The case made for the status quo
Those opposed to the decriminalisation of cannabis have often lumped ‘soft drugs’ such as cannabis together with ‘hard drugs’ like heroin and cocaine, if not by ascribing the same physiological and social effects to each, then by regarding the soft drugs as a ‘gateway’ to hard drug use.
“The regular use of cannabis is known to be associated with an increase in the risk of later developing psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia. If the recent increase in availability of stronger forms of cannabis does lead to an increase in total use by some people, this might also lead to an increase in their future risk of developing mental health problems. Nobody knows the answer to this question yet…” FRANK – 2011
By contrast, in Durham, the police do not target recreational cannabis users, and in the West Midlands, the police divert those caught with small amount of cannabis away from the criminal justice system and into awareness courses, sometimes described as being similar to those in place for speeding offences.
“Prohibition has failed”… “From our perspective, it’s about regulating the market to improve public health outcomes and create a safer environment. But we can see the potential benefits from a taxation perspective if we were to regulate it.” – Natasha Horsfield, Advocacy Officer, Heath Poverty Action.
The debate around cannabis reform
In 2001, the Government began a major policy shift on cannabis by conducting a trial in Lambeth, South London, for dealing with cannabis possession offences. Officers in the area would no longer arrest individuals for possession but instead issue a verbal warning and confiscate the substance.
The report also recommended the re-classification of cannabis to a class C drug. A report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in 2001 recommended the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
In France, the possession and use of cannabis remains prohibited and can be punished by one year’s imprisonment or a fine of up to 4,000 Euros. And in Germany, possession of cannabis remains a criminal offence, albeit the Public Prosecutor may not prosecute if the offence relates to a small amount for personal use and it is not in the public interest to prosecute.
Finally those calling for the reform of cannabis laws, such as the former Conservative leader William Hague, have also pointed to the widespread use of cannabis amongst the population. This, they suggest, undermines the rule of law, and risks criminalizing people who are otherwise law abiding. It is claimed that when a law has ceased to be credible, and police enthusiasm for enforcing it has waned, respect for the law in general is damaged. If a law is not supported or enforced, they argue that it should be disposed with.
Ministers appeared sympathetic to evidence that cannabis was getting stronger, due to the greater availability of skunk, and the reported links between cannabis use and mental illness.
The severity of the penalty applied in relation to cultivation of cannabis will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. The prosecution consider the size of the operation, the individual’s role in said operation & certain mitigating factors. The Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Offences outlines the range of sentences available for cultivation of cannabis cases:
A person can only be charged with cultivation or production, not both offences together.
Offence Range: Discharge – 10 years’ imprisonment.
Penalties available for cultivation of cannabis
It is unlawful to cultivate any part of a cannabis plant. It is not an offence to supply or possess cannabis seeds, but any action which germinates or cultivates them is an offence.
The reason that an individual would be charged with production instead of cultivation is because production is classed as a ‘trafficking’ offence, which allows the authorities to order a POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) hearing.
Maximum: 14 years’ imprisonment and/or unlimited fine.
Cultivation is the tending of plants, i.e. watering, feeding, nurturing etc.
If you’re under 18, the police are allowed to tell your parent, guardian or carer that you’ve been caught with drugs.
Psychoactive substances include things like nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’).
You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.
The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (selling, dealing or sharing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.
*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.
Psychoactive substances penalties
Your penalty will depend on:
The penalties depend on the type of drug or substance, the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing it.