HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html NZ Study Used in UK Drug Review
Pubdate: Tue, 22 Mar 2005
Source: Press, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2005 The Christchurch Press Company Ltd.
Author: Louise Bleakley
Related: How Science Is Skewed to Fuel Fears of Marijuana
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


A Christchurch study linking cannabis use with increased paranoia has
contributed to a British decision to review its drug laws.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke last weekend ordered a review into a
decision to downgrade cannabis from a class B to a class C drug, citing
research by the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine and
Health Sciences and a Dutch study, both of which found links between heavy
cannabis use and psychosis.

The downgrade in January last year meant possession was no longer an
arrestable offence.

The lead researcher in the Christchurch study, Professor David Fergusson,
said the role of cannabis in psychosis was not sufficient on its own to
guide legislation.

"The result suggests heavy use can result in adverse side-effects," he
said. "That can occur with (heavy use of) any substance. It can occur with

Fergusson's research, released this month, concluded that heavy cannabis
smokers were 1.5 times more likely to suffer symptoms of psychosis that

The study was the latest in several reports based on a cohort of about 1000
people born in Christchurch over a four-month period in 1977.

An effective way to deal with cannabis use would be to incrementally reduce
penalties and carefully evaluate its impact, Fergusson said.

"Reduce the penalty, like a parking fine. You could then monitor (the
impact) after five or six years. If it did not change, you might want to
take another step."

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said even incremental
decriminalisation of cannabis would give people the wrong message. "Once
the genie is out of the bottle it's very hard to put it back."

Green Party spokesman for drug law reform Nandor Tanczos said he doubted
the recent studies were the sole reason for the review.

"People in the UK say the main reason they reclassified cannabis was
(because of) law-and-order problems," he said.
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