Le­gal­is­ing cannabis will cre­ate more ad­dicts, warns think tank

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Tominey AS­SO­CIATE ED­I­TOR

LE­GAL­IS­ING cannabis could lead to one mil­lion more peo­ple us­ing it, with 100,000 be­com­ing ad­dicted, ac­cord­ing to a study that warns of the dan­gers of “suck­ing young peo­ple into the may­hem”.

In its re­port, the Cen­tre for So­cial Jus­tice think tank linked cannabis use to mental health problems and found “a very real prospect” of more young peo­ple tak­ing up the drug if it be­came le­gal.

Yougov polling cited in the re­port re­vealed that nearly a quar­ter of peo­ple aged be­tween 18 and 24 who had never used cannabis be­fore would “def­i­nitely or prob­a­bly try it” if the law changed, equat­ing to more than a mil­lion new users un­der the age of 25 alone. Ac­cord­ing to World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and NHS es­ti­mates, at least 100,000 of these would be­come ad­dicted.

The poll claims le­gal­i­sa­tion would also in­crease the fre­quency of use. Of those aged 18-24 who said they had smoked cannabis be­fore, a third ad­mit­ted they would smoke it more fre­quently if 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 would be young and vul­ner­a­ble and so more prone to dam­ag­ing phys­i­cal and mental dam­age.”

De­scrib­ing how the law acts as a de­ter­rent, the re­port states: “The ex­ist­ing law does mit­i­gate the risk that cannabis pos­sesses. De­spite a slight up­lift in re­cent years, cannabis con­sump­tion has been fall­ing for nearly 20 years in the UK. Many peo­ple do take the law se­ri­ously and the law con­tin­ues to de­ter them from us­ing a harm­ful sub­stance”.

The re­port also cast doubt over claims that le­gal­is­ing cannabis could im­prove the qual­ity sold on the streets. Al­though it could ini­tially de­press the il­licit trade in cannabis, ev­i­dence from the US sug­gested that black mar­ket op­er­a­tions adapted rather than dis­ap­peared.

Al­though le­gal­i­sa­tion would bring ad­di­tional revenue to the Trea­sury, the costs as­so­ci­ated with reg­u­la­tion and treat­ing in­creased ad­dic­tion were un­known.

Chula Goonewar­dene, a se­nior psy­chother­a­pist at the ad­dic­tion char­ity Step­s2re­cov­ery, said le­gal­i­sa­tion could en­able those at risk of ad­dic­tion to “make in­formed choices and seek ap­pro­pri­ate help”.

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