Synthetic Cannabinoids: Reclassification — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Ben Bradley Ben Bradley Conservative, Mansfield 9:30 am, 6th November 2018

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention: I agree. Ultimately, we all want to see tangible outcomes on the ground in our communities. We can make legislation here and change the classification, but that has to be bought into; it has to be delivered by local service providers and the police on the ground. My priority, the most important thing for me, is that my constituents in Mansfield town centre feel safer as a result. That is exactly what we are after. In the aftermath of that debate in July, 20 police and crime commissioners wrote to the Government in support of reclassification, which has received cross-party support and is backed by my local police leaders. Nottinghamshire County Council and other county councils have written to the Government on this issue.

Spice was originally sold as a legal high, and synthetic cannabinoids were developed as an alternative to cannabis, which leads to a common misconception that these drugs are not hard drugs. It is understandable that they would initially have been made class B drugs. However, the comparison of synthetic cannabinoids to cannabis is entirely inaccurate and their impacts are very different.

I cannot emphasise enough that reclassifying these drugs has no connection with cannabis or medical marijuana. In my view, there is a great deal of sense in the medicinal use of cannabis in some cases. I do not argue with that; indeed, in this debate I do not seek to suggest anything at all about cannabis, frankly. In fact, I want to make the point that the two—cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids—are not comparable and that these psychoactive drugs are not the same thing at all. We need to stop treating cannabis and synthetic cannabis as if they are the same thing, and we need to reclassify synthetic cannabis.

It does not make sense that, in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, synthetic cannabinoids are put in the same class as cannabis regarding relative harmfulness. The physical and psychological impacts of synthetic cannabis are more comparable to those of class A drugs, such as ketamine or heroin, yet that seriousness is not reflected in law. Seizures, heart attacks and chest pains are common physical problems, and synthetic cannabis users can experience frightening visions or hallucinations.