Delay in Changing Law Leaves Police with Dilemma

Delay in Changing Law Leaves Police with Dilemma
Posted by CN Staff on July 10, 2002 at 19:54:17 PT
By Nick Hopkins, Crime Correspondent
Source: Guardian Unlimited UK
The year's delay in reclassification of cannabis will leave police forces with the dilemma of what to do between now and the formal change in the law. The Metropolitan police has no intention of waiting until next July. The force used yesterday's announcement to signal its intention to roll out a "seize and warn" policy across the capital by late autumn. For the commissioner, Sir John Stevens, the priority is focusing resources on tackling class A drug dealers and traffickers, so officers will be told to arrest cannabis users only when David Blunkett's "aggravating factors" - which relate to "protection of children and public order" - apply. 
This means that a modified version of the Lambeth experiment will soon be the norm across London. Regional forces with hardline attitudes and less pressing drugs problems, such as Bedfordshire and Dorset, are likely to continue to arrest people for simple possession until legislation is passed. The lack of uniformity will mean that cannabis possession will be treated differently in different areas, a position that has alarmed some chief officers. But Kevin Morris, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said yesterday that this disparity already existed. "There is a danger of forces doing their own thing, but frankly that's what we've got at the moment anyway. "In a number of places the cannabis laws are not enforced and officers deal with possession informally or not at all, and in others the letter of the law is applied. "At least we've got an overall strategy to work towards; until then the stop, search and seizure of cannabis would be a commonsense approach to dealing with cannabis possession." Forces will look to the Association of Chief Police Officers for national guidelines on "seize and warn", but these will not be ready for at least three months. Because Acpo believed that Mr Blunkett was going to reclassify cannabis without retaining a power of arrest, it was developing guidelines for when officers could issue a court summons for possession. The association is now playing catch-up. A working group has been established, but its findings will have to be ratified by the Chief Constables' Council in October before forces can be issued with the guidelines. Even then, forces are under no obligation to introduce "seize and warn". But Acpo supported the reclassification of cannabis, and is hoping many chief constables will want to introduce the policy as a preparation for the change in the law. Acpo admitted earlier this year that the strategy for dealing with heroin and cocaine users had been ineffective for more than 20 years. Yet every year officers spend thousands of hours on cannabis offences. Police dealt with 104,400 people for drugs offences in 2000. More than 70,000 of them involved cannabis.Special Report: Drugs in Britain:,2759,178206,00.htmlComplete Title: Delay in Changing Law Leaves Police Forces with Dilemma Source: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Nick Hopkins, Crime CorrespondentPublished: Thursday, July 11, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: comment Website: Articles:Britain Seeks To Downgrade Marijuana Govt Downgrades Cannabis Police Extend Marijuana Experiment Cannabis Growers Leery of 'Softer' Laws
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