ESTABLISHMENT “COMPLACENT” OVER PERILS OF CANNABIS
The health establishment is "complacent" over the dangers of cannabis, UK mental-health tsar Professor Louis Appleby has stated [5 February 2007]. "From the perspective of mental-health services, cannabis is a harmful drug that is part of, and contributes to, a pattern of relapse and risk in mental-health patients.
"Now the evidence is pointing towards cannabis as a cause of severe mental illness. A change in classification could reinforce a strong public-health message."
Appleby also revealed that drug dealers are preying on mental-health wards – with 30% saying they operate on the premises or just outside.
His admission came at the start of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs hearing to decide whether it should recommend ministers to reclassify the drug back to class B.
An Ipsos MORI poll for the ACMD found that 58% of the public want cannabis to be rated higher than the current class C. Of these, 24% said it should be pushed to class A. Doctors, police, magistrates and families whose lives have been ruined by cannabis demanded the reversal of Labour’s decision to downgrade cannabis, taken just over four years ago.
Dr Matathew Hickman, a drugs expert at Bristol University, told the ACMD that, by 2010, a quarter of all new cases of schizophrenia will be cannabis linked.
Dr Les King, an adviser to the Home Office scientific development branch, said several hundred cannabis samples seized by police in the past few weeks showed that levels of skunk – a highly potent form of the drug – had rocketed, while cannabis resin had slumped.
The Association of Chief Police Officers said it "unequivocally" wanted cannabis restored to class B. Relaxation had led to an explosion in the number of cannabis farms, and confusion that the drug might be legal.
The Magistrates Association said the reclassification had caused harm on the streets by sending out "mixed messages and confusion".
The ACMD rejected the case for change as recently as January 2006. Critics state that, apart from perceived prejudice, ACMD members had not read all the evidence submitted, and had misinterpreted other submissions.
If the ACMD decides later this year that cannabis should remain a class C drug, the Home Office will face the dilemma of whether to ignore its recommendation or not.
With acknowledgment to the Daily Mail and Home Affairs editor James Slack.