Britain: Pot Reclassification Takes Effect Today

More Than Half Of Britons Back New Decrim Law, One In Four Favor Legalization

London, United Kingdom: British legal reforms downgrading marijuana from a Class B to a Class C scheduled drug took effect today, marking the first substantial change to the nation’s 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act in more than 30 years.

Under reclassification, individuals found in possession of “personal use” amounts of marijuana will be cautioned by police, but no longer arrested. (Police will retain the discretion to make an arrest under special “aggravated” circumstances, such as if marijuana is smoked on school grounds.) Under the previous classification, about 80,000 Britons were arrested annually for possessing cannabis.

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup praised the policy change. “This reclassification acknowledges that neither the marijuana user nor marijuana itself presents a legitimate danger to public safety, and frees up police resources to focus on more serious crimes,” he said. Stroup added that Britain’s new policy is similar to the laws of 12 US states where the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana is no longer punishable by criminal arrests and/or jail time.

According to a poll of 2,500 Britons conducted for the Daily Telegraph, 52 percent of respondents say they support reclassification. Of those, just under half say they also back legalizing cannabis.

Additionally, among those respondents under age 35, nearly three-quarters say “a distinction should be made between ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine and ‘soft’ drugs such as cannabis.” Younger respondents also respond that marijuana is less addictive than tobacco, alcohol and coffee, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“It is apparent that the public, especially younger voters, are ahead of the politicians on the issue of liberalizing cannabis laws,” Stroup said.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.