Source: [Press Association
February 5 2008
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has insisted she still has an open mind
about whether cannabis should be reclassified, the head of the
Government’s drug advisers said.
Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD),
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, said he had received a letter of
reassurance from the politician after reports that she was prepared to
disregard the committee’s recommendations.
On the day the ACMD begins a two-day evidence session examining whether
tougher penalties should be introduced for cannabis – four years after
it was downgraded from Class B to Class C – Sir Michael said: “I will be
reading a letter from the Home Secretary that I received yesterday,
basically saying that the Government has an open mind.”
Some members of the committee had said they would consider resigning if
the Government ignored its conclusions.
Asked if he had been reassured by the pledges in Ms Smith’s letter, Sir
Michael said: “Absolutely, yes.”
He also revealed that the ACMD would hear new evidence on the latest
trends in the potency of the cannabis available on Britain’s streets.
Research on the drug’s effects on mental health will also be discussed.
Additionally, the ACMD will reveal the results of market research which
looked into whether the public was aware of cannabis’ current legal
status and the potential penalties for using the drug.
Cannabis was reclassified in January 2004, making possession a largely
non-arrestable offence, and placing it alongside some prescription
anti-depressants and bodybuilding drugs.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last July, within weeks of taking
over at No 10, that he would demand a new review of the drug’s legal
position because of new emerging evidence about its effects and reports
that stronger strains of the drug were becoming available.