A campaign begins this week to remind people of changes to cannabis laws, but a future Tory government will reverse the decision to downgrade the drug, according to Michael Howard.
Labour plans to reclassify the drug from class B to class C next week but the move is being criticised by the British Medical Association, as well as the Conservative leader.
It is feared that a relaxation of cannabis laws, which make police unlikely to arrest users despite it remaining illegal, will send the wrong message out about the dangers of the drug.
But Sir Michael Rawlings, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said it would be "logically stupid" to regard cannabis in the same class as other class B drugs, such as amphetamines.
Do you think that reclassification of Cannabis sends out the wrong message? Is the new law clear enough?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for you e-mails.The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
It is a sadly inevitable moment when cannabis becomes reclassified because of what this action represents. Criminals, by which I mean loosely all citizens who deliberately flout to greater or lesser degree the laws of the land, are increasingly successful at pushing back the boundaries of law and order, and affecting the social landscape to the detriment of future generations. This latest foolhardy step is just one more indicator of the government's unwillingness to control its people for their own sake, and send the correct message to all and any who cannot live within the rules. The consequences of a cannabis free-for-all will be streets far less safe than before.
M Williams, Norwich, England
I do not feel that the reclassification of the drug sends the message that it is safe, smoking is legal and yet the message that it is bad for your health has still got through to people. The real issue is that people will keep smoking cannabis, just as people have always done, openly and with more and more public acceptance, harsher laws won't affect this trend but softer laws will free up valuable police time to catch 'real' criminals.
My main problem with this law is that it does not go far enough, by making it less dangerous for people to posses the drug and more dangerous for people to deal it. The only way to really stamp out cannabis dealing will be to legalise it, this would provide more government control over the drug, revenue through taxes on its sales and would show that the government can keep up with the changing views of modern society.
W Bugler, Hereford, UK
I can't believe the government is changing the law on cannabis. This weekend I have had to deal with my 14 year old son coming home stoned. In his eyes he has done nothing wrong "it's something all my mates do" he said. The wrong message is being sent out to impressionable teenagers without a thought of the consequences.
Sarah S, UK
To all the people whose children have had their lives apparently ruined by cannabis, a small wake-up call: Cannabis was illegal when they did this. If it did not even exist, they would have destroyed their lives with some other substance or in some other way; perhaps even alcohol in which case they would have destroyed the lives of others, as well. Good on the government.
Ken, South Africa
Looks like this government have been sensible, and have come up with a confusing law, which requires a £1m ad campaign to explain it. I am pleased they haven't wasted the £1m on new hospital beds, medicare, homes for the homeless or food for the staving. Well done.
Legalize it, tax it and treat it like alcohol. Use common sense.
Julie King, Playa del Rey, Calif. USA
There we go, another weak government plan - if you can't enforce a law legalise it. What happened to smoking kills? Will this die a death as well?
I have seen my friends who have smoked cannabis in the past, now they are about 35 and they are all depressive and prone to mood swings, even they admit that's there twisted characters are the results of a wasted youth, cannabis DOES affect the human mind in the long term, my friends, and many old 'college smokers' are living evidence, I say to any young people out there don't kid yourself.. you will be different in the future if you choose to smoke cannabis.. this is in my opinion a fact.
James Hanworth, Reading UK
The government is right. Total decriminalisation would mean young people would not need to seek out drug dealers and thereby reduce the chances of contact with hard drugs
Tony Bennett, Ashton in Makerfield
lets face facts people have been taking mind altering substances since the dawn of time! However in this day and age of genetic engineering surely the scientific community could work either on a synthetic drug or to genetically alter their composition thus removing harmful/addictive side effects, not only would this resolve many health issues it would also raise mass revenues and remove the criminal element from the equation!
M Reid, Scotland UK
When will people realise that Drugs will always play a part in society? The criminals will continue profit, unless the Government opens it eyes. Legalise cannabis and control it.
Wizard, Merseyside, UK
Bad move UK. Pot is part of the "drug ladder" heavy drug users all tried. Next comes much more dangerous drugs. Stay tough, teach the US how it should be done!
Nate Brown, Macon, GA USA
With regards to cannabis being a 'gate-way' drug to harder drugs, I wonder how many cannabis users tried alcohol first? Surely the only gate-way' drug is the 'safe' legal drug - Alcohol! The government really need to focus on drug ABUSE. The REAL issue is any drug taken in excess is going to be harmful. I am pleased they are downgrading cannabis; it's a step in the right direction. P.S. If the government are 'ok' with possession of small quantities of cannabis - are they even thinking about where it came from?
Matt, Herts, UK
The whole thing is absurd! The government spend £1 million just on advertising the scheme! This is a complete and utter waste of our money.
Tom Eccles, England
I believe it is a person's human right to use cannabis, if that is what they wish to do. Some people seem to think that downgrading it will make more people want to use it. I think the Dutch approach has proved successful. They have some of the lowest rates of drug use in the world and it's basically legal! And besides, who are you (the government) to decide what I can and can't put in my body?
Daniel Crothers, Aldershot, UK
Alcohol is 10 times worse in its addictive effects, impairment and impact on long term health, not to mention the devastating psychological effects on the family of an alcoholic.
Diane, Seattle, WA
Even though cannabis is considered soft, all forms of drugs are dangerous and bad news. If they don't eventually destroy the user, they certainly can destroy those who care about the user.
