British government upholds decision to downgrade of marijuana's danger
LONDON - Britain will uphold its 2004 decision to downgrade marijuana's classification as a less dangerous drug, the country's top law enforcement official said Thursday.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said experts' preliminary assessment was that marijuana use had not increased since it was downgraded from a class B to class C drug, meaning the government considered it less harmful.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett decided to downgrade the drug, saying it would allow police to concentrate on tackling the use and distribution of more serious drugs.
But critics say there is evidence that marijuana can damage users' mental health and have urged Clarke to return the drug to its earlier, more serious, classification.
Clarke said he was concerned about the health effects of marijuana, including evidence suggesting it can exacerbate or trigger a range of serious mental health problems.
"Cannabis is anything but harmless," he said.
Nonetheless, he said he was accepting the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which he commissioned to examine the issue. He also announced a major information campaign to educate the public about the drug's dangers.