HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html War Over U-Turn On Cannabis
Pubdate: Thu, 16 Jun 2005
Source: Yorkshire Evening Post (UK)
Copyright: 2005, This is Leeds
Contact:  http://thisisleeds.co.uk/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2279
Author: Anne Alexander and Bruce Smith

WAR OVER U-TURN ON CANNABIS

Blunkett hits back over bid to get tough over 'skunk'

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett is on a collision course with Charles
Clarke over the decriminalistion of cannabis.

Mr Blunkett today told the YEP that he was right to downgrade cannabis
despite the fact that the Government looks poised to perform a U-turn.

In 2002 Mr Blunkett, now Work and Pensions Secretary changed the
classification from B to C effectively decriminalising it.

But new Home Secretary Clarke looks set to restore the B grade after
concerns about the effects of a strong form of cannabis known as skunk.

A report in the Netherlands linked it with psychosis and the advisory
council on the misuse of drugs is due to report back to him late this year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that the report was not due for some months
and would not speculate.

However Tony Blair has already indicated that reclassification is on the
cards if experts recommend it.

But when asked whether he was wrong to downgrade the drug Mr Blunkett told
the YEP: "No, I don't believe I was.

"I took the advice of the advisory council on misuse of drugs and their
recommendation was very clear, but since reclassification there has been an
issue about skunk .

"The advisory council was asked to examine whether that made a difference to
their original recommendation and as far I know the Home Secretary is still
waiting for them to come back to him.

"We took their advice on scientific grounds, saying that a differentiation
was made between different types of drugs such as crack and heroin which can
kill and less dangerous ones.

"What we were able to do was free up the police to be able to concentrate
resources on those killer drugs.

"Whatever the solution, I know the Home Secretary will want to bear in mind
that the police are dealing with this on a day to day basis, " he said
adding that if the drug is reclassified " the public will have to know that
will be at a price".

"I am sure (the Home Secretary] will take into account the advice of the
advisory council."

But Mr Blunkett was today criticised by rank and file police in West
Yorkshire.

Tom McGhie, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: "I certainly
think it would be a correct move to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug.
I, like many other police officers, never met anyone who had moved on to
using heroin or cocaine who had not started out experimenting with cannabis.

"When cannabis was classified down to Class C the wrong message went around.
Dangers of drugs needs reinforcing."
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