The law on cannabis has been a mess since the passing of the current drugs act in the 1970's. Until then the emphasis was on treatment, with addicts supplied free of charge by the state, (simplified). Currently we make it illegal to possess any drug, fail to properly enforce the law, and allow the criminal to take the 'market forces' profits. That's really stupid. If cannabis is dangerous how about providing it free to those who want it, coupled with rigorous enforcement of laws against those who unlawfully supply drugs. Kill the market! Cut the crime and damage that result.
Barry P, Havant England
My personal feeling with all drugs is legalise them and regulate them. Eliminate the black market and the crime associated with illegal drugs trade. Make penalties for crimes committed under the influence of all drugs, including alcohol, very tough. This requires everyone to make their own choices and accept responsibility for those choices.
S. Taylor, UK
Something does need be done about cannabis and other drugs. I know that the supply of illegal drugs is out of control and probably uncontrollable. In my opinion all drugs should be controlled by the state. Licence cigarette companies to supply various strengths of cannabis, with a healthy element of tax. This can be hypothecated to the NHS for harm done to the user. It is time the government looked to other countries, e.g. Canada, for inspiration in the control of drugs. Take control of the supply and take the profit out of drugs and there will be none.
Christine M, London
I view pot the same as alcohol in its effects. Although I think alcohol seems to impair ones abilities much more severely that weed. One huge negative effect of marijuana that most pot smokers will never admit though that I have observed first hand is its effect on motivation. I have friends that as long as they have an ample supply of weed it is very hard to impossible to get them to get up off of the couch and do anything.
If our governments reasoned this out logically, they would legalize it. Think of all the tax revenue it would raise, all the crime it would reduce, and all the resources it would free up to address more serious concerns. If the issue is one over health effects, let's compare it to the current drugs of choice: tobacco and alcohol. We all know how many people die from those two drugs every year, but our governments continue to ignore these obvious facts. Why? Because it's socially acceptable...
Carl Hitch, Oxford, USA
Yes it should be downgraded, I know at least 30 people who's only real crime is to smoke cannabis. They hold down proper jobs, they can hold a normal intellectual conversation, they are educated. Of these - one has had mental health problems, and of these one has had difficulties with harder drugs. In my view, this is not a "demon" drug which leads to heroin addiction and a spell in an institution. For a lot of people it's simply another way to unwind, and it seems ludicrous to me to put Grade B penalties on these people for doing something no more harmful than smoking or drinking alcohol.
I think the government has made a bad decision about cannabis. I tried it, didn't like the effect, and don't use it - but for years I lived among people who did. Over a period of years I watched a number of bright, outgoing young people gradually become introverted and self-absorbed, with an increasing inability to think fast or make quick (and easy)decisions. Over time, out of six regular cannabis users, three developed obvious mental health problems. Of those three, one went on to descend into a nightmare world of paranoid schizophrenia. One might suggest that these problems would have developed without the use of cannabis, but 3 out of 6 is far higher than the national average - and cannabis has long been recognised as a danger to those who have latent mental health problems.
I am fed up reading all these tales of woe. Here's mine. I started smoking cannabis at 16, got a University degree at 20, a PhD at 25. I am 38 now and still happily smoke a couple of joints a night. I have never been arrested, never robbed anyone, never lost a job, and have never suffered from any health problems, mental or otherwise.
Neil M, UK
It's a muddled and dangerous policy. The Tories are right and not give in to the minority liberal elite, and then they have a fair chance at the next election..
John Karran, Merseyside, UK
The reclassification of cannabis sends out only one message: that the government and the police forces want to be able to concentrate on the more serious effects of hard drug abuse - burglary, violent crime and the resulting social burden - rather than wasting time on the frankly minimal ills caused by the recreational use of cannabis. I appreciate that this is a shock, but it would seem that the government are being eminently sensible on this occasion.
F, London, UK
The tax revenues from alcohol make a lot of money for the government. The revenues from illegal drugs make the pushers a lot of money. With this money comes power, influence and envy. Illegal drugs are the scourge of our cities, accounting for a great deal of crime. The choice is clear, make all drugs legal. Remove the dealers' profit and support peasant farmers in the source countries rather than the drug barons. The current situation is self sustaining, can never be solved and benefits only the undeserving.
JP, Hayling Island England
Cannabis should be legal. Alcohol should be illegal. Tobacco should be legal (if smoked away from non-smokers). Its ok to damage your own health - but not other peoples' health as well.
Pete, London UK
I believe that long term use of cannabis can lead to mental problems. However, I also believe that cannabis is a lot less harmful than tobacco and possibly even alcohol. I agree with the reclassification but legalisation...that's a close call.
Chris Turner, London, UK
Whether the government decides to upgrade it to Class A, or downgrade it to class C people who were buying it from the dealers will continue buying it. The only right thing to do is to legalise this drug, tax it and spend the money on improving peoples awareness of the risks, which will reduce the amount of illegal traffic and free up police time for solving more important crimes. Personally, I have smoked cannabis, experienced some negative effects such as short-term memory loss and paranoia, and made a choice not to smoke it again. I think government should have more faith in people's ability to make personal decisions like this.
Kat, Nottingham, UK
What next...a free syringe with every purchase of heroin and 3for2 offers on cannabis bags? Down with all the drugs!
Sabina Jabry, UK
Although I do agree with the policy in question, I think it is relevant to add that the Netherlands may have a lower recorded level of cannabis use than the UK, but has the highest level of Class A drug addiction in Europe. Is this the next step for the UK?
I agree that it brings out mental health problems. I have been a regular smoker of cannabis before, and I have noticed that the more I smoke, the more I noticed small problems with my mental health. I smoke occasionally now, as I think it's better to have it "every now and then" instead. You feel more of an effect not having it every day. I still wouldn't make it legal, but I do think that it is right to downgrade the drug to class c.
