So is it legal to smoke dope now, as long as you don't deal it

01:00 Wed 24th Oct 2001 |

asks Pathfinder:
No. It's still an illegal drug, but David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is asking for cannabis to be categorised as a class-C drug, rather than a class-B drug.

Q. What does that means
It means that possessing cannabis is not an arrestable offence - if caught, you would be prosecuted by a court summons - but it will still be a classified drug and smuggling and dealing it will still be regarded as serious criminal offences.

Also, the maximum penalties will change: two years for possession rather than five, and five years for possession with intent to supply rather than 14.

Q. Has the law changed already in Brixton
No. There has been a six-month experiment where police didn't charge anyone found with cannabis. This has been a popular move with the police, who had to spend two to three hours processing these convictions, and can now do more useful things with that time.

At the moment, British police charge 90,000 people a year with possession offences.

Q. Is that the reason the law is to be changed
It's certainly one of the main reasons. The Government's keen for the police to concentrate on more serious offences, such as possession of "crack" cocaine and heroin. Heroin use is rising as the drug is becoming cheaper.

Q. Will cannabis now be used as a medicine
Yes. David Blunkett has indicated that he'll license the medical use of cannabis to treat multiple sclerosis and other illnesses when research trials are completed shortly.

If cannabis is found to help those afflicted in a way that other - legally prescribed - drugs don't, doctors will be able to prescribe it.

Q. So the Government is recognising that it has health benefits
They're certainly not suggesting that it's good for you! They are just recognising that, although it is an undesirable drug, it's not a destructive one.

Q. Isn't there a paradox here - the Government is accepting that people are smoking the stuff, but they won't allow it to be sold
Yes, and that's something that will have to be addressed in the future.

Q. When will the law change
It'll take months, so we're looking at spring before the law is changed.

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By Sheena Miller

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