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Cannabis Law 'sends Mixed Signals'

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THE Northern Ireland authorities are planning a new information drive on
the dangers of cannabis, while relaxing the law on possession.

An Ulster MP has questioned the value of the awareness campaign and accused
the Government of sending out mixed signals.

Next month will see cannabis being reclassified from a class B drug to
class C across the UK.

The maximum jail sentence for possession of the drug will fall from five to
two years.

And it is expected that most possession offences will result in a police
warning and confiscation, rather than court proceedings.

Direct rule Minister John Spellar intends to make a public statement in the
near future on the details of a publicity campaign.

He has told MPs that his officials are in contact with Home Office staff to
ensure that the push will be in line with work elsewhere in the UK.

The Minister also pledged that the province's initiative will have a
"distinct local emphasis".

"The reclassification of cannabis will take effect in Northern Ireland from
January 29, 2004, in line with other parts of the UK," Mr Spellar stated.

North Down UUP MP Sylvia Hermon said she had argued in the Commons against

"Cannabis is the main drug that is used by paramilitaries, particularly
loyalist paramilitaries, to raise funds for illegal activities," she said.

The Parliamentary Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee warned this
year that any increase in demand for cannabis is likely to boost the
coffers of paramilitary gangs.

Pubdate: Sat, 27 Dec 2003
Source: Belfast Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd.
Contact: editor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Website: Northern Ireland Breaking News, Sport, Business and Entertainment from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk