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Substance misuse: Magistrates reconsider cannabis classification

Tom Lloyd, Young People Now, 16th August 2006

The Magistrates' Association is considering asking the Government to change the classification of cannabis for under-18s to reflect the dangers the drug poses for this age group.

A motion will be debated at the association's annual general meeting in November to see whether or not the association should call for the drug to be given a higher class B rating for under-18s, instead of its current class C rating.

John Fassenfelt, chair of the association's Youth Courts Committee, which is backing the motion, said: "It is not yet the association's policy, it is a motion being put to all members to see what their views are."

Fassenfelt said that cannabis can physically alter the development of the brain, and that its use can often lead to individuals experimenting with more serious drugs. This in turn can lead to people turning to crime to fund their habit.

Cannabis was downgraded from class B to C in January 2004. This meant possession of small amounts of the drug, although still illegal, would be less likely to result in arrest, although dealing would still be treated seriously.

Jenny McWhirter, head of education at charity DrugScope, said that the move would criminalise more young people.

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