Hellawell resigns drugs advisory role over cannabis reclassification

11 Jul 02
Keith Hellawell, the government's former 'drugs czar', has resigned from his role as a part-time government adviser over plans to downgrade the classification of cannabis.

12 July 2002

Home Secretary David Blunkett told MPs on July 10 that he was following the advice of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs and the all-party Home Affairs Committee, and reclassifying cannabis from a Class B controlled drug to Class C.

This means that it will no longer be an arrestable crime to possess small amounts of the drug. But the maximum penalty for dealing in Class C drugs is to be increased from five to 14 years.

But Hellawell claimed that the numbers of people seeking treatment for the drug was on the increase. 'Why on earth, when there are these problems, we change our message and give a softer message I don't know,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Hellawell was brought to the forefront of Labour's 'war against drugs' in 1998 on a £106,000 salary. But last October the drugs czar was downgraded and given the less regal role of part-time adviser.

Blunkett assured MPs: 'All controlled drugs are harmful and will remain illegal. We must concentrate our efforts on the drugs that cause the most harm, while sending a credible message to young people. I therefore have no intention of either decriminalising or legalising the production, supply or possession of cannabis.'

Earlier this week, Blunkett watered down his controversial police reforms after opposition from the Lords, who complained that it would give the Home Office too much power at the expense of the operational independence of chief constables.

The revised proposals reaching the final Commons stage included a greater role for police authorities in the intervention process. They, rather than the home secretary, will determine what should happen to failing constabularies.


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