Arrests for cannabis decline by a third

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The Independent Online

Arrests for possessing cannabis have dropped by about a third since its controversial downgrading from class B to class C in January.

Arrests for possessing cannabis have dropped by about a third since its controversial downgrading from class B to class C in January.

Early figures from 26 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales suggest that about 14,000 people will be fined this year for carrying the drug - 6,000 fewer than last year.

Officers are now instructed to deal with most cases of cannabis possession by confiscating the drug and they no longer target home users.

The aim is to free police to deal with more dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has argued that the relaxation will make drug laws more credible. The Home Office forecast last night that the change in police tactics would save 180,000 hours of officers' time this year.

Caroline Flint, a Home Office minister, said: "The police are spending less time arresting people for possession of cannabis and filling in the paperwork that goes along with it. This enables them to concentrate on the class A drugs which cause most harm to society."

Recent research suggests that 33 per cent of men aged 16 to 24 and 21 per cent of women have tried cannabis. But Ms Flint said: "We will continue to educate young and vulnerable people about the dangers of using cannabis."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said yesterday: "How can parents be expected to tell their children cannabis is bad when the Government treats it as harmless?" He added that a Tory government would reverse the policy "with immediate effect".