Whilst the UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, has committed to a ‘what works’ review of different European drug policies, she can call on recently released research by Newcastle University to support her claims that Britain’s 40-year-old drug laws do not need reforming.
According to the study, the previous Labour government’s reclassification of cannabis from a Class B to Class C status – which lasted from January 2004 to January 2009 – served to increase smoking of the drug by 25%, and its regular consumption by 8%.
The temporary change in the law saw the maximum penalty for possessing the substance cut from five to two years and was widely supported as an important first step by pro-decriminalisation groups, eager to stress the importance of offering treatment for drug users as opposed to jail time.
This research comes at the same time that lawmakers in the UK have made a distinction between drugs produced from cannabis under rigorous scientific procedures and crude herbal cannabis, which carries a higher risk of abuse.
The main beneficiaries of this legislative tweak are medical technology companies based in the UK, like GW Pharmaceutical, who are now free to sell their cannabinoid-based products with significantly less restrictions. Their production of Sativex, a treatment for spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis, has had a roaring trade in in other parts of Europe, but progress in the UK has been hampered due to the strict legislation in place.
Whether legislation will be eased for all kinds of cannabis largely depends on May’s ability to focus on research findings like those collated by Newcastle University, and shrug off the spate of success stories currently emitting from parts of Holland, Germany and, most notably Portugal, where a state policy of ‘depenalisation’ has already achieved fruitful results.
on the frontline:
High time for drug reform?