Nick, West Midlands
As an ex-cannabis smoker, I have seen a disturbingly high proportion of my old friends develop schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. More research needs to be done on the possible connections between cannabis and mental health. I have seen wonderful people's lives completely demolished by schizophrenia, cannabis being a common link in all of them, and it's worrying. The arguments that praise cannabis against alcohol are silly - whilst alcohol is also a dangerous drug, you can't legitimise one by the crimes of another.
No, they aren't.
It should be made further illegal, and that's coming from a 19 year old student.
It means more people can get it, which means more people can smoke it in public, which means more people can damage my lungs.
Daniel Thomas, St Helens, England
I think the move in the UK is correct. Drug classifications can always be changed based on the experience of the society involved. One wishes that such thought was given when the laws against it were first written. In California, initial marijuana statutes were a convenient tool for the police to harass Mexican migrants. Time will tell who is right and for the moment and that should satisfy everyone with an open mind.
Terry Day, San Francisco, California
By all means, allow people to use cannabis. However we should revoke their driving licences, and prevent them from seeking assistance on the NHS for the damage that this drug does. The same strategy should then be applied to all substances, before making them legal.
People need to realise that driving, health, and drugs cannot co-exist, so they need to make a choice. Either your freedom and healthcare, or the scourge of drugs.
Cannabis is a plant that grows naturally on the earth. It is wrong to deny people the right to use natural substances in whatever way they like. I would argue that cannabis should be legal to possess, and to grow for personal use, otherwise the government is lining dealers' pockets. For those that incessantly argue the 'gateway drug' point, I object that there are individuals who have a pre-disposition toward experimentation, just as there are those who are narrow minded and poorly informed.
Matt, Mold, Wales
Matt, of Mold, Wales, states: "Cannabis is a plant that grows naturally on the earth. It is wrong to deny people the right to use natural substances in whatever way they like." I'd like to point out to Matt that heroin is a "natural substance" too - and so are some of the most dangerous poisons on the planet. Does their natural origin mean - as Matt proposes - that it's okay to experiment with them, or should the law protect people like Matt from their own ignorance? I'd vote for the latter.
Chris Hunter, Bedford, England
Let just people smoke cannabis if they feel like smoking cannabis. To all those who want to criminalise cannabis, I ask: what's the matter with you? Leave other people alone; don't intrude their freedom of opinion and their privacy. Cannabis users do not harm anybody. Last remark: growing marijuana should immediately legalized as a very good way to defeat illegal traffic.
Dr Harry Mason, Pisa, Italy
Not only should it be legalised it should be sold over the counter for non-medical needs. This would reduce dealers profits and hopefully push them away from the crime.
Keep it illegal so the government can't charge tax on it. Works out cheaper that way.
As an approved Social Worker in a mental health team I never thought I would find myself agreeing with Michael Howard, but I have seen too many people who use cannabis and have become psychotic, aggressive, paranoid, delusional and violent and I have had to section them and take them into hospital in handcuffs for the protection of themselves and others. The cost to society in medical treatment and crime and relationship breakdown makes it a serious social problem which cannot be left to the individual.
Well, if an anonymous social worker is going on about the supposed bad effects of cannabis, then I would expect some honesty about the bad effects of alcohol as well. From what I've seen, the effects of alcohol are far worse. Drunk drivers, abusive spouses, alcohol poisoning, all wreak havoc on the family. Let's hear more about alcohol abuse and why it should be illegal before we go on about cannabis.
Les, UK.: Read the BBC interview with the Doctor and let's see how it opens your eyes.
I agree with several of the Conservative's underlying values but recently it seems they always have to have the opposite opinion of Labour be it cannabis classification, Iraq, or tuition fees etc. It's a shame they don't base their opinions on their underlying values rather than oppose Labour on everything just to try and win anti-labour votes.
Robert Stephenson, Altrincham
The Drug War has failed. The purpose of making cannabis a crime was to punish the hippies and anti-establishment types in the 1960s and 70s, because if getting high were so bad we would have do away with alcohol and tobacco as well. The point is that adults can use these products responsibly and we don't need Big Brother protecting us from ourselves.
Christopher, New York City
One has to question the motives of a government that is happy to see its population become increasingly drugged.
F Callen, England
On one hand it may be a good idea to decriminalise the use of cannabis and that for the majority its negative effects will be judged as no worse than smoking and alcohol. The other side of the coin is that there has not yet been enough research into the effects on long term mental health.
Ray Reid, Netherlands
Making drugs legal does not solve the health problem, but it removes much of the basis for criminal activity and removes any motivation for them to create more drug takers. Which in turn itself reduces the overall health problem.
The only visible consequence of prohibition is that the taking of drugs has increased and drug crime has spiralled.
I do not condone drug taking because of the health risk, but I fail to see what has been achieved so far by criminalising it.
The drug cannabis is safe in moderation. However, like all 'drugs' excessive misuse can have negative effects. Most users will experience these effects in some form but like everything in life it's up to the individual to know their limits. I have used it for 10 years and still have a lust for life and a decent memory although like drinking there can be a 'hangover'! The message that all drugs are bad is too black and white. Let common sense prevail!
I see no reason why adults should be prevented from taking ANY drugs in the privacy of their own homes. Prohibition of any drug never has worked and never will, it just generates a criminal underground! Inform people of the risks, let them make up their own minds, then supply through taxed and licensed outlets, exactly as we do with alcohol and tobacco, which both kill far more people than any illegal drugs!
