Since september 2007, 1219 people have signed the petiton “For a Healthy Option: Cannabis Social Clubs”, launched by the UK Legalise Cannabis Alliance. On 26 February 2008, the UK Government responded as follows:
You have signed an e-petition in support of providing local authorities with the legal power to allow them to license private member cannabis social clubs for adults. This is the Government’s response.
The Government’s message has always been that cannabis is a harmful and illegal drug that should not be taken. It has a number of acute and chronic health effects and prolonged use can induce dependence. Most cannabis is smoked and smoking, in any form, is dangerous. Even the occasional use of cannabis can pose significant dangers for people with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, and particular efforts need to be made to encourage abstinence in such individuals.
The Government seeks to balance the rights of individuals on the one hand and the greater public health and welfare considerations on the other. In so doing it considers that it makes sense, on health grounds, for cannabis to remain a controlled drug whose unauthorised production (including cultivation), supply and possession are and will remain illegal.
There is therefore no prospect of the Government facilitating the supply of cannabis by enabling local authorities to license private member cannabis social clubs for adults to cultivate the plant for personal use.
Furthermore, anyone trying to establish a cannabis social club, cannabis café or similar establishment risks imprisonment or a heavy fine (or both) under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Supply of cannabis is and will remain a criminal offence and those who supply it to others risk severe penalties. It is also an offence for managers of premises knowingly to allow the production, supply or smoking of cannabis on their premises. The classification of cannabis makes no difference to this position and the Government expects a swift and effective response from the police to any attempts to defy the law.
There is real public concern about the potential mental health effects of cannabis use and, in particular, the use and availability of increased strengths of the drug, commonly known as skunk. That is why the Government asked the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review cannabis classification in July 2007.
The Government will consider carefully the findings of the Advisory Council when it submits its advice in April 2008. It will then make a decision about whether or not to bring a proposal to Parliament to reclassify the drug from Class C back to Class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This would toughen the penalties relating to cannabis possession, if approved.