Sting leads campaign against Blair's plan to reclassify cannabis

Sophie Goodchild,Chief Reporter
Sunday 18 December 2005 01:00

The singer Sting and the veteran actress Jean Simmons are on a list of prominent figures who have written to Tony Blair urging him to keep cannabis as a class C drug following last week's exclusive report in The Independent on Sunday that the Prime Minister was planning a U-turn to toughen up penalties for its use.

The governor of Brixton prison, former Spandau Ballet member Gary Kemp and Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat MP, as well as doctors and drug experts have also signed a letter warning against a toughening-up of policy on the drug, which was officially downgraded last January. They are backing a campaign by Release, which provides support for people with drug problems, to keep cannabis in a lower category.

Last week, the IoS reported that drugs advisers had established a link between mental illness and cannabis use. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is understood to have concluded there is a risk of psychosis in some cases, although the health risks do not justify cannabis being moved back to class B.

The Government is expected to make an official announcement next month on the future status of the drug, although sources have indicated Mr Blair is keen to reverse the decision to downgrade it taken by David Blunkett.

Release has written to the Prime Minister as well as Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, urging them not to return cannabis to class B. A copy of the letter, seen by this paper, highlights the fact that cannabis use in Britain has not increased in the first year since reclassification and that nearly 200,000 hours of police time have been saved. It states: "Such a move would simply add to public confusion, inconsistency and the waste of police resources, without delivering any health or social benefits."

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