Latest  OCT 4th 2010
MARCH 2002
There is confusion concerning the thinking behind the reasons for changing the classification of Cannabis as a dangerous drug, There is no need to be confused.

If the aim of government policy is to reduce the growth of drug use, drug dependence and drug related activity including crime, then giving a criminal record and a spell of imprisonment to all and any of those who have been unwise enough to indulge, due to any combination of peer pressure, ignorance, curiosity or desperation, in smoking cannabis will not achieve this aim. The result with be the exact opposite. This is due amongst other things to the nature of our prisons and the effect of a prison sentence. While new types of prison and new types of sentence will no doubt be progressively introduced, taking the wrong action and achieving undesired results must be stopped now.

It follows incontrovertibly that those enforcing the law must have discretion as to whether arrest, conviction and imprisonment is the appropriate aim in any given instance where the possession of cannabis or the smoking of cannabis is detected.

It is impossible to exercise this discretion with any coherence, logic, or fairness if cannabis is classified at the same level as the most damaging and addictive substances from which we aim to protect society.

That is the reason for the change in the classification of Cannabis. It should have been done years ago and there is no rational argument against it.

It is however true that in our confused and misinformed society, where the education and upbringing of young people varies from the excellent to the non-existent to the positively perverse, and the media are more concerned with selling sensational copy than dispensing fact, that the declassification could give out what we call a MESSAGE that smoking cannabis is not something which should be avoided.

This idea that any change in a law, or indeed any statement or action in public life must be judged by the message it may give out at the time to those who may choose to interpret it in their own psychological language, is so debilitating that it is time to reccognise it and deal with it. That means that if a necessary action is capable of serious misinterpretation, then a proper message, that IS the message, must be issued from the same source that is responsible for the action or statement, with sufficient efficiency and coverage to ensure it reaches all those who are affected.

The most effective way to discourage the smoking of cannabis is to make it a serious offence to carry out any responsible job, or drive a vehicle, under its direct or residual influence. This should be combined with measures to completely stop its use in all educational establishments. To do this effectively, a greaat deal of discretion is needed by those enforcing the rules. The change in classification will help to give them this discretion, so that very severe sanctions including arrest, conviction and imprisonment can be used when required, and avoided when not required.

MARCH 18 2005

After a period of living with the reclassification of Cannabis there is concern that the declassifcation has ignored the severe risk of mental damage caused by the drug. But this damage risk has never been in doubt. What was in doubt was the wisdom of using imprisonment as the punishment for the offence of smoking it. That doubt remains, and what I wrote in 2001 remains valid. If Cannabis smoking is increasing and is to be reclassified, some way must be found to deter and punish those who break the law by smoking it other than imprisonment. What I wrote in March 2002 below still applies.

JUNE 29 2006 - A useful summary in The Independent

The Big Question: So how dangerous is cannabis?

Published: 28 June 2006
By Steve Connor, Science Editor Why are we asking this question now? The head of the UN's anti-drugs office has said that cannabis use has turned into a major pandemic which is causing as much harm as cocaine and heroin. Antonio Maria Costa ...

JANUARY 6th 2006
My patience is running out on this subject. Cannabis is a very harmful drug, and the latest research claiming it not only destabilises the vulnerable but may also cause deterioration in the average individual is very likely valid. But the criminal law is not the proper instrument to deal with those who are victims of ignorance and opportunity in environments they have had little choice to avoid. The various types of this drug and the unknown purity of even its purported content make its use hazardous. Even those who have used it for years without apparent distress will find, if they give up, that their health and intelligence will improve dramatically. One of the tricks of cannabis is that it disguises from those who take it how stupid it renders them at the time, and how increasingly unsatisfied it leaves them afterwards. Its link with schizophrenia has been obvious for years. However, reclassifying again is a complete waste of time and would prove once again how little our politicians know about anything. On the other hand we have to realise that 'educating' the public presents a problem. In the past, this has been done by employing educated adults as teachers. Due to the failure to educate children, we have now what Laurie Taylor would call 'an alarming lack' of educated adults available and prepared to to teach children who's parents do not prepare them for school or life.


JULY 19th 2007
I am surprised that all these MPs smoked cannabis at university. Only ignorance or stupidity can account for it.  I, as a scientist and social scientist, smoked it once in order to know what I was talking about. It tasted/smelt disgusting and had no effect other than to eventually make me a bit dizzy and unfocussed. I reverted to having to judge it by its effect on others which was to make them stupid or boring or both. A few intelligent, well-balanced people can apparently enjoy it at some stage in their life without being a pain in the arse to others. I have nothing to add, otherwise, to what I have already written. Most young people should avoid it totally and NONE of them need it.

OCTOBER 26th 2007
I think this news justifies my argument that intense and widespread education about the dangers and disadvantages of Cannabis smoking, a lose-lose habit, is more important than criminalising or imprisoning young users who are not growers or dealers.

Cannabis use is 'falling fast' among young adults

By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent - The Independent

Published: 26 October 2007

Drug abuse is at its lowest level for a decade following a sharp fall in numbers of people smoking cannabis.

About 3.2 million people in England and Wales aged between 16 and 59, equivalent to 10 per cent of the population, took an illicit substance in the past year. They included 2.6 million who used cannabis and 1.1 million who took class A drugs such as cocaine, heroin or ecstasy, according to new Home Office research.

Almost two million said they were regular drug users, having taken an illegal substance within the past month. The proportion of people who have smoked cannabis in the past 12 months is now 8.2 per cent, a significant fall from the 10.6 per cent from the research of five years ago and 8.7 per cent last year.

