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NCJ Number: 209211 Find in a Library
Title: Looking the Other Way: The Impact of Reclassifying Cannabis on Police Warnings, Arrests and Informal Action in England and Wales
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:45  Issue:2  Dated:March 2005  Pages:113-128
Author(s): Hamish Warburton; Tiggey May; Mike Hough
Date Published: March 2005
Page Count: 16
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: After examining the political background for British legislation that reclassified cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, this article examines the impact that the reclassification may have on police informal dispositions of cannabis offenses.
Abstract: Throughout the 1990's British public opinion about cannabis became increasingly tolerant. At the same time, the volume of arrests for cannabis possession increased rapidly until by 1999 one in seven of known indictable offenders were cautioned or convicted for cannabis possession. Pressure for some kind of reform was mounting. At the same time, various senior police officers were advocating legislative reform. Eventually, the government chose a compromise between arguments for reform and those for maintaining the status quo by giving something to both sides. Cannabis was reclassified as a Class C drug, but the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was amended in advance of reclassification to make possession of Class C drugs an arrestable offense; however, guidance would be issued to discourage the police from using the new power of arrest except in special circumstances. The normative police action would be on-the-spot warnings and confiscation. The study of the policing of cannabis as a Class B drug prior to reclassification was conducted during 2000-01 and involved 90 observations of police shifts along with interviews with 150 police officers. The findings indicate that a number of police, offender, and situational factors, either alone or in combination, influenced an officer's decision to take informal action on the street when confronted with cannabis possession. The authors conclude that it is possible that reclassification will reduce the police use of informal dispositions of cannabis possession while creating a "net-widening" effect of increasing formal contacts for cannabis possession. On the other hand, officers may increase their use of informal dispositions in the belief that the reclassification essentially lowers the priority for the formal processing of cannabis-possession cases. 26 references
Main Term(s): Police discretion
Index Term(s): Drug effects; Drug law offenses; Drug laws; England; Foreign criminal justice research; Foreign police; Marijuana; Police policies and procedures; Wales
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