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18/01/2008 00:00:00

UK: Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs To Convene Cannabis Debate

On February 5th 2008 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will
convene a 'public' debate in London, to discuss the Home Secretary's
forthcoming cannabis classification decision.

According to the Home Office website , "The Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is an independent expert body that advises
government on drug related issues in the UK."

"The Advisory Council makes recommendations to government on the control
of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and
scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations.

It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and
of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects
sufficient to cause a social problem."

Key Functions

"One of the key functions of the ACMD is to recommend classification of
new or existing drugs, which may be or are being, misused."

In light of the forthcoming decision by the Home Secretary, regarding
the reclassification of cannabis, the government must by loudly
congratulated, on providing facts and figures for citizens to access and
digest, with a view to hammering out a fair and workable solution to an
issue which has plagued them since they came to power some 10 years ago.

The issue of cannabis and its legal status.

In light of these government stastics being made available to the public
the Canna Zine website has decided to launch a poster campaign, in a bid
to ensure the information is as widely distributed as possible and the
first poster in the campaign can be seen at the bottom of this text.

In the meantime if you have an interest in the cannabis debate within
the British Isles, here are some interesting facts which have been
quoted directly from either the Home Office website, or the website of department of publications and records , on which is
published the findings of the Select Committee on Science and
Technology, an advisory body to the government.

Its a fact..
The ACMD recommended that cannabis should be reclassified from Class B
to Class C as early as 1979, on the grounds that cannabis was less
harmful than other drugs in Class B and police resources could be
deployed more effectively.

..on mental illness
The report made reference to concerns about a possible link between
chronic use of cannabis and mental illness, but concluded that "no clear
causal link has been demonstrated".

It also acknowledged that "cannabis use can unquestionably worsen
(existing?) schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses) and lead to
relapse in some patients".

The Council found that although cannabis had "real and significant"
effects on mental health, "the consumption of cannabis is neither a
necessary, nor a sufficient, cause for the development of schizophrenia".

..on the health burden
In the UK, the total burden of drug misuse, in terms of health, social,
and crime-related costs, has been estimated to be between £10 billion
and £16 billion per year,

..on fags & booze
Tobacco and alcohol have a high propensity to cause illness and death as
a result of chronic use. Recently published evidence shows that
long-term cigarette smoking reduces life expectancy, on average, by 10

Tobacco and alcohol together account for about 90% of all drug-related
deaths in the UK.

..on intoxication
Drugs that lead to intense intoxication are associated with huge costs
in terms of accidental damage to the user, to others, and to property.
Alcohol intoxication, for instance, often leads to violent behaviour and
is a common cause of car and other accidents.

Many drugs cause major damage to the family, either because of the
effect of intoxication or because they distort the motivations of users,
taking them away from their families and into drug-related activities,
including crime.

...on damage to society
Societal damage also occurs through the immense health-care costs of
some drugs. Tobacco is estimated to cause up to 40% of all hospital
illness and 60% of drug-related fatalities.

Alcohol is involved in over half of all visits to accident and emergency
departments and orthopaedic admissions.

..on taxes
However, these drugs also generate tax revenue that can offset their
health costs to some extent.

...on enforcement
The Government has argued (with the Conservative Party) that the
reclassification of cannabis has had the desired effect, with arrests
for cannabis possession falling by one third in the first year since
re-classification, saving an estimated 199,000 police hours.

..on user statistics
Furthermore, British Crime Survey data suggest that reclassification has
not led to an increase in the use of cannabis: the use of cannabis in
the general population (16-59 year olds) has remained stable since 1998
while cannabis use among young people (16-24 year olds) has gradually
declined since 1998.

Having already caused confusion by failing to adequately communicate the
implications of the reclassification of cannabis to the public, the
Government must be careful that any additional changes to policy
relating to cannabis do not further cloud the picture.

...on the Gateway Theory
Professor Blakemore, MRC Chief Executive and Professor of Physiology at
the University of Oxford, said he could not "think of a chemical or
physiological basis" for a causal relationship. He also dismissed the
idea that "If you are buying your first drug from a person who then
tries to persuade you to use a 'better' one and a stronger one then
there is a causal relationship which is determined by the supplier" on
the grounds that "cannabis supply is, to a large extent, rather
different from the supply of harder drugs".

...on Dutch drug policy
In addition, Professor Blakemore noted that in the Netherlands, while
"the attitude to cannabis use is even more relaxed than it is in this
country and cannabis use amongst the population is a little less than it
is in this country", "hard drug use is about one third of the rate in
this country"

The ACMD considered the gateway theory in its 2002 report on cannabis.
The report concluded that proving any causal relationship between
cannabis use and later use of Class A drugs was "very difficult due to
the many confounding factors that might also act as gateways", including
the individual's personality and their environment and peer group.

The report also stated that "Even if the gateway theory is correct, it
cannot be a very wide gate as the majority of cannabis users never move
on to Class A drugs".

In addition, Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of the ACMD, commented, that
"the early use of nicotine and alcohol is a much wider gateway to
subsequent misuse of drugs than cannabis or anything like that".

The RAND report also concluded that "the gateway theory has little
evidence to support it despite copious research". We note that recent
results from animal models have suggested a possible biological
mechanism for a gateway effect, at least in rats, but in the course of
this inquiry we have found no conclusive evidence to support the gateway
LCA FORUM invites YOU:

Author: CannaZine via UKCIA

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