Thursday, June 08, 2006

14 years' jail threat for cannabis users caught carrying 5g


Drug users in possession of more than 5g of cannabis could be prosecuted as dealers and jailed for up to 14 years under plans being considered by ministers.

A draft regulation calls on prosecutors to charge anyone with more than a minimal amount of cannabis or five Ecstasy tablets with possession with intent to supply.

But the proposal - which slashes the cannabis limit to one-hundredth of its present threshold of 500g - has alarmed a former procurator-fiscal, who warned that it would fetter the discretion of local prosecutors.

Alistair Carmichael, now Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and the Shetlands, said that determining whether someone was a drug dealer solely on the quantity the person was carrying was foolish.

He said: "

To draw up artificial thresholds in this way will simply result in people being prosecuted for the wrong crime."

Drug users in rural communities were more likely to carry larger quantities for personal use, so they could be unfairly targeted as dealers, he said.

The proposals were made to the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs and mark a wide departure from David Blunkett's decision 18 months ago to treat cannabis possession with an informal warning. The former home secretary also downgraded the drug to class C in 2004.

However, after evidence emerged in January linking cannabis to mental illness, the Cabinet signalled it would take a tougher stance on the drug.


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