Euro-MP Chris Davies has branded the Government’s decision to upgrade cannabis from Class C to Class B status as ludicrous.
The Liberal Democrat said the change took no account of evidence, ignored expert advice, and risked ruining the lives of thousands of young people.
From yesterday, possession of cannabis carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, although police will be able to issue spot fines to first-time offenders.
Mr Davies said the new policy was hopelessly confused and would prove ineffective. He called for a reappraisal of Government strategy, with drugs use being treated as a matter not for the courts but for public health.
He said: “Five years ago, the Government followed the advice of its advisers that cannabis presented too few dangers to warrant its status and downgraded it from Class B. Since then its use among young people has fallen by more than 20 per cent. Now, in the face of this success, the criminal penalties are being raised against the advice of the Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse. It makes no sense at all.”
He claimed cannabis presented fewer dangers than alcohol, and warned the law change would make criminals of individuals who had done no harm to anybody.
He said: “Ten years ago, more than 40,000 people were arrested each year for cannabis possession, and a significant number were imprisoned. Lives were ruined for no good purpose. Drugs policy in Britain is a farce. It puts huge sums of money into the hands of real villains, while branding decent people as criminals.”
By Alex Wood