Oh, what hypocrites some people really are. Most of the people talking about how bad cannabis is are the same people getting disgustingly drunk every weekend. There's a double standard where alcohol and cannabis are concerned. Look at the statistics about how many people die as a result of alcohol abuse each year compared to that of cannabis, then come talk to me about it.
Anabel Morris, UK
Surely, the government is really just declassifying to make their crime stats look better as they are ineffective. The next step will be to legalise cannabis and then slap a huge tax on it.
Steve, London, UK
No, it doesn't. Look at the results in Holland. Smoking cannabis is widely tolerated there and they have the lowest rate of users in Europe! However every open policy on this matter must be helped with a true education programme for youngsters.
We're all adults here - if we understand and accept the risks associated with cannabis, then what's the problem? I smoke one joint a week, but otherwise I don't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or have a weight problem.
I think, in retrospect, my chances of a self-induced medical condition are much lower than my chances of developing cancer from all of the passive smoking I'm forced to do while waiting for trains for my daily commute.
I live in Holland and felt obliged to comment. In England, the person you bought your cannabis from would also often offer you other drugs. In Holland you buy your weed or cannabis in a normal shop that pays taxes to the government. Absolutely no other drugs are ever seen or tolerated in these shops. I notice that most people commenting in this forum have little or no real knowledge or experience of the subject. The shop I buy from has been open for thirty years. Good luck with your binge drinkers and drug dealers. England is a weird place ...
Pete, Utrecht, Holland
Having been on the receiving end of an abusive partner, I have every reason to believe that his excessive use of cannabis was the cause of his violent mood swings and severe changes in personality. This got worse and worse the more he smoked. I do not agree with any type of drug, including nicotine and alcohol, and I certainly think that the decision to down grade cannabis is a very wrong decision indeed. It IS dangerous, it DOES cause paranoia and other mental problems and people should not be led to believe otherwise.
Cannabis can help a great many people who live with debilitating illnesses. Now the Conservative Party are insistent that they will reclassify the drug, if they are elected to government. It makes you wonder what the government's feelings on cannabis would be if they could charge the scandalous amount of tax that they deem necessary from cigarettes and alcohol. These two "drugs" cause more serious damage than cannabis.
I work on the biology of cannabis. Whilst it is probably true that in a proportion of users cannabis may potentiate schizophrenic events, in the vast majority it does not. I would like to know what the figures are for schizophrenia diagnoses over the last 30 years because if there is no dramatic rise due to the much greater incidence of cannabis use over this time then I would suggest that these claims may essentially be bogus.
The issue with cannabis is whether the harm inflicted upon people by prosecution is greater than the harm caused by using the drug. Giving someone a criminal record is far more detrimental to their life potential than smoking cannabis ever will. Besides, what happened to the right to self determination?
M Sharples, Perth, Australia.
My brother has schizophrenia. It is an awful condition, and heart-rending to see someone suffer from it. There is growing and incontrovertible evidence that heavy dope-smoking in the teenage years sharply increases the risk of schizophrenia. My brother smoked a lot of dope when 16 and 17, something no-one in his family was really aware of at the time. Heroin may be more addictive, but cannabis is physiologically, more damaging. It is convenient for the government to reclassify cannabis, but it is a dangerous move.
This reclassification is a huge fudge. If cannabis possession is a crime, there must be a punishment. So what is it? If there is no punishment other than confiscation, then there is no crime so the government should admit that it has decriminalized cannabis and stop the confusion, just as it did when it lowered the age of consent for homosexual acts as soon as it took office.
Charles, Sao Paulo, Brazil
I think the decision to downgrade is a correct one. It is naive to give the impression that cannabis is more harmful than cigarettes and alcohol and even dangerous if it is in the same category as the sometimes fatal amphetamines. There are no recorded fatalities of direct cannabis intoxication. Young people are not entirely naive.
Jon Jones, Streatham, London, England
The main point that people need to know is that all drugs, legal or illegal, actually increase stress/depression in the long run when taken to excess. Alcohol relieves stress in small quantities, but people then drink more and more thinking it will have the same effect of a 'high'. They are a 'quick fix' hideaway from real life - hard drugs and cannabis are just quicker acting and more dangerous than alcohol. Surely the main message the government should be giving is that people should not use any drug as a crutch and deal with stress by for example taking up a relaxing hobby such as gardening, running, etc. which release genuine endorphins into your brain and make you feel good.
Duncan Robinson, Manchester
All cannabis does is turn you into a gibbering, paranoid wreck for a few hours with red eyes and hunger pangs. You either spend the time sitting in silence, talking about conspiracies or psycho-analysing everyone (including yourself). I can think of better ways to spend my time!
Cannabis is quite dangerous. I have only smoked it once or twice and it made me very ill. It is cancer causing and is more likely to lead to cancer due to the user inhaling more deeply. Another thing that people fail to mention is the mental health problems cannabis can cause such as Schizophrenia. Scary indeed. I am firmly against the declassification of this drug.
James, Plymouth, England
I recently moved to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands, and I have never known so many people who smoke cannabis. Cannabis use seems to be much more widespread here. In Holland, every 10-year-old child knows that a 'coffee shop' is not a place where you go for a coffee, and everyone knows where these coffee shops are. Yet, most Dutch people have never seen the inside of one, or they've tried cannabis once or twice just to see what it's like and never again. I think this shows that the Dutch policy is working.
What I'm not saying is that cannabis isn't dangerous; there are people who just shouldn't use it, and for some people, it can lead to serious problems. However, so can alcohol - and that's not illegal.
