Report by Britain's Police Foundation into UK drug law, released in March 2000 following two and a half years of research. Its recommendations included the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C, putting it on a par with steroids and antidepressants; the reclassification of LSD and ecstasy (MDMA) from Class A to Class B; a reduction in the maximum sentence for possession of Class A's, from seven years to twelve months; and the creation of a new offence of drug dealing, in order to make a distinction between those supplying drugs only to a small circle of friends and those making serious money through dealing.

Although it was well received by academics, drug workers and most newspapers, Jack Straw (the Home Secretary at the time) dismissed almost all of the report's recommendations out of hand. The only one of the major recommendations accepted was that people should be able to defend themselves against charges of supplying if they could show that the drugs were only for use by a small circle of friends.

Lady Runciman responded to the government's rejection of the report by saying "All our most far-reaching recommendations have been rejected. It leaves us with a law that is out of touch with reality, misleading in its rank of relative harm, disproportionate in its sanctions, dependent on police discretion to be workable and out of step with the public attitudes. It also leaves us with a law that in relation to cannabis produces more harm than it prevents."

She continued: "I believe this is a good report ... it has staying power and its time will come."

Since she said this, the new Home Secretary David Blunkett has accepted what is perhaps her single most significant recommendation: On October 23, 2001 he announced in evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee that he favours the reclassification of cannabis. Cannabis will probably be moved to Class C some time around Spring 2002.

The full text of the Runciman Report is here:

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