The British Medical Association is extremely concerned that the impending downgrading of cannabis will send out the message that reclassification equals safe. It does not.

The shift from being a Class B drug to a Class C drug in simple terms means that having a small quantitity will bring a caution from the police rather than arrest.

The fact remains that possession remains a criminal offence and cannabis is harmful, particularly the more powerful strains such as "skunk".

This week a £1 million Government advertising campaign began, to remind people that possessing the drug will remain a criminal offence when it is downgraded on January 29.The idea behind the blitz is to clear up any confusion and mixed messages being sent out mainly to young people.

The problem is that the cannabis shambles has left more than young people confused -- for example, the reckoning is that many police forces are unsure of how to act.

A main reason for the change is that it is hoped it will free up police to concentrate on hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

There can be no doubt that breaking the link between hard drugs and crime is going to be the major worldwide challenge facing law enforcers in the next decade.

Thankfully, due to a joint police and community efforts, with clear guidance, local campaigns such as Dob-in-a Dealer have been extremely effective in this area and long my that be the case.

It has to be accepted that cannabis is widely used and is seen by many as relatively harmless. It is not.

The truth is that more medical research is needed into the full effects of cannabis -- including reported benefits to sufferers of a number of ailments.

The Government would have been better giving the £1million to fund research instead of having to spend it on sorting out an uneccessary fiasco.