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PM hints at U-turn over cannabis de-classification 4 May 2005 scotsman.com
THE DANGERS of cannabis were highlighted by Tony Blair yesterday, raising the possibility that Labour could perform a U-turn on its decision to downgrade the drug's classification.
Mr Blair pointed to medical evidence that the drug was not "as harmless as people make out".
David Blunkett, the former home secretary, downgraded cannabis from a class B to a class C drug at the start of last year, but his successor, Charles Clarke, has since commissioned an investigation into long-term mental health implications of the drug.
The Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs will not report until after the election.
Yesterday, Mr Blair said he would "look again" at the classification of cannabis.
"I know people say cannabis is different from hard drugs - and of course it is - but I think there is a risk that you start with that and then get into other things. And also I think there is increasing evidence emerging that it isn't quite as harmless as people make out."
"So I take a very strong line on it, and a particularly strong line if there is any question of people dealing anywhere near kids and schools."
He also denounced the Lib Dems' drugs policy as "crackers".
I bet his son turned into a giant pothead or something. On his 16th or 18th birthday it was frotn page new how he got drunk police found him in the gutter and locked him in the cells for giving his address as 10 Downing Street lol.
GOVERNMENT advisers are likely to reject a tougher line on cannabis despite mounting concerns about the drug's potential dangers and reservations by Tony Blair and the home secretary.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will meet this week to decide whether to review new evidence suggesting cannabis can cause mental illness.
Before the election Charles Clarke asked the committee to reassess the government's decision 16 months ago to downgrade crimes involving cannabis. Both Clarke and Tony Blair are understood to regret the decision, which coincided with an influx of stronger strains of the drug to Britain.
However, a leading member of the committee said last week he would be "very surprised" if it decided to urge a reversal. The Rev Martin Blakeborough, who runs the Kaleidoscope drug abuse charity in Kingston, west London, said the committee had already made its decision when it recommended in 2001 that penalties for using the drug be reclassified from category B to category C.
Blakeborough said there would need to be "an awful lot" of new evidence to convince the committee. "I would be extremely surprised if anything were to happen in terms of change," he said.
Blakeborough added that senior police were in favour of the relaxed laws. Officers were issued with guidelines saying that possession in small quantities for personal use should no longer lead to an arrest. Arrests for cannabis possession halved in the first year of the relaxed regime, freeing up officers' time to deal with other crimes.
Lord Adebowale, another committee member and chief executive of Turning Point, a drugs charity, is also said to be sceptical about tougher penalties. He has said any decision to review the drug's status should be based on "clear, hard facts and not conjecture".
However, Blair has told colleagues that he is "dead set" against the decision to downgrade the drug. Before the election he told parents there was increasing medical evidence that cannabis was "not quite as harmless as people make out".
Concerns have also risen among mental health professionals. A study by the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London suggests that one in four people carries genes that increase vulnerability to psychotic illnesses if he or she smokes cannabis as a teenager.
Majorie Wallace, head of the mental health charity Sane, has warned that cannabis places millions of users at risk of lasting mental illness.
Some who supported downgrading cannabis are now reconsidering. Rosie Boycott, the former newspaper editor, wrote yesterday she had begun to have second thoughts after hearing of young people suffering mental illness after taking cannabis, particularly skunk, an extra-strong form of the drug.
In one case, told to her at a dinner party, "what was beyond doubt for these three boys was that skunk had caused a dramatic, sudden and very distressing change in their personalities".