Pubdate: Sun, 02 Dec 2001
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Heather Ashton, Joanna Copley, Sandra Bennett
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


AS Melanie Phillips said, the public, police and politicians are too 
complacent about cannabis (Comment, last week). Users are starting younger 
(14 and below) and continuing for longer (30 and above). Experts have 
highlighted the hazards of recreational cannabis use: accidents, 
respiratory disease, cancer, impaired adolescent development, exacerbation 
of schizophrenia and others - as well as a risk of using other illegal 
drugs. Cannabis-use disorders already affect about 300,000 adults in 
Australia alone. Use here is greater but nobody has assessed the number of 
people affected. Decreasing the penalties for cannabis possession, 
according to evidence from other countries, may or may not in the short 
term increase prevalence of use, but legalisation of cannabis almost 
certainly will. Why do we discourage tobacco but condone cannabis?

Heather Ashton, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 
Newcastle upon Tyne University


MESSAGE: Almost without exception, users of hard drugs initially smoked 
cannabis. This means continuing to prosecute cannabis users. If this 
involves spending more on policing, so be it. As a mother of three children 
whose brother died six years ago at university having tried heroin after 
becoming "bored" with cannabis, I would like to see a clear "say no to 
drugs" message being put across, backed up by the law.

Those who support relaxation of the law often explain their view on the 
basis that they smoked cannabis and sometimes still do. They have no idea 
of the drugs culture that now exists and the fact that cannabis is now a 
stepping stone to other drugs in a way that it was not 10 or more years ago.

Joanna Copley, St Albans, Hertfordshire


POISON: In the 16 years that I have been involved in drug prevention (since 
the cocaine-related death of our 22-year-old son in 1986), I have never met 
a user who did not get their first drugs from a family member or friend. 
And that is where our son got the cocaine that killed him - a drug-using 
fraternity brother. If we do not place meaningful sanctions on drug users 
there will be no way to stop trafficking, and drug use will spread, 
poisoning our children, diminishing productivity in the workplace, 
overwhelming our healthcare systems, creating poverty and disease.

Sandra Bennett, Director, Northwest Center for Health and Safety Portland, 
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