Briefing Paper: Reclassification of Cannabis in the United Kingdom

On 29 January 2004, an amendment to the drug laws came into effect in the UK that moved cannabis and its derivatives from Class B to Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the primary drug control legislation in the UK. This is likely to reduce the priority that law enforcement agencies give to combating the possession and use of cannabis and restrict the circumstances under which the police should arrest those found in possession of the drug. However, it would be a mistake to view this as an indication of a more general liberalising trend in UK drug policy or as necessarily a first step towards decriminalisation of cannabis use. The motivations for this policy change and the manner of its implementation are more complex.