Peers support cannabis reclassification

26 November 2008

The government's plan to upgrade cannabis to class B is likely to go ahead after a House of Lords vote backed the move.

The proposal, due to come into force in January, goes against the advice of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The council’s review of expert evidence on the harms of cannabis had recommended that the drug should retain class C status.

Last night, following a debate, the House of Lords voted by a majority of 52 against an amendment which would have overturned the government’s move.

Crossbencher Baroness Meacher’s proposed amendment would have seen a decision on the drug’s reclassification postponed for two years, allowing for a further review by the ACMD.

During the debate Lady Meacher said :

“We all know that alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis. Alcohol abuse leads to violence, suicide, liver cirrhosis, mental illness, dependence, addiction and lasting effects on the foetus.

“In marked contrast, the only possible - possible - health effect of cannabis referred to in the government’s statement on reclassification is the possible causal link with schizophrenia.”

The Baroness also pointed to evidence of the falling levels of cannabis use in the UK since the Blair government downgraded the drug to class C in 2004.

However, despite support from the Liberal Democrats, peers rejected the amendment by 116 votes to 64.

In response, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith re-emphasised the government’s stance on reclassification:

“This is the next step towards toughening our enforcement response - to ensure that repeat offenders know that we are serious about tackling the danger that the drug poses to individuals and in turn communities. We need to act now to protect future generations.”

When Ms Smith first announced her intention to upgrade cannabis against the ACMD’s advice in July this year, DrugScope expressed “extreme disappointment” at the decision.