Its use is dropping even more quickly among young adults, with 20.9 per cent in the 16 to 24 age group using cannabis in the previous year, compared with 28 per cent in 1998.

The fall comes as the Government considers reversing the controversial downgrading of cannabis from a class B to a class C substance in 2004. Warnings have grown that stronger strains of the drug, such as "skunk", are circulating and that the mental health of heavy cannabis users could be jeopardised.

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: "It is interesting and encouraging we've seen this downward trend in cannabis use. Given all the controversy over its reclassification, the fact that it has continued to fall has surprised some of the critics of the move.

"One of the results of the reclassification was a lot of debate about the harms cannabis can cause."

Use of class A drugs has remained largely unchanged since the start of the decade, after increases in the late 1990s largely caused by cocaine's growing popularity.

The British Crime Survey (BCS), which compiled figures for 2006-07, which it released yesterday, found slight increases in cocaine and ecstasy use, with falls in numbers of people taking LSD or magic mushrooms. The level of heroin abuse remained unchanged. However, the numbers taking amyl nitrites, known as "poppers", or sniffing glue rose since last year.

For the first time the survey asked about the use of the hallucinogen ketamine, nicknamed "special K" and mainly found on the club and rave scene. It found 0.3 per cent admitting taking it in the previous year, including 0.8 per cent of those in the 16-24 age group.

The BCS found the highest level of overall drug abuse in the South-west, with 11.1 per cent in the region saying they had taken an illegal substance in the past year. Levels of class A use were highest in the North-east (4.1 per cent) and North-west (4 per cent).

Other figures released by the Home Office disclosed that 161,100 drug seizures took place in 2005, up 50 per cent on the previous year. The increase was caused by a surge of cannabis seizures to 114,200, with 70 tonnes of herbal and resin cannabis and 208,000 plants confiscated. There were also 38,600 seizures of Class A drugs, up 31 per cent on the previous 12 months.

More than one-third of the population, about 11.3 million people, admitted using drugs at some point in their lives, including 4.4 million who have abused class A substances.

Vernon Coaker, a Home Office minister, said: "We are not complacent and know there is still a lot of work to do in tackling drug misuse, especially cocaine."

APRIL 3rd 2008
Once again, confusion is being sown in the political world by pressure groups and emotional people with sons who have been damaged by Cannabis. They wish to use the Classification System to 'send messages' to young people. Nothing could be more of a mistake. It is this misuse of the Classification System that caused a problem in the first place. Uisng laws to send messages is usually a mistake unless there is at the same time a real and proper relationship between the legal consequences and the outcome for society. If the legal consequences in practice are neither corrective or redemptive and designed only to send a message to others, it is vital that the message sent is very, very effective. In the case of Cannabis, the use of prison sentences for possession is  counterpoductive. There are many other highly effective ways of enforcing the view that smoking Cannabis is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in public or in employement. There are also other ways of punishing those who trade in or introduce Cannabis smoking to young people. Playing around frivolously with the classification system is to be avoided at all costs.

If Cannabis offenders were to be detained in centres suitably designed and run for their treatment, where drugs were non-existent, instead of in prisons from which they are destined to emerge as dealers having entered as users, then the law could deal with this matter. Cannabis is a very dangerous drug, In its mild version it is insidious and very dangerous for that reason, in the strong skunk version more obviously damaging. As a class C drug its use illegal. Moving it to Class B will only serve to give the message that Class C is not a serious classification. That is a really crazy thing to do, typical of modern UK thinking in some circles. It devalues language and law and smacks of boiled frog syndrome. I am amazed that Gordon Brown does not understand this.

MAY 7th 2008
The government has decided to ignore one of the 21 recommendations of its professional advisors and reclassify Cannabis to class B. This is a pointless and confusing action which will achieve nothing positive.

MARCH 28 2010
Much though I agreed with Professor Nutt that using the classification system to 'send messages' rather than use it according to the criteria on which it was established and the use for which it was designed, I was entirely with the Secretary of State for Health in expecting his resignation after his fatuous remarks about it being less dangerous than horse-riding. Once the reclassification to class B had been done because of the damage to society rather than the level of danger to each and every user, it clearly had to remain. For him to complain of political interference in scientific judgement is absurd - that is what politicians are for, when the public effects of applying reason to unreasoning citizenry has insupportable results.

Now, Professor Nutt, speaking as an independent expert, has shown himself to be completely out of touch with reality by advocating the supply of Methodrone to all clubs where young people are in search of a stimulant. In a way I am relieved to know that my original opinion of him was right. Decriminalisation of individual drug users is not equivalent to advocating any use at all of these drugs, all of which should be discouraged with forceful measures.

OCTOBER 4th 2010
Now at last, since we are putting people in jail for drug use, it is recognised that it is there they must be treated.

The Charity RAPT has been doing good work in prisons for nearly 20 years. In the last decade it's success and achievements have become established. Now at last it seems public recognition may lead to an expansion of its services.

Before 'Prison' can 'work', there has to be a way to convert them from colleges of crime and drug dealing to a place where it is understood we truly do have a 'captive audience' who can be inspired and changed with the right instruction.

In 1991 RAPt started as the Addicted Diseases Trust when Peter Bond, a recovering alcoholic, observed the success of abstinence-based programmes in the United States. He, Jonathan Wallace and RAPt trustee Michael Meakin, set up a charity to meet the needs of drug addicts in UK prisons. Jonathan passed on only recently. You can read the history here:
and here is the story today in The Independent