Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Politics of Cannabis Use

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Politics of Cannabis Use

Article excerpt

THE politics of cannabis lags behind the scientific findings about thedamage it can cause. This week the Prime Minister made clear that he favouredthe reclassification of the drug from a class C to a class B drug. This changeof direction is salutary but it will take time and political effort to betranslated into policy. Yet, as we report today, the Priory clinic is alreadyoffering treatment to children aged from 12 to 18 suffering the effects ofcannabis abuse. The number of teenagers being treated for addiction to skunk,or extra-strength cannabis, has almost doubled, to 10,000proof that the age at which adolescents experiment with drugs is steadilybecoming lower. Meanwhile, evidence of the link between cannabis use andmental-health problems, notably triggering the onset of schizophrenia, is nowincontrovertible. Two out of every five 11-15-year-olds who have smokedcannabis have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. And research fromthe Institute of Psychiatry suggests that THC, the potent chemical in the drug,is linked to the development of paranoia. Indeed, a significant percentage ofthe population may be genetically susceptible to the effects of the drug.

In the face of this mounting evidence, it is dispiriting to find DavidBlunkett, former Home Secretary, still maintaining doggedly that his decisionto downgrade cannabis to a class C drug was the right one. In an interview inthis paper today, he declares that that any change of direction risked wastingpolice time on pursuing casual users of the drug. "I don't want the children ofmy Cabinet colleagues or the shadow cabinet to find that they are treateddifferently to the way their parents were at university." But back then we knewmuch less about the effects of the drug and cannabis was itself far weaker. Hisprescription, for reclassification to be limited to skunk rather thannormal-strength cannabis, risks creating far more confusion. The PrimeMinister's instinct on this matter is sound but he must ensure thatreclassification takes effect as soon as possible so that the law reflects thescience. …

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