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OCTOBER 29, 2003
4:12 PM
CONTACT:  Marijuana Policy Project
Bruce Mirken 415-668-6403
British Parliament Ends Marijuana Possession Arrests
LONDON - October 29 - By an overwhelming majority, the British Parliament voted today to approve the government's plan to end most marijuana possession arrests. Under the plan, marijuana will be "downgraded" to Class C, the classification reserved under British law for illicit drugs considered the least harmful.

The reclassification, approved by a vote of 316 to 156, is scheduled to take effect January 29.

Under most circumstances, marijuana possession will now bring a warning rather than arrest in most cases. Arrests will still be possible in certain "aggravated" circumstances, such as use of marijuana near a school when children are present.

In a speech to Parliament, Junior Home Office Minister Caroline Flint said the change was essential to developing an "honest and credible" anti-drug policy, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Laws that treated marijuana similarly to highly addictive and dangerous narcotics, she said, had hampered effective drug education efforts aimed at young people. "They can see for themselves the different effects of drugs, and therefore if we are not having an honest discussion, they will not listen," Flint said. "We must be honest and credible and rely on science, not prejudice." She also noted that the policy will allow police to focus their resources on "the most dangerous drugs," such as heroin and crack cocaine.

"Even our closest ally in the world -- the nation that marched side-by-side with the U.S. into Baghdad when much of Europe would not -- can no longer join America in its failed war on marijuana users," said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Britain deserves congratulations for doing what the U.S. government refuses to do: Base policies on science rather than fear. The complete failure of our government's hysterical exaggerations of the dangers of marijuana is shown by the recent national PRIDE survey documenting a sharp rise in teen drug use after wave upon wave of government anti-marijuana ads."


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