On the Politics Show, Sunday 10 February 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin, the Chief Executive of Drugsline and the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett on the re-classification of cannabis issue.
RABBI ARYEH SUFRIN: Since the re-classification we found a complete change in the classroom where there was a certain degree of acceptability and together with that acceptability also came confusion, confusion of where they stand in terms of the law now since the government and the police authorities have downgraded the cannabis from a Class B to a Class C that spells to us a green light, which means it can't be dangerous anymore, it can't be a problem, and even the Government have accepted it, and it's taken a long time to actually reverse that understanding.
DAVID BLUNKETT MP: The re-classification of cannabis from B to C was firstly to reflect the way in which the police were operating they were actually giving people warnings rather than going through charging and court.
And secondly to get the message across that trafficking in drugs including cannabis was not only illegal but was extremely dangerous and we increased the penalty for cannabis trafficking from 5 to 14 years crucial now in terms of the Chief Constables now believing there is greater domestic production.
RABBI ARYEH SUFRIN:I do think that cannabis should be re-classified as a Class B drug and this is based purely on our own experiences primarily on people that call into our crisis line and also on our very big, large education programme which is self-evident from the feedback we get from young people as to their confusion in relation to where they stand in terms of cannabis today since it was de-classified.
DAVID BLUNKETT MP: I'm slightly bemused by those who claim that young people are deeply confused because the confusion arises because of constant changes, after all, if there's been around a twenty percent reduction in the last four or five years in usage by young people if they are coming forward in greater numbers which they are, for treatment and if we've been tougher, which we are being in terms of penalties for trafficking then I would have thought that it's the oldies like us that are confused and not the young people themselves.
RABBI ARYEH SUFRIN: Don't forget if one has traffickers and pushers you've got to have a supply yeah, they got to have supplies you have to users and the traffickers and suppliers are not going to be in business if there's no consumption, so what's the point of one end of the spectrum which ... which say let's take control of the traffickers and the suppliers and we won't be concerned about the consumer, the consumer has to get it from somewhere, where is the consumer going to get it from, they are only going to get it from those who supply the only way to stop supplying and trafficking is to other than shooting everybody is actually to stop the usage totally, and how do we get people to stop using we get people to stop using understanding what that usage does.
DAVID BLUNKETT MP: At the time of re-classification 5 years ago we had the Frank campaign which had the greatest number of contacts on the internet and telephone of any Government information and education campaign, it was a success, I believe it contributed heavily to the fall in cannabis usage that's taken place and I think we need to get those messages across that cannabis remains illegal.
RABBI ARYEH SUFRIN: How much is being spent on drugs education and you will have a miniscule amount if anything will come into that and that's got to be a big question. So we want to re-classify absolutely but what about the education that comes along with it and that also has to be resourced and that resource in terms of education resource in terms of financial support in order that there is a cohesion, multi-pronged approach to drugs education in this country.
DAVID BLUNKETT MP: I haven't changed my mind about the re-classification given the drop in usage, given the understanding of young people, given the danger of even further confusion - by all means let's take action in relation to skunk but let's not confuse the population even more than they apparently are already.
End of interview with Rabbi Aryeh Suffrin, the Chief Executive of Drugsline and the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett.
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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.
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The Politics Show Sunday 10 February 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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