No need to alter cannabis law, says Met chief

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The Independent Online

Britain's most senior police officer has spoken out against plans to toughen the laws on the possession of cannabis.

Britain's most senior police officer has spoken out against plans to toughen the laws on the possession of cannabis.

But Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said if the Government does intend to reclassify the drug, then fixed fines should be introduced for those caught in possession of a small amount.

His comments come a fortnight after Tony Blair said it had been a mistake to liberalise the cannabis law last year so that possession of small quantities did not result in an arrest.

The legislation on cannabis is currently being reviewed and is widely expected to be reversed.

Sir Ian urged the Government to keep the existing regime,saying arresting people for having small amounts of the drug was a "waste of time" because the courts usually gave people a caution or fine. He said: "In London, in my view, we should stay where we are."

Commenting on arresting people for small quantities of cannabis, he argued: "It's a waste of time, in terms of policing, to deal with small amounts (of cannabis) because the courts and the CPS have consistently failed to do anything about it. There is no point in a police officer spending hours dealing with something the courts and the CPS don't do anything about."

If there was a change, his force would push "very hard" for fixed penalties for those caught with the drug. He rejected suggestions that there should be a double classification of cannabis based on different strengths of the drug, saying it would be too difficult for officers to distinguish between powerful and weak varieties.

Since February 2004 most people caught with a small amount of cannabis have been let off with a warning and the drug confiscated. The plan was to allow the police tofocus on hard drugs, such as crack and heroin. Arrests for cannabis possession in London halved over the first year of the relaxed regime.

But the changes have been criticised for sending the wrong message to young people, a significant number of whom think cannabis has been legalised.

Earlier this year, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to investigate the implication of new medical evidence linking cannabis to long-term mental problems.

The Prime Minister hint ed at a possible U-turn when he said on 3 May that the reclassification "was a classic example in politics of having a very good intellectual case but I think practically on the ground you have got to be so careful of the signals you send out."