Dangerous Mistake to Downgrade Cannabis, Warns MP

The government’s softly-softly approach to cannabis will leave young people facing a mental-health time-bomb, a senior Scottish Labour MP warned last night. Bill Tynan, normally a loyal back-bencher, turned on Ministers who have failed to heed his cautions that downgrading cannabis from Class B to Class C will produce a generation of drug abusers. He said their decision meant that cannabis was now ranked by teenagers alongside cigarettes and alcohol – and many believed it was no longer illegal. Mr Tynan said: “Without doubt reclassification has sent mixed messages about the dangers of cannabis, and despite information to the contrary, many young people believe that cannabis is now legal, just like cigarettes and alcohol. “But research has shown cannabis smoke to be more dangerous than tobacco smoke. There is also large and growing evidence that cannabis is a major contributory factor in the onset of mental-health problems ranging from depression to schizophrenia.” 

Mr Tynan went on: “I believe that the reclassification of cannabis was a dangerous mistake, and that history will confirm that view.” Mr Tynan was elected MP for Hamilton South in 1999, shortly after Strathclyde’s 100th drug death for the year was reported in his constituency. He told The Scotsman yesterday: “The girl who died was the same age as my daughter; it affected me enormously. So I was outraged when the government gave MPs just 90 minutes to debate reclassification of cannabis, it wasn’t nearly enough time to explore all the issues. I am not going to let this go because I firmly believe Ministers have made a major mistake that will have serious ramifications for the future.”  Mr Tynan, who has voted against the government only three times in his five-year parliamentary career, secured a prestigious debate on cannabis in Westminster Hall this week. He told MPs he had been contacted by many drugs experts from universities, hospitals and the legal profession who were appalled at the decision legally to downgrade cannabis.


Professor Griffith Edwards, who established the National Addiction Centre at the Maudsley Hospital, said: “There is enough evidence now to make one seriously worried about the possibility of cannabis producing long-term impairment of brain function.” Mr Tynan said he was calling on the government to reopen the debate and look again at the scientific evidence against downgrading the status of cannabis. He said: “I am not convinced the government will reverse their mistaken decision to reclassify cannabis, but they should look at all the evidence.” Caroline Flint, the Home Office minister, said the new status of cannabis was giving police more scope to tackle hard drugs. She said, however, that the situation was under constant monitoring.

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