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18/02/2008 00:00:00

UK: The cannabis saga - should it be reclassified again?

Christian drug education charity, Hope UK, feels that cannabis should be
returned to its ‘B’ classification under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Last week the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs listened to 21
submissions about cannabis. Their aim was to respond to a request from
the Home Secretary about whether cannabis should be reclassified again.

Since it was downgraded to Class C, there has been widespread confusion
about its status with many people thinking it had become ‘legal’. At the
same time, there has been a growing body of evidence relating to regular
cannabis use and its effect on mental illness.

The Association of Chief Police Officers now recommend that it should be
reclassified and supporters of this view point to the increasing
availability of high strength cannabis like skunk which now accounts for
80 per cent of all street seizures by police.

Taking in the whole picture

Hope UK’s submission to the AMCD argued that cannabis classification is
only part of the whole picture and needs to be seen in a holistic
context as does the classification of any substance.

The charity disagrees with the argument that reclassification to Class C
has been a success because there has been an apparent fall in cannabis
consumption. This simplistic view ignores the much higher profile that
cannabis was given because of the way in which reclassification was handled.

In fact, one of the positive outcomes of the previous reclassification
has turned out to be the controversy it generated. It may be that any
drop in consumption has been a result of the adverse publicity that has
been given to the use of cannabis with more people realising that it is
a harmful substance.

Hope UK educators continually meet young people who equated the
downgrading of the drug with a view that it was safe to use. Over time,
this view does appear to have been partly eroded by the continuing
publicity about the adverse effects of cannabis.

It is essential that a clear and consistent message about cannabis is
given and its legal status plays a critical part in this. However,
whatever the law says is only part of the story and there needs to be
greater priority given to education and prevention, equipping those
young people who do not use cannabis with the information with which
they can influence their friends. The harm related to cannabis will only
really start to reduce once people’s hearts and minds are won over.

George Ruston is Director of Hope UK, a drug education charity that
works principally in the voluntary and church sectors. They have 181
Voluntary Drug Educators, trained with an Open College
Network-accredited course, whose aim is to enable children and young
people to make drug-free choices.

Author: Christian Today via UKCIA

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