Blunkett goes head to head with Government over plans to raise cannabis to class B status

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David Blunkett has criticised a government plan to take a tougher line on cannabis, saying that reversing his decision to downgrade the drug to class C would send mixed legal signals.

The former home secretary said: "Rather than affecting practice on the ground, classifying cannabis back to class B now would simply cause confusion."

Defending his decision to downgrade the drug, a move likely to be reversed by Jacqui Smith, the current Home Secretary, Mr Blunkett said his desire for "honest" policing played a part in his decision to reclassify cannabis in 2004.

"Classifying cannabis as class C is a much more honest approach both politically and in terms of how the drug is policed, rather than tackling what was a class B drug with a class C approach, as happened in the past."

His comments came as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) prepares to take new evidence on cannabis amid growing speculation that reclassification is a fait accompli.

Unlike Mr Blunkett, who "never felt the need" to indulge in cannabis use, Ms Smith has admitted using cannabis as a student. She believes there is growing evidence of links between cannabis and mental illness. In her letter to the ACMD, she expressed concern particularly over "the use of stronger formsof the drug, commonly known as skunk".

The Association of Chief Police Officers is now calling for cannabis to revert to its class B status.

The mental health charity Rethink is calling on the cigarette paper manufacturer Rizla to include the warning: "Cannabis use can destroy your mental health."

Imperial Tobacco, which makes the papers, dismissed the plea. "This is a question for the Government," said a company spokesman. "Cannabis is illegal and our products are not intended for that purpose."