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

London,  United Kingdom: Possessing and cultivating personal use  amounts of cannabis should no longer be a criminal offense in the United  Kingdom, according to the recommendationsof 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.”

While  the study’s authors do not recommend the removal of “criminal penalties for the  major production or supply offences of most (illicit) drugs,” they do  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.

For  more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the  UK Drug Policy Commission’s final report is available online at: http://www.ukdpc.org.uk/publication/a-fresh-approach/.

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