I think that legalizing, or, like the government is proposing, reclassifying cannabis is a good idea, because it will keep people away from much more dangerous substances, like heroin or cocaine.
Jennifer, Bangor, Wales
The benefits of cannabis are well known to users. Any attempt to dissuade me, for instance, from smoking it, would have to acknowledge these benefits as well as make clear what is the correlation between the amount smoked and ill effects.
Anthony Stubbs, Portsmouth, England
The government - characteristically - is fudging this issue. Reclassification, for its limited effect, is welcome but it is high time cannabis was properly decriminalised. Yes - I am sure there are dangers, as with smoking and drinking. But this coercive law does not work. Far better to inform people of the dangers and trust them to make a decision.
Alexander Davies, Hull, UK
Cannabis is only a gateway drug because you have to buy it from a dealer illegally - hence your dealer will try to move you on to harder more profitable drugs. I doubt the gateway argument would hold water if you could buy cannabis from the corner shop. Would anyone argue that tobacco is a gateway drug to cannabis? After all you smoke tobacco and you smoke cannabis - I can see a link there if I care to.
I don't understand why so many people see cannabis as a gateway drug. Every person that tries alcohol does not become alcoholic in the same sense that a person who uses cannabis does not become a hardened drug addict. It is harmful but no more so than cigarettes and alcohol. The reclassification is a step forward allowing people more freedom and reducing the amount of police time and money wasted.
For so long cannabis has been classed alongside Amphetamines! The current drugs classification is flawed, and needs to be revised.
Will the new change of the laws do anything to stop the poisonous low grade soap bar cannabis from saturating the black market? Most cannabis smokers in the UK do not even know that they are not smoking 'real' cannabis.
Alan Catwell, Derby, UK
I read the comment: "Mental hospitals are full of cannabis users who thought it was safe to use" and nearly died laughing! How misguided! More realistically it should be: "Mental hospitals are full of mentally ill patients, who's use of cannabis exasperated their pre-existing mental condition'. I wonder how many people would say their mental illness was directly caused by alcohol? None I'll wager, merely lots who would say alcohol doesn't help their condition. Someone's been watching too much 'Reefer Madness', and believed it!
No the government are not right. It does send out the wrong message, it's still illegal. They should legalise all drugs not just reclassify cannabis. Cigarettes and alcohol are bad for your health, but they are legal, and there is no social outrage for taking either. If we were to take the crime out of drugs, or at least buying drugs, people would be less inclined to move up the drug tree so to speak.
Tax it, control it, but make it legal to over 18's and the cool factor will plummet.
Tim, London, UK
Cannabis forms a function in people's lives like nicotine and alcohol. This is it helps you escape reality for a while. If your life is bad enough for you to need to escape, you have a problem. Ask for help, stop trying to escape, it'll only make matters worse!
I. Noble, Stafford, GB
Let us be consistent here. Alcohol and tobacco cause far more damage than cannabis. Although I do not agree with any of these substances, we have to be seen to be consistent and fair in the dealing of these substances if the law is to be respected. For that reason, the change in the law on cannabis is to be welcomed.
Bilal Patel, London, UK
I just think that we can't allow other big killers like smoking, drink etc and get on our high horse about others. We even allow smoking knowing that it affects non-smokers breathing in fumes but nothing is done. The law whatever it is should be fair and consistent and at the moment it isn't, its biased towards addictive and damaging products that bring in high taxes.
So if cannabis shouldn't be downgraded to class 'C' what should tobacco and alcohol be upgraded to? We should bear in mind that whether or not a drug is classified depends more on history than actual danger to health. Alcohol and tobacco kills are far higher percentage of it's users than cannabis.
Kevin, Liverpool, UK
I personally do not believe that cannabis is any worse than alcohol. In fact, as far as safety to others, it might be better. Drunks get in fights and drive cars while under the influence. Those who are stoned typically eat everything in the cupboards and then fall asleep.
Justifying a bad thing - Cannabis, by using another - Alcohol, is lunacy.
The social ills of illegal drugs are a product of their illegality; not the drugs themselves. Governments have tried for over half a century to control drug use with criminal law. It doesn't work. Legalise the production and distribution. Tax them accordingly. Leave their use, or not, up to the individual. Just as we do with tobacco and alcohol.
For many Cannabis is a "gateway" drug, before they try more potent substances. Increasing its availability will increase its usage, and lead to greater numbers of people addicted to class A drugs.
Andrew, St. Albans, England
I believe that people who use it to help relieve a genuine medical condition such as M.S. should be allowed to use it legally. Perhaps a special prescription. However, I also firmly believe that others should be prosecuted as they are helping to keep drug-dealers on our streets.
There should be no classification system. If you are in possession of drugs, be it cannabis or heroin, you should be prosecuted to the full extent to the law. There are NO socially accepted drugs.
Doug Ritchie, UK
We can't compare ourselves with the Netherlands or the rest of Europe, we are still struggling with the binge drinking that still occurs here despite bar opening times coming more into line with our European counterparts. We are unfortunately a nation of people with no impulse control, so have to rely on laws to save us from ourselves
Cannabis causes paranoia and a multitude of other neurosis. People who advocate its use are either misguided at best or just misinformed idiots.
If in 50 years time, its proven that cannabis use among other things, causes mental problems. Will people be suing?
Mental hospitals are full of cannabis users who thought it was safe to use. In twenty years time there will be an epidemic of mental illness in this country, caused by this misinformed Government.
I applaud the Government for their stance and I applaud the ad campaign about it's effects and continuing illegality. Nobody I've spoken to believes it's totally safe - not even those that smoke it! Please don't patronise us Mr Howard - you'll not be getting my vote until you can demonstrate where the extra money will come from to re-start prosecutions for people caught to £10 worth of cannabis.
