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Europe: British Home Secretary Announces New Marijuana Possession Penalties
Marijuana had been down-scheduled to Class C in 2004, but the Labor government ignored the advice of its drug policy panel, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and moved to reschedule it earlier this year. The move came against a background of sensational British tabloid press reports on marijuana-induced madness and more down-to-earth concerns about links between teen marijuana use and a slightly increased incidence of schizophrenia, especially with "skunk," the apparent British name for any high-quality marijuana.
Although teen marijuana use has decreased since 2004, the British are in the throes of a full-blown reefer madness. Reports of "cannabis factories" being raided and hooligans blaming pot for their crimes are staples in the press.
According to Home Secretary Smith, first-time pot possessors will continue to receive warnings, as is the practice with marijuana under Class B, but second-time offenders will be hit with a $138 fine and third-time offenders will be arrested. It's for your own good, she said.
"While cannabis has always been illegal, reclassifying it to a Class B drug reinforces our message to everyone that it is harmful and should not be taken. Fewer people are taking cannabis, but it is crucial that this trend continues. I am extremely concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis, such as skunk, and the harm they can cause to mental health," she said.
"This is the next step towards toughening up our enforcement response -- to ensure that repeat offenders know that we are serious about tackling the danger that the drug poses to individuals, and in turn communities," Smith continued. "We need to act now to protect future generations."
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had supported the reclassification and welcomed the new penalties. "There is evidence of increasing harms to community safety associated with criminal behavior around the cultivation, distribution and the use of cannabis," said Tim Hollis, the ACPO Lead on Drugs. "While enforcement alone will not provide the total solution to a crime that is a global problem, this will act as a deterrent, along with better education about the impact of drugs. Where cannabis use is repeated or where there are aggravating circumstances locally, officers will take a harder line on enforcement and escalate their response accordingly. Every encounter at street level provides intelligence and helps us to act against the criminal gangs who seek to profit from cannabis production and distribution."
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