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Cannabis

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research has been (a) evaluated and (b) commissioned by her Department on the likely effects of the change in classification of cannabis on (i) the numbers in prison and (ii) the cost of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment in each of the next five years; and if she will make a statement. (245482)

[holding answer 27 January 2009]: The likely effects of the reclassification of cannabis to a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 have been evaluated in the regulatory impact assessment (IA)1 produced to accompany the Parliamentary Order. This IA is an internal evaluation. Based on existing evidence the IA makes a series of key assumptions; it forecasts potential liabilities associated with the legislative and the proposed enforcement change. The IA is published at:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/em/uksiem_20083130_en.pdf

Estimates of unit costs applied to criminal justice system outcomes within the IA were obtained from the agencies involved and from relevant research where available. As a result, volumes and figures stated are broad estimates; they do not necessarily reflect actual costs in any particular situation or point in time.

In respect of prison places, the IA identifies potential additional prison places for cannabis possession offences; it estimates a potential increase in prison place requirement of 21 places over five years.

For supply, trafficking and production offences the impact assessment clearly sets out the reasons why an assessment on prison places was not made. This includes the fact that the maximum sentence prescribed by the 1971 Act will remain unchanged at 14 years.

The overall estimate change in the enforcement liability associated with cannabis possession including arrest and prosecution can be found in Table 6 of the IA as set out.

1 Please note the Impact Assessment was re laid on 16 January 2009. A drafting error in the IA was identified on 19 December 2008. Following this, the impact assessment was withdrawn from the OPSI website on 23 December 2009. A full review of the IA was undertaken and the revised document is now in the public domain. For a full explanation of the drafting error please see response to PQ 24583. The error identified in the document does not affect the estimates of costs of arrest, prosecution or prison numbers.

Table 6: Estimated change in enforcement liability against cannabis possession

£ million

Criminal Justice System

Year

Police

CPS

HMCS1

NOMS

Total CJS

Non-legal aid defence

Total

Base

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

2

0.04

0.14

1.23

0.09

1.46

0.40

1.90

3

0.13

0.20

2.18

0.13

2.51

0.58

3.22

4

0.25

0.39

3.49

0.24

4.12

1.01

5.38

5

0.34

0.61

4.71

0.38

5.70

1.47

7.50

6

0.40

0.81

5.67

0.49

6.97

1.86

9.23

7

0.42

0.96

6.31

0.58

7.85

2.16

10.44

8

0.42

1.05

6.66

0.64

8.36

2.35

11.13

1 HMCS costs include court costs, costs from PNDs, legal aid and central funds costs.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the likely effect of the reclassification of cannabis on (a) the numbers using cannabis and (b) the numbers using other illegal drugs. (245483)

[holding answer 13 January 2009]: In respect of the movement to Class B alone on the numbers using cannabis there is no claim that this alone will act as a deterrent on cannabis use.

The Impact Assessment (IA)1 on the reclassification of cannabis looks at reclassification alongside a step change in enforcement response and the potential change in the estimated population of cannabis users. Based on existing evidence the IA makes a series of key assumptions; it forecasts potential liabilities and volumes associated with the legislative and proposed enforcement response. These assumptions include a reduction in the population of serious cannabis users following recent British Crime Survey trends, desistance from users ‘getting older’ and increased desistance of users is assumed following more robust contact with police and the Criminal Justice System. The full IA can be found at:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/em/uksiem_20083130_en.pdf

Over the seven year period examined in the impact assessment there is estimated to be a desistance of an additional 23,000 serious cannabis users under reclassification alongside the associated enforcement response. The estimated difference in total population of serious cannabis users under reclassification and the enforcement response is set out in Table 8 of the aforementioned impact assessment.

There has been no assessment of how cannabis reclassification will impact on those using other illegal drugs.

1 In preparing the response to this PQ a minor drafting error was identified in the Impact Assessment (IA). As a consequence the IA was withdrawn from the public domain. A revised version was re laid in Parliament on 16 January 2009.

The erroneous sentence in the IA stated:

“Over the entire period, the change option is estimated to result in the desistence of 72,000 additional serious cannabis users”

and appeared on page 15 of the original IA as found on the OPSI website. The cited figure of 72,000 was incorrectly quoted as a result of misinterpretation of the figures in Table 8 as relating to annual levels of desistance, rather than the cumulative level of desistance. The correct figure of 23,000 additionally desisting over seven years was cited in the preceding sentence and contained in Table 8 of the IA. Following the identification of this error a full review of all figures and tabular information contained in the IA has been conducted. There have been no errors in the original calculations contained within the IA.

Table 8: Estimated total population of serious cannabis offenders by year

Population of offenders, do nothing

Population of offenders, change

Difference

Percentage

Base

416,769

416,769

0

0.00

2

396,179

396,491

-312

-0.08

3

376,576

373,297

3,279

0.87

4

357,914

352,153

5,761

1.61

5

340,148

331,124

9,024

2.65

6

323,240

310,103

13,138

4.06

7

307,153

289,260

17,892

5.83

8

291,849

268,836

23,013

7.89

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what training police officers receive to allow them to recognise cannabis. (257043)

All student police officers are issued with notes which cover drugs and their supply, importation and manufacture. The identification of classified drugs is also dealt with in a case study exercise.

As part of their training, it is common practice for student police officers to undertake a familiarisation exercise with samples of a variety of drugs. This helps student officers to recognise different drugs, both visually and by smell. Due care must be exercised to ensure that any illegal drugs used for training purposes are closely monitored and controlled.