The Tories just lost my vote.
Allan, Glasgow, Scotland
A step in the right direction for decriminalising of the drug. Cannabis is one of the least harmful drugs around, much less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and there is no known lethal dosage. How many drugs can we say that about?
Louis Clementson, UK
If one wants to damage their health and well-being by smoking pot then so be it. It's their body and well-being; no amount of regulations can stop additions. If smokers of any kind, alcoholics, obese people are made to pay their own medical bills, they will think twice before they set out to damage their health.
Nelson, London, England
It seems to me that the majority of people against the declassification know very little about cannabis and the people most likely to use it. It's not addictive, lung cancer is not likely as smoking one joint now and then is not comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day, it doesn't make you violent (quite the opposite), and it doesn't make people desperate to try 'harder' drugs. I know a lot of people who regularly smoke cannabis, and they are ALL professional, successful people in responsible positions. What is the problem with it?
Doug, Wrexham, Wales
I agree with the declassification of the drug with education I'm sure the intellect of the next generations will be able to make informed decisions.
Rhys Hughes, London, UK
I think it makes good sense to declassify cannabis. The main problem, still, is that it is cultivated, distributed and controlled by gangsters. It is they who will ultimately profit. The Government must look at the control and taxation issue and the removal of the criminal element.
John Dunn, Glasgow, Scotland
Education is the key, not criminalization! Adults should be allowed to make their own informed decisions about their lives.
Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, London, UK
The government is caught between a rock and a hard place,
on one side they have decided to downgrade cannabis because Police officers complain, and rightly so, that arresting people for possessing or smoking cannabis is a waste of their time and resources, that would be better spent tackling crimes that have a far greater damaging effect to the lives of the public. But on the other hand downgrading it sends out the message that it must not be as big a risk as it was.
I think the decision the government has made is the most sensible, it is still illegal. Well done to the government for having the courage to attempt to solve such a delicate issue.
Those saying that they know people whose lives have been destroyed by cannabis are missing the point. Lives have been destroyed by smoking, drinking, over eating even! There will always be people who can't control themselves - this doesn't make cannabis a dangerous drug.
I don't think it has mattered for the last 30 odd years whether or not its legal as it has never been successfully controlled. If the Tories win the next election exactly what will they do differently to prevent it being on the streets? Why can't Politicians stick to topics where they can actually achieve something and focus on Policing against theft and violence etc?
Andrew Marriott, Edenbridge, UK
I think cannabis should be illegal, it is not a social drug and I feel it will destroy many people's lives. It is should stay as a class B for it is making people feel confused.
Natalie Weaver, England
You don't see half of Holland wandering about in a stoned daze or having inflated cancer rates or all on death row for mugging OAP's do you? All this scare mongering is nothing more than idiocy. The fact that the Tories are pitching to undo all this shows that they are determined to react against anything the government do, and reactionary policies purely for votes is no way to run a country. They have just thrown what little election chance they had right out of the window. Stop telling people how to live their lives and get on with sorting out stuff that matters.
This is just another populist policy by the government. Just because cannabis use is widespread does not mean the law should be relaxed. Keep cannabis as an illegal class B drug and up grade the other class B drugs to class A. Are the government unable to see the widespread damage drugs of all classes (including alcohol abuse) cause to society? Especially the young and vulnerable.
Martin, Leicester, England
It is not so much what has been done as how, that is the issue. Cannabis is potentially very dangerous and young people especially should be told of the risks. Whilst there are no controls regarding source, strength and quality the risks are too high. There should be either complete decimalisation with full controls or a return to the old situation.
John Whelan, Redditch, UK
Richard from Surrey: people smoke tobacco, people drink alcohol, and people take Prozac, people using drugs to get through life. Now why are these things legal, but for me to want to smoke a joint and relax is so frowned upon.
I personally have reduced my alcohol intake dramatically, alcohol leads to aggression and rowdiness, cannabis however leaves me wanting to socialise and eat. How many fights do you see around the town at the weekends? How many times have people been arrested for "Stoned and Disorderly".
I am an IT Professional and pay taxes, I am an adult and simple want to be able to relax have a smoke without fear of reprimand.
Controlled legalisation of all drugs is the only way we can legitimately begin to solve the drug problem. Once it's out in the open we can help those who have been foolish enough to take drugs and get hooked on them. With controlled legalisation we can remove drug gangs, we can reduce drug associated crime, we can control and cure health problems associated with drugs. The only way to clean up the drugs scene is to revise the way we approach the problem. Controlled legalisation is a radical way but, as banning doesn't seem to be working, what choices are left?
Zorba Eisenhower, UK
Cannabis can be taken in various forms, and as such its effects and the risk involved vary widely. On the other hand, the risks involved with taking the other Class C drugs - anabolic steroids and tranquilisers - seem to me to be worse than any of the risks with cannabis which in turn is not nearly as dangerous as the other Class B drugs! Not only is it "logically stupid" to regard cannabis in the same class as other class B drugs, but it is also "logically stupid" to regard it in the same class as anabolic steroids and tranquilisers!
Probably yes, because it will free Police time up to catch the real crooks who peddle crack and the like. As far as the health issues go, cannabis is no more harmful than alcohol if taken in moderation by adults. I packed up alcohol ten years ago and now enjoy the occasional puff whilst listening to your excellent music over on Radio 3. I'm no spring chicken, 63 years old in fact, and have never felt healthier in my life.
Cannabis should be legalised... then taxed!
