UK: Cannabis Offenders' Stigma To Be Erased

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Truth-Seeker, Feb 13, 2001.

  1. Media Awareness Project

    UK: Cannabis Offenders' Stigma To Be Erased
    Newshawk: The UKCIA -
    Pubdate: Thu, 08 Feb 2001
    Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
    Copyright: 2001 Telegraph Group Limited
    Author: Philip Johnston


    Thousands of cannabis users given a police caution should no longer have to declare their offences to prospective employers, the Government said yesterday.

    Although police will still keep a record of cautions, and they could be cited in court as evidence, ministers want to remove the "stigma" attached to their possession. They intend to amend the law so that a caution will become immediately "spent".The Home Office said: "The only obstacle to this change is finding a suitable legislative vehicle." Thousands cautioned for smoking cannabis in their teens will be spared being adversely affected as adults.

    Last year, police issued 57,000 cautions for cannabis use and possession. The plan was disclosed as part of the response to last year's Police Foundation inquiry into Britain's drugs laws.

    The Home Office was not persuaded to reduce penalties for cannabis or to reclassify harder drugs such as LSD and ecstasy.

    But it added: "The Government has accepted there is a separate problem relating to the stigma attached to possessing a caution.

    For example, when asked to confirm the existence of a criminal record by a prospective employer."

    After sitting for two years, the foundation inquiry, chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman, reported in March. While it stopped short of proposing the decriminilisation of cannabis, it said the drug should be downgraded from class B to class C and possession be punishable only by cautions or fixed fines. Ecstasy and LSD would be reclassified from A to B and penalties for possession cut from five years in jail to a maximum UKP 1,000 fine. The Government accepted 24 of the foundation's recommendations, rejected 37 and deferred a decision on 20. However, the principal findings which would have abolished custodial penalties for the private use of certain drugs, were ruled out.

    Dame Ruth said: "We believe the Government is mistaken and complacent. It leaves us with a law that is out of touch with reality, misleading in its rank of relative harm, disproportionate in its sanctions, dependent on police discretion to be workable and out of step with public attitudes." The Home Office said health risks had to be considered where drugs such as ecstasy and LSD were concerned.

    Danny Kushlick, director of the drug law reform group Transform, said the Government's response "flies in the face of public opinion and commonsense". He added: "In their desperation not to appear soft on drugs, they are doggedly pursuing a policy that actually creates crime and maximises the harm drugs cause." However, Paul Betts, whose daughter Leah, 18, died after taking ecstasy in 1995, said: " Common sense has prevailed. I thought the foundation report was absolute rubbish."

    MAP posted-by: Andrew

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