Unacceptable, lethal and Brown

The issue of cannabis reclassification is bubbling away nicely now. The ACMD has given its report to Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, and it’s been widely leaked as recommending cannabis stays in class C, but Gordon is having non of it; cannabis, he said on GMTV, is “unacceptable” because it’s “lethal”.

Now we all know Gordon is only a politician who has no qualifications in anything remotely connected with medicine, but even he should know what “lethal” means, but maybe not. So, just in case Gordon really is in the dark about the meaning of that word google defines it as:

Capable of causing death.
deadly: of an instrument of certain death; “deadly poisons”; “lethal weapon”; “a lethal injection”

Now no-one here is claiming cannabis is harmless, after all few things in the real world are, but if those who talk of the “harmless herb” are at one extreme of daftness, those who talk of it being “lethal” are at the other end of the reefer madness spectrum. Lets be clear about this, some people may be badly affected by cannabis, a few very badly but non are actually killed directly by it as “lethal” by its definition implies.

Brown is, in a word, wrong. Totally and utterly wrong.

But being so demonstrably wrong doesn’t seem to stop him stating his intention of upping the classification to class B to “send a message” that cannabis is “unacceptable” because it’s “lethal”. It’s hard not to be very rude about someone with this sort of approach to serious social issues.

Having asked the respected scientists for their report, and having got the “wrong” answer, he then announces that the decision to upgrade will be based on “wider issues” than just the scientific evidence of harm. In other words, the decision will be based on what he thinks is right for society based on his prejudices, not on properly conducted studies and the advice of mere experts.

If he does this, as has been said many times before now, it will end any pretense that UK drug policy is evidence based. Henceforth it will be a fact that prohibition is based on ignorance and bigotry, a matter of political record.

So what will happen when Gordon imposes the reclassification. Well, the Daily Mail will be happy you might think, but will they? Well, maybe not because today, the police dropped a bombshell which some of us have been expecting, but didn’t expect yet.

If cannabis is returned to class B, the way the law is enforced will basically not change and, as now, most people found in possession will be let off with a warning. There will after all be no more money made available for any stronger enforcement and the police simply don’t have the manpower to begin to do it. Actually, people with long memories will remember that before the move to C police officers were regularly turning a blind eye to possession because they had to, the law as was had long since become unenforceable. Nothing, of course, has changed in the meantime.

So in effect, the move to B if it happens will mean almost nothing. Almost, but not quite. What it will mean to cannabis users is a more repressive law will be largely unenforced. Far from “sending a signal”, it will bring the law into even greater disrepute.

One idea floated was that the police want to be able to issue on the spot fines for possession, but the idea of police being free to extort money in place of trail by jury is even more unacceptable than Mr Brown.

But more than that, what about speed? Speed – amphetamine – is class B. Will that now be largely ignored and people usually let off with a ticking off? Or will one class B drug be enforced differently to another – will cannabis become a “special” class B drug somehow more tolerated than speed? The mail seems to think so, as it reported:

However, there is no suggestion that other Class B drugs will be dealt with by “warnings”.

If true it looks like we’ll have two categories of class B. It’s getting messy and it’ll be interesting to see how Talk to Frank, the government’s anti drug advertising campaign, explains that one away.

Finally for now, there’s the awkward issue of Ketamine. “K”, as it’s known is a disassociative anesthetic popular with wreck heads. Ket heads are well known for party tricks such as “stair diving” or “fire hugging” and much more besides as they stumble around oblivious to the world outside their K hole. Ketamine, although not addictive in the physical sense is very enslaving psychologically and frankly in a different league to cannabis, but soon to have a lower rating.

As we’re sending out messages, where is the sense in giving people the idea that cannabis is more dangerous than ketamine?

So there we have it, a Prime Minister who decides what is “acceptable” based on his own ignorant view of the world, forcing through a law change which won’t be enforced in order to send a message which is plain wrong. A real Mr Bean moment if ever there was one.


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

One thought on “Unacceptable, lethal and Brown

  1. There is a problem that concerned citizens have no one to complain to on this matter. The press are frightened of reporting anything that is not at least tempered by the use of a negative scare story. The mass public do not really care since they can still abuse their drug of choice (albeit a “Hobson’s choice”) of alcohol. That substance is the one that makes the drugs categories a mockery.
    It is point of contention whether cannabis is more dangerous than amphetamines (although a little knowledge of the subject puts amphetamines ahead in levels of danger) but to imply (by social attitude and classification under the law) that cannabis is so far away in the spectrum of harm from alcohol is easily refuted by figures for hospital admissions for liver failure, heart disease, alcohol related violence, drunk-driving etc that suggest that there is some considerable harm associated with alcohol. Don’t forget of course we are talking about a product that is heavily regulated in production and sale to produce a very consistent quality – if alcohol were illegal the harm would increase astronomically (alcohol is a poison and you can purchase enough to kill yourself at most shops for less than £10).
    A sensible argument will never have any weight until we drag alcohol into the discussion. Admitting a real harm for this substance will not change how people have lived or continue to behave but will lessen the gap in the public’s mind. It is a comfortable illusion that people have about their society but it is one that involves persecuting a significant proportion of the population. Who cares if you are hit over the head by a crazed alcoholic or a crazed cannabis user (I know which I believe to be more likely to happen)? It makes little difference – they are both symptoms of a failing society and deeper social problems than the relative availability of intoxicating substances.
    To persecute people for their choice of substance is as wrong as persecuting someone for their choice of sexual partner, political beliefs or religion. We need to make another step in our society along the road that brought equality for all races, sexual orientations and genders. It has never just been one group in society that has caused all the problems but the divisions and persecution that mask the real situation – often at great social and financial cost.

    Let people choose how to live – they already do no law will change this !

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