Mak­ing cannabis le­gal would cre­ate 100,000 ad­dicts

Scottish Daily Mail - - Countdown To Brexit D-day - By Daniel Martin Pol­icy Ed­i­tor

THE le­gal­i­sa­tion of cannabis would drive a mil­lion young peo­ple to take drugs and see 100,000 of them be­come ad­dicted, a think-tank warned yesterday.

The Cen­tre for So­cial Jus­tice (CSJ) said ev­i­dence from home and abroad sug­gests that cannabis use is linked to mental health problems such as psy­chosis or im­paired think­ing.

Min­is­ters have al­ready li­censed mar­i­juana for medic­i­nal pur­poses and there are grow­ing calls for cannabis to be de­crim­i­nalised for recre­ational use.

In Oc­to­ber, Canada be­came the sec­ond coun­try in the world to le­galise its possession and recre­ational use – af­ter Uruguay in 2013.

For­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Wil­liam Hague has called on the UK to fol­low suit.

But in its hard-hit­ting re­port, the CSJ, which was founded by for­mer Tory leader Iain Dun­can Smith in 2004, called on the Gov­ern­ment to re­sist these calls.

It quoted mar­i­juana ad­dicts, in­clud­ing M from Brad­ford, who said: ‘Cannabis took over my life – it got to a point where I put it be­fore my chil­dren, my­self, my bills. I wish I had never touched it.’

YouGov polling, com­mis­sioned by the CSJ, found that nearly three-quar­ters of peo­ple have never used cannabis.

Of those aged be­tween 18 and 24 who had never used it, 26 per cent stated that, if the drug were le­galised, they would def­i­nitely or prob­a­bly try it. This equates to more than a mil­lion new users un­der the age of 25.

Ac­cord­ing to NHS es­ti­mates, ap­prox­i­mately 10 per cent of this num­ber would be­come ad­dicted to the drug.

The sit­u­a­tion could be even worse be­cause the poll also strongly sug­gested that le­gal­i­sa­tion would in­crease the fre­quency of use.

Of those aged 18 to 24 who had in­di­cated that they had smoked cannabis be­fore, more than a third stated they would smoke it more fre­quently if it was le­galised.

Andy Cook, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the CSJ, said: ‘Ad­vo­cates of cannabis le­gal­i­sa­tion or de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion should think through the im­pli­ca­tions of their views.

‘They would open the flood­gates to hun­dreds of thou­sands of new users, many of whom will be young and vul­ner­a­ble, and so more prone to dam­ag­ing phys­i­cal and mental dam­age.

‘Man­ag­ing a cannabis free-for-all would also prove a night­mare in which the drug would be­come even more widely avail­able and young chil­dren would be sucked into the may­hem.

‘We should not be dis­heart- ened in the ef­fort to curb il­le­gal drug abuse. For all our dif­fi­cul­ties, we should re­mem­ber that only about 7 per cent of peo­ple aged 16 to 59 have smoked cannabis in the last year.

‘Our fo­cus should be on a com­pas­sion­ate re­sponse to of­fend­ers and the use of ed­u­ca­tion to warn young peo­ple about the se­ri­ous dam­age the drug can do.’

The re­port con­cluded that the law has had an im­por­tant and lim­it­ing ef­fect on con­sump­tion.

It said: ‘The ex­ist­ing law does mit­i­gate the risk that cannabis poses. Al­though there has been a slight up­lift in re­cent years, cannabis con­sump­tion has been fall­ing for nearly 20 years in the UK.

‘A great many peo­ple do take the law se­ri­ously and, to many, the law con­tin­ues to de­ter them from us­ing a harm­ful sub­stance.’

Ad­vo­cates of le­gal­i­sa­tion say it would make cannabis safer by al­low­ing Gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion.

The CSJ re­port ac­cepts that state-backed cannabis would in­clude less po­tent and less dan­ger­ous forms of the drug.

But it warned that cut­ting back on the psy­choac­tive el­e­ment risked mak­ing it more pop­u­lar.

Drugs death tragedy of aris­to­crat’s son – Pages 46-47

‘Would open the flood­gates’

Founder: Mr Dun­can Smith

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