Cannabis is to be reclassified from a class B to a class C drug,
despite evidence that cannabis use by teenagers is a major cause of
The government has announced a £1m information campaign about
the law change, with radio advertisements targeted at young people
telling them that cannabis remains illegal, and that under-18s can
still be arrested for possession.
But reclassification means that possession for over-18s will no
longer be an arrestable offence except in “aggravated” cases such
as smoking cannabis near children.
Home Office drugs minister Caroline Flint said “by reclassifying
cannabis we are being honest to young people about the harm
cannabis can cause in comparison to drugs such as crack and heroin.
This is an open and effective way to tackle the problems associated
with class A drugs.”
Cannabis will be reclassified on 29 January as party of the
government’s overall drug strategy. The change was recommended by
an independent expert committee, the Advisory Council on the Misuse
of Drugs, on the grounds that heroin and crack cocaine are more
harmful to people.
But the British Medical Association has warned that the public may
be misled into believing cannabis use is safe. “We are very worried
about the negative health effects of smoking cannabis and want the
government to fund more research on this issue.
Research published by the Institute of Psychiatry warned that
regular cannabis use among teens can cause psychotic illness.
In an interview with The Times, professor Robin Murray,
the author of the study, suggested the government should think
again about reclassifying cannabis.
“Unfortunately there were no experts in psychosis on the committees
(the Home Affairs select committee and the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs) that advised the government on reclassifying
cannabis. That’s not a criticism – at the time, no one thought
there should have been. Since then there have been at least four
studies that show the use of cannabis can significantly increase
the likelihood of the onset of psychosis.
“I would say this is now the number one problem facing the mental
health services in inner cities. In south London the incidence of
psychosis has doubled since 1964. There is a terrible drain on
resources. Not only are there people suffering from psychosis who
would not be in in-patient beds if they were not using cannabis,
but use of the drug also drastically reduces the chances of
“People who do improve go out on the streets, meet their old
dealer, begin using the drug again and relapse. We’re not saying
that the government shouldn’t reclassify cannabis – for most people
it causes no problems – but I am saying that if they’re going to do
it they should warn people of the possible downside.”
– For more information go to