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Crime and community safety

The decision to downgrade cannabis from a class B drug to class C drug.

Date: Thu Feb 16 00:00:00 GMT 2006

“Please disclose full details of the factual background that led to David Blunkett's decision to downgrade cannabis from a class B drug to a class C drug. Please include if available any unpublished reports and analyses relating to this decision.”

We believe that the information that you have asked for is already reasonably accessible to you. The information contained in the reports referred to below constitutes full details of the factual background upon which the decision to seek reclassification was based. The reports are all published and can also be found on the Internet. They can be accessed via the links provided below. Copyright law is being respected.


As the Home Office press release 255/2001 for 23 October 2001 records, David Blunkett's decision to seek the reclassification of cannabis from a Class B drug to a Class C drug was announced to the Home Affairs Select Committee in the context of the Government's priority to tackle Class A drugs, such as heroin and crack cocaine, which do the most harm overall, and to get people into treatment. The proposed reclassification of cannabis was designed to continue to deter use of the drug while allowing the police to focus greater resources on priority areas like tackling dealing in Class A drugs.
The other driver was the need for our drugs laws to accurately reflect the relative harms of drugs if the Government was – and is – to send effective and credible messages to young people about the dangers of misusing drugs.
Accordingly, as he is required to do by law, Mr Blunkett sought advice from the scientific and medical experts on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on the classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The Home Office press release STAT016/20022222 for 21 May 2002 – referring to the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee Report into the National Drug Strategy – reports that Mr Blunkett said that he would be “making a detailed response to the report after thorough consideration before the summer recess when I will be publishing our updated policy programme on the whole area of tackling trafficking, dealing, harm minimisation, addiction and reclassification of cannabis.” In addition there was an undertaking to “consider seriously [1] this report, [2] the findings of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and other important contributions, including those from the [3] Police Foundation and [4] Chief Constables” with a view "to incorporating those recommendations from these reports which are acceptable to the Government in our overall comprehensive response."

[1] The Home Affairs Select Committee report, The Government's Drugs Policy: Is it working?, can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmhaff/318/31802.htm. The Committee supported the proposal to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C (paragraphs 120, 121).

The Government response at
http://www.archive2.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm55/5573/5573.pdf
stated that “The Government has taken into consideration this recommendation and the advice of the Advisory Committee [sic] for the Misuse of Drugs and intends to bring forward proposals to Parliament to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.” …

[2] The report and findings of the Advisory Council are at http://www.drugs.gov.uk/drugs-laws/cannabis-reclassifications/background?version=1. The Council
recommended that cannabis should be reclassified to Class C.

[3] In March 2000, the Police Foundation published the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman and entitled Drugs and the Law. It is available at http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/runciman/default.htm.
The Police Foundation recommended that “Cannabis should be transferred from Class B to Class C of Schedule 2 of the MDA and cannabinol and its derivatives should be transferred from Class A to Class C [Recommendation 61].”

At that time (November 2000), the Government responded at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200001/cmselect/cmhaff/226/22604.htm, “Existing scientific evidence, which fuels doubts about the health risks associated with cannabis use, persuade the Government that it would not be right to reclassify cannabis at this moment in time. However, the Government will keep the evidence under review and is ready to consider any further recommendations from the Advisory Council in the future.”

[4] The Metropolitan Police report at http://www.mpa.gov.uk/committees/mpa/2002/020926/17.htm [Report 17, 26 September 2002] provided an assessment of the Lambeth cannabis warning pilot scheme.
The Home Office press release 192/2002 for 10 July 2002 refers to Mr Blunkett's statement to the House of Commons in which he announced the publication of the Government response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on drugs and his decision to seek the reclassification of cannabis from a Class B drug to a Class C drug in the light of the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee, the advice he had received from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and taking account of the Metropolitan Police experiment in Lambeth.