You are here
Home > News > U.K. Home Secretary Supports Stricter Classification for Cannabis

U.K. Home Secretary Supports Stricter Classification for Cannabis

United Kingdom Home Secretary Suella Braverman is considering assigning a stricter classification of cannabis under the nation’s drug laws over concerns that marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to serious health problems. Braverman’s review follows recent calls from fellow law enforcement leaders to reclassify cannabis as a Class A drug, the same category assigned to substances including heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy.

Braverman is against the decriminalization of cannabis, saying that efforts to reform cannabis policy send a “cultural” symbol that marijuana use is acceptable, according to a report from The Times. There is evidence to suggest that cannabis can cause serious health issues, such as cancer or birth defects, and even mental disorders like psychosis.

The U.K. Government currently considers cannabis a Class A drug. It carries penalties of up five years in prison for possessing the drug and up 14 years for producing or trafficking it. A stricter Class A drug classification for marijuana would increase penalties for marijuana offenses, with prison terms up to seven years in jail for possessing it and up to life imprisonment for producers or suppliers. Braverman was told by an unidentified source. The TimesThe home secretary feels that more severe sanctions are justified because they will deter cannabis trafficking and use.

“We’ve got to scare people,” she reportedly said.

The bid to classify cannabis more strictly continues the Conservative government’s bid to address illegal drug use. In July, the Home Office, the government ministry responsible for law and order, immigration and security, published a white paper revealing a proposal to revoke the driver’s licenses and passports of people with multiple drug-related convictions.

Leading Law Enforcement Officials Demand Harsher Weed Penalties

The home secretary’s support for stiffening the government’s classification of cannabis follows calls from law enforcement administrators earlier this week to reclassify marijuana as a Class A drug. At the time, The Home Office said there were no plans to reclassify the drug, while cannabis policy reform activists characterized the idea as “dangerous” and “crazy.”

At a Conservative Party conference held in Birmingham last week, a group of police and crime commissioners called for cannabis to be more strictly regulated, maintaining that it is time for the government to acknowledge that marijuana is more than “just a little bit of weed.”

While they have oversight over law enforcement in England and Wales through their elected offices, police and crime commissioners do not manage or pass any criminal laws.

At the Birmingham gathering, police and crime commissioners called for a change in cannabis policy, saying that it is “time we realized that it is not just a little bit of weed.” David Sidwick, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said that cannabis is “driving harm” in communities. 

“We’re seeing it because it’s a gateway drug,” he said. “If you look at the young people in treatment, the number one drug they are in treatment for is cannabis.”

Sidwick, who formerly worked in the pharmaceutical industry, claimed that a “wealth of new data” on the drug’s effects on health has come to light, meriting a “re-evaluation” of the penalties associated with cannabis offenses. Sidwick stated that drug education and rehabilitation are essential in order to ensure law enforcement. He also said that cannabis should be designated as a Class-A drug, which would allow for clarity regarding enforcement policies.

“There are so many crimes linked to drugs that, actually, by addressing this, by giving us this clarity, it makes it clearer for our police to be able to do what they need to do,” he said.

Research does not back the idea that marijuana can be a gateway drug to other dangerous or addictive drugs. A 2017 report by the Drug Policy Alliance stated that marijuana was the most commonly used illegal substance worldwide, but it had never been shown to cause a gateway effect.

“Research shows that marijuana could more accurately be described as a ‘terminus’ drug because the vast majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other illicit drugs,” reads the report.

Pot Activists Characterize Plan as ‘Crazy’

Peter Reynolds, the president of CLEAR, a group that campaigns against cannabis prohibition, said the proposal to reclassify the drug in the U.K. is “completely crazy,” adding that the Conservative commissioners are “promoting ideas which will increase crime, violence and child exploitation.”

“The idea of doing more of the same as the past 50 years, which has quite obviously dramatically failed, is ridiculous,” Reynolds said. “The only people who want this are ignorant politicians and the people who sell illegal drugs, I’m crystal clear about that.”

The proposal to classify marijuana as a Class-A drug was revealed by police officers and crime commissioners. A spokesperson for the Home Office claimed that there are no dangers in cannabis, so it is not appropriate to reclassify the drug.

“There are currently no plans to reclassify cannabis, which is controlled as a Class B drug in the U.K. on the basis of clear medical and scientific evidence of its harms,” the spokesperson said.

Media reports indicate, however that Braverman has begun reviewing all evidence and is now ready to make a decision.