Cannabis 'easier for kids to buy than alcohol', report claims
Wednesday 12th September 2018
By Paul Kelso, health correspondent - Sky News Article
Young people find it easier to buy cannabis than alcohol, a new report suggests.
The Children's Report, compiled by drugs policy think tank Volte Face, revealed that 44% of young cannabis users said it was "very easy" to buy, as opposed to 22% who said the same about drink.
According to new research, the number of young cannabis users admitted to hospital with mental health problems increased by 54% over five years due to high-strength strains and inadequate drugs education.
The report argues that public policy has led to adverse health outcomes and the criminalisation of large numbers of young people.
It found prosecutions and convictions of young people for supplying cannabis in England and Wales have risen by 15% and 26% respectively in the past five years, while adult prosecutions for the offence have fallen by 16%, with a 1% increase in convictions.
The authors also argue that young people are exploited by dealers to distribute high-strength cannabis.
Several recommendations are made in the report, including:
:: Investigating the role of social media companies in facilitating cannabis dealing by young people to inform a code of conduct currently being considered
:: Annual drugs education sessions in schools, with teachers trained by experts
:: Improving diagnosis of cannabis use by mental health services
:: Considering cannabis use as a market of potential vulnerability rather than criminality
The report was endorsed by David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, who said the war on drugs has failed.
"Cannabis specifically has become the substance of choice for young people, who are unable to purchase alcohol because of its strict regulation," he said.
"Therefore the criminalisation of the drug has had the exact opposite effect to the deterrence it was meant to induce. We ought to consider a more mature approach to drugs policy, which is based in health rather than criminality."
Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner for England, said: "In all the many aspects of the world of illegal cannabis - growth, smuggling, distribution and consumption - where children are involved, they are disproportionately more likely to be vulnerable or a victim, even when they may be involved in elements of criminality.
"Cannabis clearly has mental health risks attached to its use, but we know when it comes to its distribution, young people are at the bottom of the ladder and are the most expendable in the chain, where violence and exploitation are rife."
A Home Office spokesperson said it was providing £16bn to local authorities to provide drugs treatment and support, but was not considering decriminalisation.
They added: "Our drug strategy brings together police, health, community and global partners to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with a drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.
"The trade and possession of recreational cannabis is illegal in the UK. How police choose to pursue investigations is an operational decision for chief constables, but we are clear that we expect them to enforce the law."