I'm off to Amsterdam next weekend where the government got it right - allow the sale, and separate dope from alcohol and more dangerous illegal drugs.
Durk Trent, Surrey
A significant proportion of normally law-abiding adults smoke cannabis, indirectly funding organised crime and the trafficking of far more dangerous drugs. Alcohol and tobacco are legal and, if they want, people have the right to ruin their health and lives with these poisons, so why not let them do the same with cannabis?
I know it's difficult for governments to understand but let adults make their own decisions and legalise cannabis. After all it's yet another opportunity to wring yet more tax out of the population.
No. We have enough trouble with alcohol, never mind encouraging cannabis use. Doctors are desperately trying to warn the government of the long-term dangers, but as usual they aren't listening. The Tories are dead right to oppose this.
Andrew Howlett, Cheshire, England.
You're going to smoke cannabis or you're not. And if you do, you're going to smoke a dangerous amount or you're not. The laws won't make any difference.
At least now the police should be able to concentrate their efforts on so called hard drugs and their dealers. Those concerned over the implications of cannabis reclassification would do better to worry about the endemic club culture use of drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and Ketamine which is a far greater danger.
Geoff Hill, Peterborough UK
What a joke - why don't the BMA and Conservative Party start treating the general population with a bit more respect? We all know that *all* drugs are dangerous if misused, and some are less dangerous than others. Cannabis has no lethal dose, and virtually no addictive properties - it should be legalised. Alcohol to be frank, is far more dangerous.
Paul Watler, Letchworth, Herts
I think that cannabis should be a class A drug other wise people will still carry on buying it or selling it.
Michaella Anderton, Nottingham
Speaking from personal experience, I was a Police Officer for 10 years, I was only injured on duty twice, both times I was assaulted, it was by Cannabis users, who were suffering from mental health problems as a result of habitual cannabis usage. They did not take any other drugs. We have enough problems in this country with alcohol related crime, why start the process of legalising another substance that will have a huge impact on the community
My son aged 35 started smoking cannabis as a young teenager and went on to cocaine in his twenties. He's now clean. He still has paranoia, no short term memory and a vicious temper. My father was an alcoholic who died of cancer of the larynx due to his drinking. He made our lives a misery. The truth is that both marijuana and alcohol are bad for people with addictive personalities. If marijuana is legalised, when will cocaine follow? Very many people are using it recreationally and these same arguments can be applied.
Mobass, London UK
It is about time that cannabis was decriminalised. It frees up police and court time to deal with real crimes, and frees up prison cells to allow them to be filled with more motorists.
R J Tysoe, London
Tolerance of soft drugs was what allowed serious and organised Dutch criminals to establish such a stronghold in the Netherlands. They also used the sale of soft drugs to provide a front for establishing a sales market for harder Class A drugs. Given that the drugs market is completely beyond the control of law enforcement in the Netherlands and that it impacts so strongly on all its European neighbours, is it really such a wise example to follow?
Alison, London, England
If it has medical benefits then just prescribe it in some form. The law should remain the same and the police shouldn't go all lenient. If anything, the laws should be tightened to deter drug use. The government are behaving like a bunch of sixth-formers.
We know the risks associated with tobacco and alcohol but we persist in keeping them legal and taxed. Let's spend more on studying genetic causes for addiction. Where could we get the money? Legalise and tax cannabis!
Caroline, Cheltenham, Glos.
Of Course not! Taking the Governments logic a bit further (but not much) one would be given be believe that Labour would regard legalising household burglaries as an effective measure to free up police time. It is ridiculous to do this at a time when law-abiding citizens are to be fined if they park their car over 50cm from the kerb. However it is legal for people to openly take drugs - legal in the sense that nothing will be done about it if they do. Under Labour people who park their cars a certain distance from the kerb are seen as a criminal (to be financially punished) whilst taking drugs is accepted. What sort of society are we being forced to live in?
Andrew Cromwell, UK
We will know the full implications in 15 years time when the rates of lung cancer increase even more for those who smoke it and those who inhale it through passive smoking. Then I guess we will come back full circle and try and ban it. I guess three world countries will benefit from the new found demand.
It's about time - the present policy has made drug education a daily joke amongst people young and old for as long as I've known. The naysayers would be better off spending their time worrying about how they're forcing their children to associate with hard drug dealers on account of their nonsensical rules that only convince their children that they're out of touch. Bigotry and ignorance doesn't only include skin-colour, and people are as misinformed here.
Iain, London, UK
I think the Tories are onto a winner. The Socio-Economic group who vote are, almost the same as those who oppose the downgrading of cannabis. As to weather is should be legalised or not, i don't think it matters anymore. I don't smoke, but I'd rather the police focused there efforts trying to solve the rapes and murders than arresting some students for smoking a funny smelling cigarette.
The government is spot on as far as reclassification is concerned. I only wish they would go further and decriminalise/legalise it. I'm a smoker of many years and hold down a professional job and contribute effectively to the economy. There are risks with virtually everything we do from crossing the road to eating our lunch. Surely it's time to stop the scaremongering! Well done Mr Blunkett.
Anon, Preston, UK
The most dangerous thing about cannabis smoking in the UK is that people often mix cannabis with a lethal, addictive and socially irredeemable drug - tobacco. Decriminalising cannabis is long overdue.
Dave, West Sussex
A law is only a law if a) the police are prepared to police it b) the majority of the population agrees with it and c) the law protects the general population in some way. The police have asked for the law change, a massive percentage of the population do not observe the current law and it is virtually impossible to overdose on the drug THC that it contains.
