is concerned about the drugs that cause most harm. 
They are absolutely determined to rid the streets of crack cocaine 
and heroin.

"[The scheme] is not about any sort of moral stance on cannabis, it 
is not about approving of cannabis.

"It is about concentrating scarce police resources on those drugs 
that cause most harm - crack cocaine and heroin."

Mr Paddick said the scheme had allowed police to concentrate on what 
residents were really worried about - drug-related gun crime.

An official Metropolitan Police evaluation of the project - which 
began in July last year - is due to be published by Easter.

The Home Office said it is waiting to see the report before making a 
decision on whether to reclassify cannabis.

If it was downgraded to Class C, people would be able to smoke it in 
public without fearing arrest.

Mr Paddick said: "I'm fairly satisfied that the scheme is worth 
continuing, at least in the short term.

"There has been considerable saving of police time, there has been an 
increase in the arrest of people for dealing in hard drugs as a 
consequence, and I am very pleased with the results."

'Anarchism appeal'

On Tuesday Mr Paddick was grilled by Metropolitan Police Commissioner 
Sir John Stevens and Assistant Commissioner Mike Todd over his 
comments on the www.urban75.com website.

He was applauded for interacting with the local community but rebuked 
for some of the language he used, which it was felt, could have 
undermined his authority.

As well as saying he found the concept of anarchism appealing he made 
several comments apparently supporting the legalisation of some drugs.

On Friday he told the BBC he had agreed not to make any further 
comment on the website comments, or the subsequent media row.
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