Pubdate: Fri, 18 Apr 2008
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 The Herald
Author: Julia Horton
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


There is a view among some parents in Scotland that it is better for
teenagers to sit around smoking cannabis than go rampaging through the
streets drunk.

But with new stronger forms of the drug fuelling concerns it causes
severe mental illness and agencies backing pressure from Prime
Minister Gordon Brown to toughen its classification, there is growing
evidence and opinion that smoking joints is not a "safe" option.

Today a new report showed one in 10 Scottish 15-year-olds admit to
regularly taking the drug - despite health risks and the threat of

One parent whose opinions have been altered by differences she sees is
Edinburgh mother Tina Woolnough, who has three children aged 14, 12
and nine.

Mrs Woolnough, chairman of family campaign group Parents in
Partnership, said: "I know a number of young people who have been
diagnosed with schizophrenia as a result of smoking cannabis. The
evidence is these new heavily chemicalised forms are a serious mental
health risk.

"I think there is real complacency among parents and young people
about the dangers and police have responded to that view by not
enforcing penalties."

At the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency national drugs
co-ordinator Detective Superintendent Willie McCall said police took a
successful tough stance against cannabis which had not altered when
the drug was downgraded to its current class C categorisation in 2004.

Highlighting a 10% rise in seizures of cannabis from 17,485 in 2003-04
to 19,215 in 2005-06, he also stressed that most young people do not
take cannabis.

But he agreed that enforcement and education were needed. He said: "We
have good evidence that enforcement is working but we also need to
support drug education, which we are doing."

One such programme, supported by the Scottish Government, is Choices
for Life and includes pop concert-style events to get across the
anti-drugs message.

One drug worker, however, branded the scheme a "waste of time", saying
there was "no evidence" educating young people reduced drugtaking.
Instead, the worker, who chose not to be named, stressed projects
should focus on arming children with accurate knowledge so they could
make informed decisions.

The Scottish Drugs Forum, meanwhile, repeated warnings that, unable to
afford high-strength skunk, teenagers were more likely to take
cheaper, more impure forms of cannabis which could be contaminated
with toxic chemicals.

David Liddell, forum director, said: "More research is needed to
identify the health effects of taking large amounts of these types of
cannabis. They also need more support - adult drugs services are not
the place for young people to go."

In schools, teachers are well aware cannabis use by schoolchildren is
a problem.

Jim Docherty, depute general secretary of the Scottish Secondary
Teachers Association, said: "There are individual problems for
teachers where young people clearly under the influence of these drugs
come into school. Teachers have been trained to offer support but what
is offered is not as good as it could be, and that is a matter of money."

Downgrading to Class C sent out wrong message'

Cannabis tends to be the drug of choice for people deciding to
experiment with illegal substances.

Usually smoked, it increases the heart rate and has been linked to a
range of health problems including panic attacks, paranoia and even

There are growing concerns that the drug, particularly a stronger form
known as skunk, can cause serious psychotic illness including

Those fears have spurred the UK Government to reconsider the
classification of the drug.

In 2004 it was changed from a Class B to a Class C, reducing the
penalties for possession and supply in a move which opponents said
sent the wrong message that cannabis was not harmful.

Now Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pushing for it to be returned to
the Class B category, bringing back tougher penalties to highlight the

Under the current classification the maximum penalty for supply,
dealing, production and trafficking is 14 years imprisonment.

The maximum penalty for possession of the drug is two years



Family life: Among 15-year-olds, 70% of boys and 74% of girls said it
was easy to talk to their mother. This compares to 56% of boys and 38%
of girls who said it was easy to talk to their father.

School: One-quarter of young people liked school a lot, girls more 
than boys. At 15, 34%
of boys and 45% of girls said they felt stressed by schoolwork.

Food: The proportion of young people eating vegetables daily has 
increased slightly to
38% and those eating fruit daily has risen to 40%. One-third eat 
sweets every day,
compared to 40% of girls and boys in 2002.

Physical activity: Just 29% of boys and 16% of girls met Scottish
Government exercise guidelines. The amount of time spent playing
computer games decreased with age. Among 11-year-old boys, 58% spent
two or more hours computer-gaming on a school day.

Dieting: One in five boys has been on a diet, a 50% increase since 1990.

Wellbeing: Most young people, 84%, are satisfied with their life. 
Levels of confidence
has grown among girls since 1994.

Substance use: More than one-quarter of young people have tried
smoking tobacco and at 15 girls are more likely to have smoked than

In 1990 14% of 15-year-old girls said they smoked daily. The total has
now reached 19%.

Sexual health: Nearly one-third of 15-year-olds have had sex - 30% of
boys and 34% of girls. In 2002 nearly one-quarter reported using
neither the pill or condoms. This has dropped to 14%.

Bullying: Approximately one in 10 young people reported being bullied 
at least two or
three times at school during the previous two months.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake