Source: The Times
Date: 14 October 2008
Author: Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
Plans for tougher penalties for cannabis possession were unravelling
within hours of being announced yesterday by the Home Secretary.
Jacqui Smith outlined a tiered approach of stiffer sanctions for adult
offenders repeatedly caught with cannabis after it is upgraded to a
Class B drug in January.
Ms Smith said that she was backing a “three strikes and out” system of
dealing with adult offenders, starting with a warning from police,
increasing to an £80 fine for a second offence and arrest for the
third time that a user was found with cannabis.
The approach was undermined immediately, however, when the Home Office
said that warnings for a first offence would not be placed on the
police national computer. This would make it difficult for police to
check whether someone found with the drug was a first or second-time
offender, particularly if the cannabis user was caught in a different
police force area from where he or she lived.
The drug was downgraded to Class C in 2004 by David Blunkett, the Home
Secretary at the time, but Gordon Brown has made clear that he wants
the decision reversed, despite a recommendation by the official
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that the present
classification should not be changed.
Ms Smith, who admitted last year that she had tried cannabis while at
university, added: “We need to act now to protect future generations.”
Tim Hollis, the Chief Constable of Humberside, who speaks on drugs for
the Association of Chief Police Officers, has promised tougher action
against drug users.
Danny Kushlick, from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said that
the move was “populist posturing”. He said: “Escalating penalties for
possession only serve to further marginalise and criminalise millions
of otherwise law-abiding people.”