David Howe, Chelmsford UK
If the Tories stance is to make cannabis a class B drug again 'when' they get back into power...It looks like I'll be voting for Labour. Decriminalising cannabis is a very good idea.
Pete, Reading, England
I think that reading the messages already posted that the way forward is clear. Like prostitution, the government are never going to stop it happening, so why bother trying? Hundreds of thousands of people are going to do both whether it's legal or not so why not license it, tax it and turn it into a huge source of revenue!
Andy Green, Plymouth, UK.
Many of the people writing in seem to be very relaxed about the risk of cannabis. If it's so safe why are so many doctors and mental charities etc warning about the dangers? What would they have to gain by exaggerating the risk? The only reason alcohol causes far more problems to society just now is that far more people drink, and for more years of their life, than take cannabis.
Alan, Perth, Scotland
The government are right, unlike alcohol, cannabis does not make you want to fight, date rape or drive at break-neck speeds. It does not lead onto harder drugs as the type of people who would want to try cannabis would probably try that anyway if they wanted to, cannabis itself is not the cause. However, probably 60% of the people I know who smoke pot, would not touch heroin, crack or ecstasy. It is ridiculous that something that does no more harm than cigarettes (which can also give a 'high' feeling) is considered as bad as something like ecstasy which completely changes your emotions/mental state. Cannabis just makes people sleepy and maybe a bit giggly, where is the harm in that?
There are no known fatalities from using cannabis, yet it is illegal. Thousands of people die from alcohol and smoking every year. How can this be justified?
What is wrong with this country? It never ever seems to be able to take a logical or sensible approach to drug, prostitution or drink. Holding these things up as the forbidden; then criminalize, only gives them the allure the controllers do not wish. Dope is very much less disruptive to society than drink. De-criminalize and get some revenue from users.
Peter Barrett, Birmingham, England
I think this idea is ridiculous as nearly everyone is taking cannabis. I see teenagers smoking it in the streets and me myself think it should be legalised.
Rachael, Nottingham, UK
My son is now 30, started using Cannabis at the age of 14. He has now suffered terrible medical and mental problems. Lost his teeth, toes nails, has kidney stones, very bad shakes, violent moods swings, has managed to father four children, two of which are now in care due to his problem. This drug has ruined so many peoples lives so I am very much against it being downgraded.
Gill Simpson, Norwich, England
I and many of my friends have been smoking cannabis since college. Yet none of use class A drugs, we have all be fully employed since graduation and are home owners. Yet, will still risk losing our jobs and homes for smoking a pit of pot. Liberalisation hasn't done the Dutch and Swiss any harm.
Anon, Farnham, Surrey
I for one am fed up in paying hundreds of pounds a year in taxes to keep the price of cannabis artificially high so that drug dealers can make huge profits.
I think it's time we startearted spending the money elsewhere, like education and the health service.
Robert Castelo, London/United Kingdom
The change in the law is a muddle, because the government have done nothing to sort out the source of most of the harm; the prohibition on supply. There needs to be a safe, taxed, legal supply with health warnings. Rather than a multi-billion pound market handed over to criminals. As for the message sent out, since when did anyone listen to what the government told them? The only thing that teenagers learn from government messages are that anything they tell you not to do (sex, drugs, drink, fast food) is great fun!
Tony Gosling, London, UK
I think its the most sensible move this government could have made regarding the issue, Lets face it, People are going to smoke it weather it is illegal or not. So lets not waste anymore police time or money trying stop them, In what is a futile battle.
Steve Cockill, Worcs/UK
I don't think it's necessarily a mixed message; young people are going to take drugs no matter what you do. Now obviously that's no reason to legalise them all, but it is something to take into account. Keeping it illegal is little hypocritical too, when a dangerous, mind-altering substance is already on the market that causes many more problems than cannabis ever would. Alcohol!
Ben W, England
Relaxation is the only way that that will free up police to tackle the hard substances. Yet again the conservatives have proven why they are still unelectable.
PS, London, UK
No they are wrong. They are giving out the wrong signals by declassifying the drug. It appears to be a way to avoid prosecutions and therefore reduce costs. Thankfully we do not have to suffer this foolish action.
Ian McNicol, Erdkine, Renfrewshire
No, this is only a ploy to reduce crime records as the government and police are out of their depth in dealing with the serious crime and disorder prevalent in our country
Maybe now we'll start to see the real killer drugs - Alcohol and Tobacco - for what they really are. The main risks associated with cannabis are from cancer, which you'd get from smoking anyway, and mental health problems which can be triggered by any intoxicant, usually alcohol. Prohibition didn't stop the use of either, and it doesn't work on the current crop of classified substances either.
Cannabis should be decriminalised completely or not at all and then there wouldn't be any confusion. Whilst I agree with the fact that the government has finally decided that something needs to be done with this archaic law, I feel that they haven't gone all the way due to it being such a touchy subject. The moral majority will of course be outraged, but what would they know? They are all self confessed drug addicts themselves but because alcohol isn't given to them in the pure form, society says it's OK.
The reality though is that it's getting harder and harder to buy cannabis anyway, people stop selling it because there's too much risk and too little profit. As a result people have to go to larger dealers who sell other things as well and to the weak minded, this spells disaster.
It really won't matter whether its class B or C. It will still be readily available and it won't stop people smoking it. This really is a non-issue.
Dom, London, UK
It's about time that cannabis was re-classified as well as a number of other drugs. I'm sick of these do-gooders trying to stop members of society from making a personal choice about what they can and can't put in their own bodies. Legalise, put it on the market and tax it - just like them other drugs; cigarettes and