How to deal with the cannabis issue

will inevitably  impact on the mental health of the binge users, especially children and teenagers and those who were vulnerable to mental health problems anyway.

Politicians can’t be trusted on the cannabis issue. The debate about cannabis is back in the public domain after Charles Clarke. the home secretary, decided that the government is not going to lose face by reversing David Blunkett’s monumental boob by reclassifying cannabis from class B to C. The political solution is going to be a public health education campaign that will be a complete waste of money.¬† Where is the evidence that such health campaigns do anything but let politicians off the hook by pretending that they are doing something useful about a health issue?

It is clear that politicians, and especially successive government ministers, cannot be trusted with the cannabis issue. They only listen to the so-called experts such as the police, the Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse and a few tame medics who are in the pay of the government. They do not take heed of drugs workers, youth workers, mental health organisations, parents, cannabis users or the young people who are to be the target of the health campaign.

Also missing from the debate are the following key factors that are behind the problems that cannabis will, in the long-term, cause our society. Young people will not take any heed of government campaigns on cannabis because they have already been badly misled by Blunkett and others into believing that this is a relatively harmless drug, hence its downgrading. This just confirms the belief of young people and many adults that cannabis is a natural substance with little danger attached to it. Blunkett promised a cannabis education campaign and it never happened; if it had, the only message the government could send out is that this is an illegal drug with a lower risk than class A or B drugs. But, then, we all knew that already. My second concern is that the quality (THC content) of cannabis varies enormously but is generally very low compared with 10 years ago, with the exceptions of skunk and home grown varieties. The result is that to get the hallucinogenic effects users desire, they need to use vast (binge-level) quantities on what is often a daily basis These high consumption levels of cannabis, with the associated high intake of tobacco, are massively increasing the health problems that users can expect over 10-15 years of regular cannabis use.

We are also now led to believe that the human brain is not fully wired-up until about 21 years of age; so heavy use of a drug such as cannabis from childhood, or the teenage period into adulthood,

The committee on drug misuse that advises the government on such matters is loaded with academics, medics and others who are deciding on the categories of drugs from a mainly pharmacological perspective. They do not seem to allow for the social factors such as how large numbers of people might use the drugs they are considering. The last issue in this whole debacle is that Scottish law is not English law so the police in Scotland who do not have the power to caution a person found with cannabis (an illegal substance) are duty-bound to report offenders to the procurator-fiscal for action. They cannot take the softly, softly English police approach of confiscating the drug, cautioning the offender and letting them go unless they have been caught before or are near schools, etc.

Max Cruickshank, Health Issues 13 Lana Ridge, Hamilton.

Source: The Herald, Glasgow; 25 Jan 2006
Filed under: Social Affairs :

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