The government's decision to upgrade cannabis to 'Class B' status has been branded as ludicrous by a Liberal Democrat MEP.
North West MEP Chris Davies said the change took no account of evidence, ignored the advice of expert advisors, and risked ruining the lives of thousands of young people.
Possession of cannabis will, from today, command a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, although police officers will be invited to issue on-the-spot fines to first time offenders.
But Davies describes the policy as hopelessly confused and says it will prove ineffective. "Five years ago the Government followed the advice of its advisors that cannabis presented too few dangers to warrant its status and downgraded it to Class B. Since then its use amongst use young people has fallen by more than 20%.
"Now in the face of this success the criminal penalties are being raised against the advice of the Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse. It makes no sense at all!"
The MEP claims that cannabis presents many less dangers than alcohol, and he warns that the change in law will make criminals of individuals who have done no harm to anybody.
"Ten years ago more than 40,000 people were people arrested each year for cannabis possession, and a significant number were imprisoned," he said. "Lives were ruined for no good purpose. "Drugs policy in Britain is a farce. It puts huge sums of money into the hands of real villains, while branding decent people as criminals."
Davies has called for a reappraisal of government strategy, with drugs use being treated as a matter not for the courts but for public health.