At the Conservative Party conference last week, police and crime commissioners (PCCs) called for cannabis to be classified as a class A drug. Suella Braverman echoed the calls, which would place cannabis in the same category as heroin and cocaine. No 10 ‘distanced’ itself from Suella Braverman’s reports and rejected them.
Class A drugs carry a potential life sentence for suppliers. Possession of class A drugs carries a maximum penalty of a seven-year prison sentence. This is a two-year increase from the maximum five-year custodial sentence for possession of a Class B substance.
PPCs have no impact upon criminal law or police procedures; however, they are responsible for the accountability and efficiency of the police service. The PCC for Dorset, David Sidwick, says that cannabis is causing increasing harm in communities due to its ‘gateway’ nature. He claims it is the most common drug young people seek rehabilitation for, and elevating it to be on par with heroin would allow for increased education and subsequent punishment.
Despite these reports, Downing Street has confirmed there are currently ‘no plans’ to reform the categorisation of cannabis. The prime minister’s spokesperson commented: ‘our priority is cracking down on illegal drugs and the crime they drive…we’ve launched a drug strategy to deliver a whole-system approach to tackling supply and demand.’
Amongst campaigners fiercely protesting against cannabis being illegal is Peter Reynolds, the president of the lobby group CLEAR, which aims to reverse the prohibition of cannabis. Reynolds believes its elevation to Class A status will do more harm than good, stating that the PCCs were ‘promoting ideas which will increase crime.’
Protesters have long argued that the UK’s rigid drugs strategy has so far been ineffective. Their proposals for reform include moving away from criminalisation and instead exploring the notion of a regulated market.
Reynolds adds that only ‘ignorant politicians’ want to continue using the law as a weapon in the war on drugs.