The Christian Institute

News Release

Government to cut sentences for drug dealers

The Christian Institute today voiced alarm at the Home Secretary’s plans for going soft on cannabis and downgrading the drug from Class B to C. Leaks to the effect that there will be “longer jail sentences for cannabis dealers” (Eg FT, 8 July 2002) are totally untrue. The maximum sentences are to be cut from what they are now.

Before – Class B

After – Class C

  1. 4 year prison sentence (max) for cannabis dealing
  2. years (or 10 years if press speculation is correct)

Cannabis in same class as Amphetamines

Cannabis in same class as sleeping pills

Police have power of arrest

No power of arrest.

But if press speculation is correct, the police may be given power in exceptional circumstances

Possible on-the-spot fines

Possible on-the-spot fines

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said today:

“The Government is going soft on cannabis. The result will be open cannabis dealing and cannabis smoking on the streets. This has already happened in Lambeth, where a softer policing experiment has seen children as young as ten being found openly smoking the drug.

Reclassifying cannabis sends out the message to young people that taking cannabis is OK. Abstruse arguments about whether it is decriminalisation will be lost on young people. Cannabis is a gateway drug. We fear that thousands more children will become hooked on hard drugs thanks to this policy change.

Taking drugs is wrong. We ought to be sending out this message to young people rather than undermining parents who want to keep their kids away from drugs.”

“Downgrading cannabis to Class C puts cannabis in the same category as sleeping pills where the police give very little priority to law enforcement. Home Office figures show that in 2000 only 4.3kg of all Class C drugs were seized (about the weight of four bags of sugar) compared 46,893 kg of Class B drugs (93% of this was cannabis).

Class B

Class C

Seizures in 2000

  1. 3,321 seizures
  2. ,902 seizures

Weight seized in 2000

  1. 6, 893 kg
  2. 3 kg

“The Government have just appointed 950 Customs Officers to tackle tobacco smuggling at the same time as telling Customs Officers not to target cannabis smuggling. The Government are open to the charge that they are less bothered about cannabis than loss of tobacco revenue.”

“Currently the maximum prison sentence for dealing in Class ‘B’ drugs is 14 years. For Class ‘C’ drugs the maximum is 5 years. Tinkering with the legislation and making the penalty 10 years for dealing in cannabis at Class C still means less time in jail for drug dealers.”

“Reclassifying cannabis will also hamstring the police. Even if the Home Secretary empowers police to arrest for Class C possession where there are “aggravating factors”, this will still leave the police powerless in most cases. At the moment the police can arrest for a cannabis offence whenever they see fit.”

“Greater use of on-the-spot fines for cannabis possession has always been an option ever since last year when Parliament passed the legislation. The fact is, the Home Secretary can keep cannabis as a Class B drug and introduce on-the-spot the fines at the same time.

In some areas the penalty for dropping litter is £50. On-the-spot fines for cannabis must be substantially higher than £50. Otherwise, this raises the ludicrous prospect of a cannabis user getting a larger fine for dropping his joint in the street than for smoking it. Also, there must be greater sanctions for repeat offences.”


An online version of “Going soft on cannabis”, The Christian Institute’s briefing booklet on Cannabis, is available at