End Criminal Sanctions For Growing And Possessing Cannabis, British Study Says

Possessing and cultivating personal use amounts of cannabis should no longer be a criminal offense, according to the recommendations of a six-year study released last week by a coalition of leading British drug policy experts, treatment specialists, and law enforcement.

The study, commissioned by the UK Drug Policy Commission, argues that decriminalizing minor cannabis offenses will reduce police and prosecutorial costs without adversely impacting levels of illicit drug use. The UK Drug Policy Commission is an independent charity “that provides objective analysis of the evidence concerning drug policies and practice.”

According to the study, criminal penalties for cannabis “could be replaced with simple civil penalties, such as a fine, perhaps a referral to a drug awareness session run by a public health body, or if there was a demonstrable need, to a drug treatment program. … These changes could potentially result in less demand on police and criminal justice time and resources. Given the experience of other countries, our assessment is that we do not believe this would materially alter the levels of use, while allowing resources to be spent on more cost-effective measures to reduce harm associated with drug use. … We would expect the net effect to be positive.”

Although the study’s authors do not recommend the removal of “criminal penalties for the major production or supply offenses of most [illicit] drugs,” they acknowledge that such non-criminal approaches ought to be considered for cannabis, concluding: “[F]or the most ubiquitous drug, cannabis, it is worth considering whether there are alternative approaches which might be more effective at reducing harm. For example, there is an argument that amending the law relating to the growing of it, at least for personal use, might go some way to undermining the commercialization of production, with associated involvement of organized crime. … Perhaps the most expedient course to take here would be to re-examine sentence levels and sentencing practice to ensure that those growing below a certain low volume of plants face no – or only minimal – sanctions.”

The Drug Policy Commission’s final report is the first major, independent review of British drug policy since a 1999 report commissioned by the Police Foundation, which similarly recommended decriminalizing cannabis. Following the publication of that report, British lawmakers in 2004 temporarily downgraded cannabis from a Class B to a Class C ‘soft’ drug. Lawmakers reclassified cannabis as a Class B illicit substance in early 2009. Nevertheless, British police typically issue warnings to minor cannabis offenders in lieu of making criminal arrests.

Full text of the UK Drug Policy Commission’s final report is available online here.

9 thoughts

  1. It seems that there are more people wakeing up. We need to keep pushing on the Global community to recognize this more and more

  2. The latest poll in GB puts it at 69% support decriminalization of marijuana,,added to this study could put Britain legalizing about the same time WA and/or CO does.

  3. In Britain we need to stop this stupid and unwinnable war against cannabis. It is causing far more harm to our communities than it prevents. If we had a properly regulated system of production and supply we’d have no more illegal cannabis farms, instead we’d have thousands of new jobs. We’d have no more dealers on the streets. Cannabis would be available to adults only through licensed outlets and we’d have some control over the THC and CBD content.

    Doctors would be able to prescribe one of the most effective medicines that has no serious side effects at all. At the moment the government has given GW Pharmaceuticals an illegal monopoly on cannabis so they make millions out of a medicine that you can grow in your greenhouse for virtually nothing.

    If we introduced a legally regulated system we would solve nearly all the problems around cannabis. Science proves how much safer it is than tobacco, alcohol, prescription medicines and all other recreational drugs. If anyone does have a problem with it they could get help without having to confess to a crime.

    CLEAR published independent, expert research last year which shows that a tax and regulate policy on cannabis would produce a net gain to the UK economy of up to £9.3 billion per annum.

    It is a scandal that our government, our judges, our courts, our police and our newspapers keep misleading us about cannabis.

  4. I live in the UK and the legalisation debate is almost non existent, our commercially available cannabis is of appalling quality, people smoke it mixed with tobacco and medicinal use is almost unknown. In short we have a bigger problem than you have in the USA ! We desperately need it out in the open and reformed but the public always accepts the politicians excuses when they point to some research that says it is bad without ever naming names and figures. This report was put together by a panel of experts and is not the first such report we have had in the UK.

    Famously about 2 years ago the government sacked the chief expert on drug addiction – Prof Nutt – who lead (the rather grandly titled) “Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)”. He stated that cannabis should be legal and alcohol was bad for people but he also said that taking ecstasy was much less harmful than horse riding (which is true – hundreds of people have died in horse riding accidents but only a couple have died from ecstasy tablets). Pressure in the media caused him and other members of the ACMD to resign or be sacked and replaced with yes-men. Also we have a law called the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) which explicitly states that the legal status of drugs must be proportional to their potential to cause harm and NOT be based on cultural or historical bias. On this basis alcohol and tobacco should be illegal but successive Home Secretaries (the minister in government responsible for criminal matters) have completely ignored this legal requirement.

    It really goes to show that it is an entirely political matter and not based on health or law enforcement as the politicians claim. If you legalise in Washington and maybe other places it will really offer some hope to us. You would not believe the number of brits hopping a flight or ferry across the North Sea to Amsterdam every weekend (and it looks like we may even be losing that now as well !)

    Help — 8-(

  5. Yeah, I think the herb (as well as other herbs) is simply there for us to use. Those prescription meds can really mess you up!

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