British Health Experts, Liberal Democrats Back Pot Law Change

Thursday, 14 March 2002

"The high use of cannabis is not associated with major health problems for the individual or society," Parliament's Top Drug Commission Says

London, United Kingdom: Parliament's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) announced today that it supports efforts by the British Home Office to downgrade marijuana possession to a non-arrestable offense.

"The high use of cannabis is not associated with major health problems for the individual or society, [and] the occasional use of cannabis is only rarely associated with significant problems in otherwise healthy individuals," the ACMD said. "In light of [the] current scientific evidence, [we] have recommended the reclassification of all cannabis preparations to Class C."

Possession of Class C drugs is a non-arrestable offense in the United Kingdom. British law currently categorizes marijuana as a Class B prohibited substance.

The ACMD concluded, "The current classification of cannabis is disproportionate in relation to both its inherent harmfulness, and to the harmfulness of other substances, such as amphetamines, that are currently in Class B." Last October, British Home Office Secretary David Blunkett announced that pot would be downgraded to "soft drug" status later this year.

The ACMD report comes one day after a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation determined that decriminalizing pot would save $71 million dollars in police resources, and less than a week after Britain's Liberal Democrats party endorsed marijuana's outright legalization.

"[The time] is right ... to seek for cannabis to be legalized so that it can be regulated like alcohol and tobacco and taken out of the hands of criminals," the party's Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said. Marijuana legalization will now be a part of the party's national platform.

There are an estimated 100,000 pot arrests per year in the UK, according to data published by the ACMD. Over 90 percent of those arrests are for possession only.

Decriminalizing marijuana would free up the equivalent of 500 police officers, the Rowntree report estimated. Reclassifying cannabis would also likely "remove some of the friction between the police and communities that currently prevents more cooperative relationships," the Foundation said.

Online copies of both reports are linkable from the NORML website.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.