Pubdate: Wed, 06 Feb 2008
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2008 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Authors: Linda Hendry and Neil McKeganey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Burning Issue


Neil McKeganey, professor of drug misuse research, Glasgow

In 1995, the Lancet, one of the world's most respected medical
journals, began an editorial with the words: "The smoking of cannabis,
even long term, is not harmful to health." In 2007, the Lancet printed
a total U-turn in a further editorial, which stated that "research
published since 1995 leads us now to conclude that cannabis use could
increase the risk of psychotic illness". Governments, it said, "would
do well to invest in sustained and effective education campaigns on
the risk to health of taking cannabis".

Placing cannabis in class C was a move called for by David Blunkett,
who regarded the drug as little more than a waste of police time. It
was a move supported at the time by the police, who also wanted to
concentrate on heroin and cocaine. The police and medical experts have
now changed their view and come to realise that, in tackling the
growing problem of illegal drug use in our cities and in our villages,
you cannot turn away from the drug that is used more widely than any
other: cannabis.

Classifying drugs is as much a political activity as a scientific
issue. We need to send out a clear message that the government is
serious about tackling all forms of illegal drug use, and we need to
dispense with the idea that some drugs are more acceptable than others.

I hope that the Home Secretary has the courage to return cannabis to
class B. In doing so, she would be righting an error on the part of a
previous home secretary but, more importantly, she would signal that
her government is, indeed, serious about tackling our growing drug


Linda Hendry, spokeswoman for the Legalise Cannabis Campaign

It would be a backward step because the taxpayer shouldn't have to pay
by putting people in prison. It's harmful to send someone to jail -
they can learn lots of bad things and will be more likely to move on
to more serious drugs, such as heroin.

If people have health needs, then the issuing of cannabis should be
dealt with through the health system. Similarly, if people have
recreational needs, then cannabis should be sold in a regulated way,
like alcohol.

The theory is that it should be controlled by being a class C drug,
but that simply means you can buy some if you know the right dodgy
people. At the moment, it's driven underground, so you don't know what
you're getting. It should be labelled so people are given the facts.

Research has shown that cannabis consumption was higher when it was
class B, so the idea that reclassifying it will reduce consumption is
wrong. In fact, I believe young people will only be more likely to
take it if it's illegal, as it will be regarded as daring.

It is often argued that cannabis is linked to mental health problems.
But until everybody can freely report their cannabis use, we're not
going to know what the statistics are. I don't think we know who takes
it or when.

If shops can sell disgusting magazines on the top shelf, why can't
they sell chocolate with cannabis inside? However, I certainly don't
think children should be able to get it without a doctor's
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake