Former MP has rethink on cannabis law move

By Harriet Ernstsons Friday 23 November 2012 Updated: 23/11 17:00

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Buy photos » Jacqui Smith has admitted the reclassification of cannabis to a class B drug may not have been the right move. (s)

FORMER Redditch MP Jacqui Smith has admitted it may not have been the right decision to toughen cannabis laws.

Ms Smith was Home Secretary at the time the drug was reclassified as a class B substance, having previously been downgraded to a class C. The change meant users could be jailed for up to five years and dealers for 14.

But speaking ahead of a programme called Stoned Again to be broadcast on Thursday (November 29) at 10pm on Radio 5 Live, she expressed second thoughts about whether the decision by the Labour Government in 2008 was the right way forward.

"I don't believe in decriminalisation or legalisation. But knowing what I know now, I would resist the temptation to resort to the law to tackle the harm from cannabis. Education, treatment and information, if we can get the message through, are perhaps a lot more effective," she told the Radio Times.

But Ms Smith, who lost her Parliamentary seat at the 2010 General Election, insisted it was not the wrong thing to do at the time, despite being against the advice of experts.

"If I was in the same position, in the same circumstances, facing the same pressures, I would take the same decision," she said.

"I'm more sympathetic now to the argument that there are people who use cannabis without harm. I don't want tough messages being sent out by the law always translated into tough action against individuals."

She added the police had been 'interestingly discreet' about applying the law, but argued against the need for the use of cannabis to be legalised.

"Legislation is a blind alley that sidetracks everybody into discussing the law rather than the impact of the drugs themselves and how to deal with them."

The full interview appears in the current issue of the Radio Times (www.radiotimes.com) on sale now.

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