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May Rebuffs U.K. Lawmakers’ Call for Reducing Cannabis Penalties

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May rebuffed calls from lawmakers to examine more closely the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado and their experiences of legalizing marijuana use.

Parliament’s cross-party Home Affairs Committee said in a report that it recommended the U.K. fund a detailed research project to monitor the effects of each state’s legalization of cannabis and examine the costs and benefits. The report followed the decision by the U.S. states to legalize the drug and the proposed state monopoly on cannabis production and sale in Uruguay.

“It is of course important that any debate on alternative approaches should be focused on clear evidence and analysis,” May, a Conservative, said today in a written response to the committee. At the same time, “the coalition government has no intention of decriminalizing drugs,” she said.

May, the minister in charge of policy on drugs, said she will lead a review to look at a number of countries that cover a spectrum of approaches to drug policy, and assess their effectiveness in cutting drug use and reducing harm to individuals and communities.

Cannabis is a Class B drug in the U.K., meaning those found in possession face a maximum five-year jail term. May’s reluctance to alter the penalty for cannabis may stem from the political fallout former ministers have suffered when altering the seriousness of its status.

From 2004 to 2009 the drug was categorized at Class C, removing the threat of arrest for possession, a decision that was made to free-up police time. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown reversed the decision after changes in scientific evidence about the effects of the drug.

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